Anthropology and Art

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”

Henry David Thoreau

Dr Jeremy Coote from The Royal Anthropological Institute describes The Anthropology of Art as follows:

“The Anthropology of Art studies and analyses the wide range of material objects produced by people around the world. These are considered not merely as aesthetic objects but are understood to play a wider role in people’s lives, for instance in their beliefs and rituals. The materials studied include sculpture, masks, paintings, textiles, baskets, pots, weapons, and the human body itself. Anthropologists are interested in the symbolic meanings encoded in such objects, as well as in the materials and techniques used to produce them.

The anthropology of art overlaps with art history, aesthetics, material culture studies, and visual anthropology. However, the anthropological approach to art is distinguished by its focus on the social processes involved in making objects. So, whereas art historians might be interested in the work and lives of named individuals, anthropologists of art are more concerned with the role and status of the artist in the wider community. Another central concern of this branch of the discipline has been to analyse the form and function of objects and to explore the relations between these and aspects of the wider society.

Since the 1960s in particular, anthropologists have produced increasingly sophisticated analyses of visual materials. More recently, closer attention has been paid to the different ideas of aesthetic value in different societies. Increasing attention has also been paid to the ways in which material objects made in one sphere come to have value in another. For example, there have been a number of recent studies of the tourist and art markets as well as of the role of museums.” 

Text written by Dr. Jeremy Coote

 Some interesting articles to explore regarding Art and Anthropology:

 Stuart Plattner Anthropology of Art

Ruy Blanes, Alex Flynn, Maïté Maskens, Jonas Tinius Anthropological Perspectives on Art, Relationality and Creativity

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