In the early twentieth century, a group of elite East coast women turned to the American Southwest in search of an alternative to European-derived concepts of culture. In Culture in the Marketplace Molly H. Mullin provides a detailed narrative of the growing influence that this network of women had on the Native American art market—as well as the influence these activities had on them—in order to investigate the social construction of value and the history of American concepts of culture.
Drawing on fiction, memoirs, journalistic accounts, and extensive interviews with artists, collectors, and dealers, Mullin shows how anthropological notions of culture were used to valorize Indian art and create a Southwest Indian art market. By turning their attention to Indian affairs and art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she argues, these women escaped the gender restrictions of their eastern communities and found ways of bridging public and private spheres of influence. Tourism, in turn, became a means of furthering this cultural colonization. Mullin traces the development of aesthetic worth as it was influenced not only by politics and profit but also by gender, class, and regional identities, revealing how notions of “culture” and “authenticity” are fundamentally social ones. She also shows how many of the institutions that the early patrons helped to establish continue to play an important role in the contemporary market for American Indian art.
This book will appeal to audiences in cultural anthropology, art history, American studies, women’s studies, and cultural history.
1. Culture and Cultures
2. Elizabeth Sergeant, Buying and Selling the Southwest
3. Shopping for a Better World in a “City of Ladies”
4. The Patronage of Difference: Making Indian Art “Art, not Ethnology”
5. Culture and Value at the Indian Market
“Mullin makes a real contribution by exploring the dynamics of identity and social relations on the one side and knowledge and consumption on the other in her case study of the affluent women who influenced the direction and caste of the Indian art market.”—Charles McGovern, National Museum of American History
“This excellent and interesting work contributes to the question of how discourses about ‘art’ and ‘art-making’ circulate broadly within society. With subtlety and care Mullin traces out how ‘Indian arts’ and the Southwest come to have distinctive meanings within the context of American culture and its historical situation. It is a model of what an anthropology that links political economy, gender, and interpretation can and should do.”—Fred Myers, coeditor of The Traffic in Culture: Refiguring Art and Anthropology
“Reader-friendly. Anyone interested in Santa Fe history, Indian art, or women’s studies will find Culture in the Marketplace a fascinating book.”
Santa Fe New Mexican