Two centuries ago, wealthy entrepreneurs founded the American cathedrals of culture—museums, theater companies, and symphony orchestras—to mirror European art. But today’s American arts scene has widened to embrace multitudes: photography, design, comics, graffiti, jazz, and many other forms of folk, vernacular, and popular culture. What led to this dramatic expansion? In Entitled, Jennifer Lena shows how organizational transformations in the American art world—amid a shifting political, economic, technological, and social landscape—made such change possible.
By chronicling the development of American art from its earliest days to the present, Lena demonstrates that while the American arts may be more open, they are still unequal. She examines key historical moments, such as the creation of the Museum of Primitive Art and the funneling of federal and state subsidies during the New Deal to support the production and display of culture. Charting the efforts to define American genres, styles, creators, and audiences, Lena looks at the ways democratic values helped legitimate folk, vernacular, and commercial art, which was viewed as nonelite. Yet, even as art lovers have acquired an appreciation for more diverse culture, they carefully select and curate works that reflect their cosmopolitan, elite, and moral tastes.
Jennifer C. Lena is associate professor of arts administration and sociology at Columbia University. She is the author of Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music (Princeton). She lives in New York City. Twitter @WITWhat
“How is it that elite tastes have broadened, but a cultural hierarchy is still well in place? Weaving together case studies that span history and cross artistic disciplines, Lena deftly answers this question. She shows how even as elites incorporate cultural forms created by marginalized groups into their taste repertoire, social hierarchies can remain firm. This powerfully written account of taste and inequality is an essential read for cultural observers and critics.”—Patricia A. Banks, Mount Holyoke College
"Lena turns a mass of historical and contemporary data into an imaginative and exciting narrative of how, starting in the nineteenth century, worlds of art materialized in the United States, who paid for them, who made the art, and how audiences for the results emerged."—Howard S. Becker, author of Art Worlds
"Well-written and interesting, this book offers an excellent overview of omnivorousness and how art forms come to be newly understood as high art. A good, brisk read."—Gabriel Rossman, University of California, Los Angeles
"Over the last two decades, omnivorousness has turned into one of the most discussed concepts in sociology. Entitled fills a gap in this debate and its focus on cultural providers is innovative and well-justified. This engaging book sets an agenda for future research."—Laurie Hanquinet, coeditor of The Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Art and Culture
“Lena brilliantly rewrites the book on cultural capital. Debates over what counts as art in America created the backbone for a unique relationship between art and democracy and changed who counts as cultured. Entitled stands Bourdieu on his head!”—Gina Neff, University of Oxford