The Artist’s Friend

Jamin An, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Anne Rana, Independent Art Historian

Being identified as a great friend of artists, or ‘artist’s friend’, often elevates ancillary art historical figures, past and present. For some collectors, critics, curators, dealers—consider broadly drawn examples like Giorgio Vasari, Alain Locke, Gertrude Stein, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Okwui Enwezor or Geeta Kapur—friendship has represented a deep connection with a particular artist or signaled bonds of loyalty and support with many. Notwithstanding its assumed virtue and frequent invocation, the idea of the ‘artist’s friend’ has escaped meaningful definition.

This panel seeks to undertake a critical analysis of the ‘artist’s friend’, examining case studies that leverage friendship as a conceptual model of relation between artists and non-artists. Our inquiry aims to engage the broad theoretical terrain of friendship: its nature and value, the reciprocal self-knowledge and self-formation it cultivates, and the moral quandaries it raises. We welcome interdisciplinary contributions across geography and chronology, and encourage papers that help us consider such questions as:

  • What are defining features of friendship with the artist? How is ‘friend’ distinct from positions such as muse, lover, donor, or patron?
  • A friend is said to be ‘another self.’ How might we understand artistic identity or the status of the artist from the standpoint of figures who are considered the ‘artist’s friend’?
  • When partiality is an essential feature of friendship, how does friendship enrich or complicate scholarship, curating, or criticism, conventionally predicated on distance and impartiality?
  • How do friendship’s ethical and moral commitments intersect with the cultural field’s conditions of production, circulation, and legitimation?

Information about the speakers and papers on this panel will be posted shortly. 



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