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Groupe de Recherche ANgevin en Économie et Management

Separated by coma

The role of art libraries in the distribution of contemporary art

Le rôle des artothèques dans la diffusion de l’art contemporain


Research team

Claire Gauzente, Professor at Nantes University
Nathalie Moureau, Professor at Montpellier University
Yves Roy, PhD at Poitiers University
Dominique Sagot-Duvauroux, Professor at Angers University



Art libraries are probably the least known of the institutions created in the early 1980s in the field of contemporary art (FRAC, labelled art centres, etc.). However, they play a singular role on the art scene and constitute an original space between the world of museums and the world of the market, between artists and their works. Appropriation of the work does not come through acquisition, but through a few months' companionship with a "common good" work, which one will share with friends, family and friends. The use value supersedes the heritage value here. And the work itself lives an original life by moving from home to home, from office to exhibition space.

However, these journeys of borrowers and artworks are poorly documented: Which works are mostly borrowed and why? How does a member select the works he borrows, do the motivations and choices evolve over time, from more decorative works for example to more conceptual or more committed works? What role do the mediations operated by the managers of the art libraries play in the process of choice and learning of the borrowers? Where is the artwork installed in homes? Is it the subject of discussion between members of the household, with family and friends? Does the borrower himself become the mediator of the work he exhibits? Is the same work borrowed by the same type of member (in socio-economic terms, type of housing, family structure, etc.)? Beyond the loan, do the members document themselves on the artist, in what form? Does the loan induce a purchase? Are loans from individuals different from loans from organisations? What expectations do the latter have of their membership? Where do they exhibit the artworks? How do their members appropriate them?

The aim of the research project on art libraries is to provide some answers to these questions by analysing the relationship that members have with the works they borrow, how this relationship evolves and changes their perception of contemporary art? What specific role do the art libraries' mediations play in the process of learning and appropriation of the members' artistic creation?

It will combine a quantitative approach based on the analysis of loan files and a qualitative approach based on interviews with art library managers and members.