Case study: Ethnic Marketing

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[1] Ethnic Marketing is a research-based curatorial project mainly focusing on the traffic of contemporary art within global context. By understanding Western theory and visual characteristics of contemporary art as a ‘supply’, which is for non-West art practitioners and is defined by the ‘demanding client’ from the rest[2], such phenomenon in art can find its reverberation in the field of economy, namely Ethnic Marketing. Zolghadr borrows the notion of ethnic marketing from corporeal marketing strategy, which researches the taste and the mode of consumption on non-White minority. The finding is applied back to the West majority, and it created additional sense of fanciness and exoticism (ibid). By critically investigate into such topic, Zolghadr wittily utilizing the visible structure in commerce to reflex the mental as well as ideological issue of Xenophilia: ‘the project engages in the unfair attempt to essentialize the Euro-American subject, studying it like you would any unmindful, moody client with money to spend.’ (ibid) With such spirit, the project renders the questions of cultural identity and authenticity into the questions about supply and demand. Though one could no longer sniff such process as merely reductive, since it creates new modes of consuming activity and new contemporary subjectivity that the curator referred as Xenophilia. To be effective, the curatorial project therefore requires itself to tap into the investigation not only with artists but also with ‘ethnic marketeers’, amongst them Turco-German agencies. (ibid) The project is a prime example for one to ponder a possibility, in which art learns from market instead of the other way around. It also leads us to further ponder the fissure and the overlap between art and creative industry, between art as object and art as economic practices, and between traditional fund raising and its emerging counterpart.

Cover of the catalog.
  1. This is a case study page created for the research: From criticality to creativity: a Neoliberal word snake.
  2. Tirdad Zolghadr. Ethnic Marketing, Zurich: JRP Ringier. 2007.12.