Call for papers | Symposium for young researchers in sculpture

Call for papers | Symposium for young researchers in sculpture

Critics, buyers, patrons:
does the onlooker make the sculpture?

Friday, May 31, 2024, 9am-5pm
Paris, musée Rodin, Léonce Bénédite auditorium
This event will be webcast live

Headed by Paul-Louis Rinuy, Professor of Contemporary Art History, Université Paris 8.

The history of sculpture, like that of painting, has long been studied from the perspective of sculptors. In the same way, literary texts have long been read primarily through the lens of their authors. Yet, modern linguistics has, for over a century, emphasized the crucial role of the observer in the very creation of the message. To paraphrase Duchamp: does the onlooker, or the buyer, make the sculpture?

The aim here is to start tracing the outlines of an unconventional history of sculpture from the 19th, 20th, or 21st century, moving away from a study of the artists' styles, materials, poetic ambitions and social trajectories. The analysis shall instead focus on the way in which private buyers—that invisible cohort whose names often remain mythical or ghostly—look at, choose and interpret artworks. Friends, critics, buyers, patrons, various intermediaries, and gallery owners are all part of this circle that often visits the artist's studio. They sometimes even know the works before they are produced, and buy them for a specific purpose: ornamentation, glorification, for a funerary monument, or as ceremonial objects; it can also be out of personal preference, or because they want to build up a collection.

Without excluding problematized monographic inquiries, preference will be given to studies of groups or categories, informal or otherwise. Additionally, a precise analysis of the practices, circumstances of intervention and measurable effects of the action of these onlooker-buyers will be favored.

Proposals for papers should include a title, a summary of the presentation (between 1,500 and 2,000 characters) and a short biographical note (1,000 characters), and should be sent to before Monday April 22, 2024. Each presentation will last 20 minutes and will be audio recorded. The recording will be available on the Musée Rodin website.


Research committee

  • Amélie Simier, Chief Curator of Cultural Heritage, Director, Musée Rodin
  • Paul-Louis Rinuy, Professor of Contemporary Art History, Université Paris 8
  • Véronique Mattiussi, Head of the Research Department, Musée Rodin
  • Franck Joubin, Researcher and Conference Coordinator, Musée Rodin