The Artification of Fossils in Commercial Art Spaces: Dinosaurs in a Desirescape

Yates, Donna and Peacock, Emily (2024) The Artification of Fossils in Commercial Art Spaces: Dinosaurs in a Desirescape. The Journal of Material Culture.

In this article we consider the movement of fossils into art commercial spaces as a process of artification underpinned by the deep object associations that art spaces foster. We combine observational data gathering at art and fossil fairs, dealerships, and auctions with snapshot analysis of the online market for Tyrannosaurus rex fossils, contextualized by interviews with palaeontologists and fossil dealers, to understand the increasing appearance of fossils within art commercial spaces. We believe that the placement of fossils within the art market desirescape, so within a network of alluring, provocative, affective art objects, allows the fossils to transform into what consumers would consider art. The fossils then gain the social associations that artworks have for these consumers. We believe that art and fossil consumers are not simply drawn to individual objects of desire, but to the myriad associations those objects have with other objects and the deep meanings those associations overlay. Those associations and the network they form can, in turn, transform the objects within it. When a fossil is artified, it can be desired like art, and can command art prices.

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