Cacophony of Voices and Emotions: Dialogic of Buying and Selling art


  • Can-Seng Ooi Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark



Art world, art markets, art mediators, dialogic of art, Singapore


The importance of galleries as go-betweens for artists and art buyers is acknowledged in art world research. Using a Bakhtinian dialogic approach, this article examines social encounters of three artists, two art buyers and one gallery sales executive in Singapore. Specifically, it looks into the social interactional dynamics of artists and art buyers when they trade directly. Situational ambiguities and emotional ambivalence arise during such meetings from the different expectations and demands that are imposed, which have the effect of placing the parties involved in conflicting social contexts. For instance, when art connoisseurs and artists discuss aesthetics, monetary value is not of primary concern, nonetheless when they want to trade, commercial concerns become central; this can lead to discomfort between the parties. Similarly, art buyers may want to go behind the scenes to know more about the artist and the art practice; getting away from the glitter of the commercial gallery and into the modest art studio for an authentic experience may reveal too much for visitors; such experiences may break their illusion of the glamorous artist. This article looks at the microscopic interaction between artists and art buyers and shows how the ambiguities and ambivalence that can be generated by their encounters become constraining factors in encouraging artists and art buyers to trade directly, by-passing commercial art galleries and dealers.


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How to Cite

Ooi, C.-S. (2010) “Cacophony of Voices and Emotions: Dialogic of Buying and Selling art”, Culture Unbound, 2(3), pp. 347–364. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.10220347.



Theme: Culture, Work and Emotion