Thinking through the sociality of art objects

Amani Maihoub*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


A central theme weaving through this paper is the sociality of art objects in an essentially evolving, increasingly dynamic global art world. It examines a number of theoretical trends in anthropology concerning art production, perception, and circulation. Art objects are considered live social beings whose aesthetic value, significance, and emotional efficacy are subject to change in the course of their mobility through time and space. This paper looks at how artworks are incorporated into discourses of empowerment and advocacy, set against the emergence, growth, and intensification of networks of social relations between institutions and individuals, in a particular society and cross-culturally. It is argued that people's engagement with artworks is reinforced by the social parameters of transactional artistic fields of visual representation. Previous knowledge about the meaning and status of an artwork induces particular interpretations and influences the aesthetic experience. Case studies from the colonial Gold Coast and contemporary Ghana discussed here demonstrate that artistic subjectivity is entangled with aesthetic and other culture-specific ideologies within a sensorial sphere of knowledge and experience. This discussion highlights the theoretical implications of a processual relativist view of the performative life of the art object for the anthropological study of art.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Aesthetics and Culture
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aestheticization
  • Anthropology
  • Art world
  • Emotional agency
  • Ghana
  • Object performatvitiy
  • Sociality


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