Why ?

Artist-run spaces a fringe phenomenon


Although art history, particularly since the nineteenth century, may be read as a succession of groups of artists in various forms, until now artist-run spaces as specific phenomenon of collective self-organization has received little consideration, especially from art historians reasearching the art field in Germany.


A more in-depth discussion of collective self-organization has begun to take place in recent years, in the form of conferences and projects contributing to an increase in interdisciplinary exchange and contemplation and increasingly inviting representatives of artist-run spaces as participants.

The topicality of these spaces has clearly been recognized, but in academic research they tend to appear as a concomitant symptom or indicator; only rarely are they the main subject.


They show up even less often in the debate over the cultural/creative economy, although their decentralized structures emphasizing teamwork and networking (much more than the solitary artist does) would seem to fulfill the criteria of “free, flexible and creative community” in ideal fashion, making an intrinsically valuable contribution to the dialogue about new and autonomous ways of living and working. 


What’s missing… a solidly grounded scholarly study devoted to artist-run spaces as a distinct phenomenon, putting them in the spotlight and positioning them in the context of the aforementioned academic debates.


The paper is therefore organized as follows:


An art-historical introduction uses selected case studies to sketch the historical development of self-organized artists’ initiatives up to the present day.


A social-scientific, empirical investigation provides an initial survey of contemporary, previously undocumented initiatives. The raw material thus collected is further explored via quantitative-qualitative analysis and interpreted in relation to the self-concept, work structures and cultural, social and economic significance of the organizations surveyed.