Culture in the Marketplace

Gender, Art, and Value in the American Southwest

Culture in the Marketplace


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Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 10 b&w photographs Published: March 2001

Author: Molly H. Mullin

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Native and Indigenous Studies

In the early twentieth century, a group of elite East coast women turned to the American Southwest in search of an alternative to European-derived concepts of culture. In Culture in the Marketplace Molly H. Mullin provides a detailed narrative of the growing influence that this network of women had on the Native American art market—as well as the influence these activities had on them—in order to investigate the social construction of value and the history of American concepts of culture.
Drawing on fiction, memoirs, journalistic accounts, and extensive interviews with artists, collectors, and dealers, Mullin shows how anthropological notions of culture were used to valorize Indian art and create a Southwest Indian art market. By turning their attention to Indian affairs and art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she argues, these women escaped the gender restrictions of their eastern communities and found ways of bridging public and private spheres of influence. Tourism, in turn, became a means of furthering this cultural colonization. Mullin traces the development of aesthetic worth as it was influenced not only by politics and profit but also by gender, class, and regional identities, revealing how notions of “culture” and “authenticity” are fundamentally social ones. She also shows how many of the institutions that the early patrons helped to establish continue to play an important role in the contemporary market for American Indian art.
This book will appeal to audiences in cultural anthropology, art history, American studies, women’s studies, and cultural history.


“A highly readable narrative . . .” — Feminist Art Books Bulletin

“[C]ontain[s] a good deal of interesting material on culture formation and about matters of gender, class, and the patronage of Indian art.” — Richard W. Etulain , American Historical Review

“[F]ascinating and illuminating . . . .” — Dan Moos , Western Historical Quarterly

“Reader-friendly. Anyone interested in Santa Fe history, Indian art, or women’s studies will find Culture in the Marketplace a fascinating book.” — Gretchen Garner , Santa Fe New Mexican

“[T]he book covers much varied ground and offers a coherent set of ideas, and it does so with verve and well-documented rigor. . . . [I]t is written in a clean, clear style. Finally, the publisher has served the project well: the ten aptly chosen, nicely reproduced illustrations are pointedly placed, and the “Indian” design motifs that open each chapter please the eye.” — Mick Gidley , Journal of American History

"[E]ngaging. . . . [A] detailed, feminist sociology with much original research and extensive cross-reference to the literature and social concerns of the era." — Margaret Dubin , Visual Anthropology Review

"[T]his ambitious work places Native American arts patronage within the context and literature of gender, materialism, identity and politics in new and unexpected ways." — Nancy Marie Mithlo , Museum Anthropology

"[This book's] historical significance is obvious, the characters are fascinating and committed to their 'cause,' and their tireless efforts served to promote a positive resolution to the problems they perceived among Native Americans. In blending consumerism and anthropology at the heart of the book, Mullin illustrates the concept of shopping to express a national identity. Whether buyers understand either what or who produced the art that is purchased is still a question." — Corie Delashaw, Red River Valley Historical Journal

"Molly H. Mullin provides readers with a unique, interesting, and engaging look at the world of art patronage, cultural production, and taste-making in the American Southwest. . . . [F]ascinating. . . . [T]hought-provoking." — Erika Bsumek , New Mexico Historical Review

"Mullin’s volume is a fine and important work. . . . [S]he has done in-depth research, reading the fiction, memoirs, and journalistic writings the women produced. Culture in the Marketplace brings to light the vital roles played by women in the development of art patronage in the Southwest. . . ." — Joyce M. Szabo , Woman's Art Journal

"Mullin's study of the Indian art market is especially valuable for braiding the past with the present and for integrating her own complex and ambiguous responses." — Tom Lynch, American Literary History

"This book should be read critically and widely for students interested in value and art markets. By drawing upon the little-known experiences of elite women who moved to the Southwest, Mullin effectively demonstrates the changing taste, value, and evaluation of artistic consumption based upon the processes of market and historical transformation in New Mexico from the early twentieth century to the present day."
— Matthew J. Martinez , American Indian Culture and Research Journal

“Mullin makes a real contribution by exploring the dynamics of identity and social relations on the one side and knowledge and consumption on the other in her case study of the affluent women who influenced the direction and caste of the Indian art market.” — Charles McGovern, National Museum of American History

“This excellent and interesting work contributes to the question of how discourses about ‘art’ and ‘art-making’ circulate broadly within society. With subtlety and care Mullin traces out how ‘Indian arts’ and the Southwest come to have distinctive meanings within the context of American culture and its historical situation. It is a model of what an anthropology that links political economy, gender, and interpretation can and should do.” — Fred Myers, coeditor of The Traffic in Culture: Refiguring Art and Anthropology


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Molly Mullin is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Albion College.

Table of Contents Back to Top

1. Culture and Cultures

2. Elizabeth Sergeant, Buying and Selling the Southwest

3. Shopping for a Better World in a “City of Ladies”

4. The Patronage of Difference: Making Indian Art “Art, not Ethnology”

5. Culture and Value at the Indian Market





Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2618-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2610-6
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