This subproject focuses on local elites’ cultural networks and explores the shifting nature of art societies’ social and economic functions. The project investigates, first, the role of wealthy families in the promotion of cultural institutions in the context of the late 19th century emergence of art societies and cultural sociability. Second, we will highlight the key role of private investors and cultural institutions in the reorientation of local elites’ interests towards the art market’s structures and activities, such as galleries, auction houses and private foundations. More broadly, the subproject addresses the mutations of local elites’ cultural networks in the wider context of the expansion of the art market after the two World Wars.
The first part of the subproject investigates art societies as a distinctive interest group form, and focus on local art societies, namely the Basler Kunstverein, the Société genevoise des Beaux-Arts and the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft, as well as their umbrella organization, the Schweizerischer Kunstverein. We aim to collect data on the executive committees’ members of these institutions, and their ties to other local elites, in order to outline the multiple facets of cultural sociability. The second part of the subproject investigates the broader networks and activities in which art societies became embedded over the course of the 20th century, namely art collection and dealing. We examine the different spaces of sociability of local elites, not only in the institutional context of art societies and museums, but also in the broader context of art sales, auction houses, foundations, galleries and art fairs. In doing so, we aim to investigate the multi-layered dimensions and scales of cultural sociability.