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Art Tourism: An Ethnographic View

1 May 2010


This study is an examination of the relationship between the institution of the museum and artistic taste. Specifically, the study focuses on the relationship between high art and modern art by comparing London’s National Gallery to London’s Tate Modern. The central research question addressed is whether or not an individual’s opinion of art is influenced by the atmosphere created by a museum, including both interior and exterior gallery design and ornamentation. This thesis is not a comparison of the quality of high art to modern art; rather, it is a comparison of the context of art and the way in which context affects the opinions of a given classification of art. The research methods that are utilized in the construction of the study include participant observation at the National Gallery and Tate Modern, as well as ethnographic interviews consisting of an initial open-ended interview and a follow-up structured interview with my peers who have visited both museums. After analyzing the original data, this study argues that museum context does, in fact, influence the way that art is perceived and evaluated. However, it also shows that preexisting artistic taste greatly impacts the evaluation of art in a museum setting.


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