Publication 6300

Schinkel W. (2010) The autopoiesis of the artworld after the end of art. Cultural Sociology 4(2): 267–290. Fulltext at
This article critically adapts and applies the views of Niklas Luhmann on the social system of art. Luhmann’s systems theory does not have an adequate account of ‘the artworld’. Yet by conceiving of the artworld as an autopoietic social system, Luhmann’s highly original work can be brought to bear in the sociology of art. This article applies that work by reviewing some historical changes in the autoreference of the artworld as a social system and the type of reference of works of art in the same periods. While 20th-century art saw the dominance of autoreference, which replaced a century-old mimetic reference to reality (social, natural or transcendent), current art seems to be moving in the direction of ‘defamiliarization’, taking social reality as its referent. While some philosophers have noted the ‘end of art’, contemporary art seems to be moving more in the direction of some form of sociology.


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