ANN: Report from the 112th College Art Association and the fifth edition of the Society’s representation at the annual conference (Thursday, February 15, 2024)

Natasha Degen and Blair Brooks co-chaired ‘Hand and Glove: Art Market Studies and the
History of Collecting’, marking our first collaboration with The International Art Market Studies
Association (TIAMSA). Natasha and Blair described the impetus for the topic as the upcoming
decade anniversaries of both associations. Their session solicited papers that examined the
ways in which these two fields intersect methodologically, as well as points of divergence; the
response to their CFP demonstrated the wide interest and many overlaps, and the four papers
presented that afternoon highlighted many of the shared concerns even as the individual topics
were diverse.

Brian Seymour’s ‘It Happened in Philly’ looked closely at John G. Johnson (1841-1917), lawyer
for Robber Barons but also an important collector in his own right (the paintings he acquired
are now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art). As Seymour demonstrated, Johnson’s activities as
an advisor to both collectors and museum directors on account of his knowledge of the art
market for European paintings, is also the story of the city of Philadelphia as an incubator of
important exhibitions, collectors, and artists.

Fiona Crouch gave a fascinating paper on Snowshill Manor and Garden, Glouchestershire, a
National Trust property that had been the home of Charles Paget Wade. Crouch demonstrated
how her work with the neurodivergent community has informed her understanding of Wade’s
collecting and display activities in ‘A Lifelong Passion: honouring Charles Paget Wade’s
commitment to collecting’. She concluded by addressing the many challenges that such a
personal assemblage presents to curators today.

Both Seymour and Crouch’s research is grounded in primary source material. Elisabeth
Eggimann-Gerber’s paper, ‘The Galerie Aktuaryus: Researching Gallery History in the Absence
of Primary Sources’ grappled with the challenges of piecing together evidence when the gallery
records no longer exist. Eggimann-Gerber’s meticulous research through Swiss archives,
newspapers, and other sources has resulted in a ground-breaking study of the activities of the
Zurich-based dealer whose gallery operated between 1924 and 1946.

Jeffrey Abt shined a spotlight on the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) near-demise with the
bankruptcy of Motor City just over ten years ago. ‘When Worlds Collide: Collecting, The Art
Market, and a Museum in Distress’ examined the history of the institution and its relationship
to private and public donors. This history was crucial to the ultimate solution that ‘saved’ the
museum from having its collection used as collateral to pay the city’s debts. The financial
reports that Christie’s and other art funds provided to evaluate the collection—all accessible as
part of the public record from the law suits that were precipitated by the financial crisis—were
a particularly fascinating aspect of Abt’s paper, highlighting the interests of the many
stakeholders in this crucial episode of the history of museums in America.

Although the papers addressed different historical moments and different areas of collecting
and the art market, all four highlighted the importance of the local in the exchange of art on the
market and the formation of collections. Similarly, all of the papers demonstrated the
importance of biography to the understanding of both collecting and art dealing.
With this year’s CAA concluded, now is the time to submit your proposal for next year’s
dedicated Society session. We encourage themes that address broad methodological issues and
cross-cultural topics. Please email (by April 8) your 500 word abstract along with a CV to