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Art lessons for the global manager

Globalization has been seen as both a threat and an opportunity whenever it has occurred. Jamie Anderson, Martin Kupp and Jörg ...

By Jamie Anderson Martin Kupp and Jörg Reckhenrich . 01 March 2009

Globalization has been seen as both a threat and an opportunity whenever it has occurred. Jamie Anderson, Martin Kupp and Jörg Reckhenrich give us an artists’ perspective on managing in a global business world.
ArtlessonsfortheglobalmanagerGlobalization, as the argument goes, is a recent phenomenon driven by changes in the international political economy over the past two or three decades. The emergence of the BRIC economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and the shrinking of physical distances brought about by inexpensive air transport, modern communication technologies and the virtual integration of cross-border supply chains has accelerated the globalization trend.

The emergence of globalization has been seen as both a threat and an opportunity for firms and has spurred an increasing interest in the challenges of managing in the global paradigm. We suggest that today’s managers can learn much by stepping back and examining the manner in which artists adapted to the globalization of the arts beginning in the mid- 19th century. In that period, several significant shifts drove artists to change their concepts and ideas to a degree that had never existed before. The rapid shift to globalization posed unique challenges and opportunities for artists, and it is the responses of European artists to these developments that we will draw upon for lessons for the 21st-century global manager.

Art objects of foreign cultures were among the first products to be systematically traded across distant international borders. From the early periods of travel and discovery – the times of the Phoenicians, Romans and later the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British – artworks and the market for art had international reach. Beside the enormous commercial value, theses art objects, like the gold treasure of the Incas and Mayas, were a veritable instrument to prove, explain and illustrate the tremendous potential of the “new” world. Conquerors such as Spain’s Cortés (1485–1547) used imported art pieces to heighten the expectations of their financiers and to tweak the interest of new investors. But not only did artworks from foreign countries find their way from the new world to the markets of Europe. Later, from the early 19th century on, artists within Europe started to recognize this “going global” trend by integrating foreign cultural attributes into their own artwork.

It could be said that in the growing global world, especially the period from the late 1400s until the early 19th century, art objects played an important role in transporting the new and often exotic experiences of explorers and adventurers, making different cultures visible and therefore understandable. While much of the art being traded across borders at this time was plundered from the new world, it was also a period in which artists came to appreciate the opportunities of the cultural objects, showing a different view of the world, in order to broaden their own concepts.

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