Art Versus Commerce: A Study of Photography Galleries in the Digital Era

Julia Bonan

Student thesis: Master thesis


The aim of this paper is to provide an explanation of how commerce interferes with art in the digital age. Where the world is nowadays dominated by digital technologies, this thesis investigates the photographic gallerists’ visions and sense making of this new environment. A study of several Parisian galleries was elected since the French capital’s traditional photography art market outlasts, in turn creating a fundamental disruption with the advent of digitalization.
This inductive research will answer the following question: “how do commercial photographic gallerists make sense of the photography market in the digital age?”
The information was collected qualitatively, through semi-structured interviews as primary sources. Secondary data such as online articles and the galleries’ websites and social media pages was exploited to set up the scene for the research. The gallerists’ perceptions on the subject will be presented by taking on a descriptive approach, through an analysis of the various interviews and the results will be discussed further on in the paper.
The grand challenge this thesis deals with is the democratization of art in the digital era. In order to make sense of it within a managerial context, two main academic theories were advanced: Lampel, Lant and Shamsie’ s “Balancing Act” (2000) and the concept of participatory culture. The first theory was exploited in relation to two fundamental paradoxes faced by the gallerists. As they need to find the right balance between their art-for-art’s sake values and a certain financial stability, they additionally have to take into account the increasing accessibility that emerged with the advent of the digitalization. Secondly, the participatory culture doctrine permitted to point out and reflect on the new ways of engaging with a new, online audience.
Finally, the purpose of this research will be to serve as an example for further studies on this recent and ongoing phenomenon experienced by the art world, that is the democratization of art in the digital age.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages98
SupervisorsRobin Holt