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Jennifer Ford, IDSVA





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Organized religion in the Western Hemisphere and the art world share more than just a shared history of collaboration. Their most significant bond is an economic narrative powered by spiritual capital which produces aura. I contend that religion, specifically Christianity, and the art world share an economy of spiritual capital delivered through aura. Aura in a work of art is not an inherent property of the work itself, but it is manufactured by the art economy which draws its influence from the early formation of the Christian Church. This system involves a number of qualifying factors which I will isolate and investigate through this dissertation. Specifically, both religious and art economies: acquire physical space; establish a structure of cooperative agents; use an exclusive language which produces a discourse of disavowal that denies active participation in a consumer driven economy; and deploy ceremonial symbols of power during ritual events. Additionally, the placement of money within this assembly of practices and practitioners will be presented as an original element inside the art world. The entwinement of the art market and the church’s growth as an international business will finally merge to create a construction of both physical and metaphysical value actualized through aura in spiritual capital. This dissertation offers a new reading of Benjamin's theory of "auratic perception" as identified in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. In coordination with such theorists as Deleuze and Guattari, Bordieu, Marx, Weber, Agamben, Baudrillard, Massumi, Bourriaud, and others, we can understand the historical trajectory and formation of spiritual capital as a part of the economy of art as we are liberated from the taboo of discussing money and its relationship to art and religion.


Art and Design | Art Education | Economics


Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts


Portland ME

Spiritual Capital: The Economic Core of the Global Art Market and its Origin in Church Financial Structures



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