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December 16, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010 - ,, No comments

Profile: Art historian Thomas Flynn

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

In our continued series on ARCA lecturers, the ARCA blog is profiling returning lecturer Tom Flynn who will teach a course this summer in Amelia titled “Art History and the Art World” from June 6 through June 17, 2011.

Tom Flynn is a London-based writer and art historian with interests in sculpture history, art and business, museology, cultural heritage, the art market, and art crime. Flynn has a Masters in Design History from the Royal College of Art and a doctorate in Art History from the University of Sussex. He teaches courses on the art market and the history of museums at Kingston University, London and is the author of a number of books on sculpture, painting and the decorative arts. As a journalist Tom has written for a broad range of publications, including The Art Newspaper, Art & Auction, ARTnews, Art Review, Art Quarterly, Apollo, The Spectator, Museums Journal, The Sculpture Journal, etc. Tom blogs regularly on art world matters at In 2009, he launched an art consultancy, The Sculpture Agency ( to promote contemporary sculpture. A list of his books can be found here: (

ARCA blog: What will be the scope of your course in Amelia?
Tom Flynn: The course aims to give students a thorough grounding in how the art market works and how its key institutions interact and relate to one another. The art market can often seem a somewhat mysterious and intimidating business environment with its own specific codes of communication and ways of conducting transactions and establishing price. The course sets out to dispel some of the myths and mysteries surrounding the rapidly globalizing market in an enjoyable way that will enrich and empower students in their future careers.
ARCA blog: Does your course focus on particular subjects?
Tom Flynn: Yes, the course works its way through the main public and private institutions that make up the modern art market, offering a historical perspective on the market’s evolution as well as plenty of contemporary analysis. Through a series of intensive but lively and interactive teaching sessions, we explore the history of collecting, the evolution of museums, the emergence of the auction houses and the art trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the development of the contemporary art market. We also investigate the impact of technology on the art trade and art investment, how the art media works, and the importance of art fairs in the global market. Finally, we also touch on topical themes such as deaccessioning by museums, the repatriation of cultural objects, and the impact of the Artist’s Re-Sale Rights Levy.
ARCA blog: How would you advise prospective students to prepare for your course?
Tom Flynn: A preliminary reading list is circulated in the weeks and months prior to the course and anything students can read from that list will be useful preparation for classroom discussion. I also urge students to try and visit at least one fine art auction sale before arriving in Italy and to stroll around the museums and art galleries in their home towns and cities, taking attentive note of how objects are exhibited and thinking critically about how business is conducted in those environments.
ARCA blog: Tom, you’ve taught twice in Amelia with the ARCA program, what kind of a student do you think benefits from this program and what do you think they would get out of your class?
Tom Flynn: Any student with a genuine desire to learn will benefit from this course. I don’t expect students to arrive with specific knowledge of the art world as my course is designed to offer a grounding in the key issues. However, students who already have some experience of art and its markets will benefit from an opportunity to think in fresh ways about familiar ideas and to challenge their own preconceptions. In my first two years of teaching the course I’ve also noticed how students benefit from each other’s knowledge and experience, exchanging ideas in a relaxing, friendly and stimulating environment.

I hope that answers your questions. And you’ll notice I haven’t even mentioned the excellent local wine!