Questions about Art Research


Almost all university programs leading to graduate degrees strive to provide students two things.  First, the programs require their students to achieve a mastery of their field's subject matter.  Second, they require that their students demonstrate the ability to execute accurate, reliable, original research.

The skills to execute such research have technical and ethical guidelines to maximize accuracy, reliability, and transparency, as well as to help protect against error and distortion.

These guidelines are discussed in almost all graduate fields of the liberal arts and sciences except in the field of contemporary art.  As a result, it is very difficult in reviewing art research and its conclusions to separate out opinion from objective fact.  It is also difficult to review the research to check for mistakes, lacks of transparency, or undisclosed influences that might lead to distortions.

The Mission Statement of the College Art Association states:  "Representing its members’ professional needs, CAA is committed to the highest professional and ethical standards of scholarship, creativity, connoisseurship, criticism, and teaching."

This section of the website explores distortions in academic research on contemporary fiber art and craft and it looks at what has been happening in the greater art world at the same time.

Regarding the contemporary field of fiber art and craft, most curious is the similarity between the acknowledged distortion in the research and a similar disproportionate focus in the commercial market.  What is the relationship between the two?  How is art research designed?  How is transparency built into it?  How is accuracy and reliability enhanced and verified?  Unfortunately, there is little information available about academic research guidelines in the field of art research.

The articles in this section include reference to financial, commercial, and promotional influences on professional art research that are extremely powerful, but little disclosed in the academic presentations of the field, especially in museums.  Many of the articles, especially those on commercial price fixing, also grave questions.

The final Tab in this section considers how related fields discuss ethics.  Can those discussions help bring more sunlight to the field of art research and help rectify acknowledged research distortions?

An excellent way to start engaging this issue constructively would be in a professional organization "committed to the highest professional and ethical standards of scholarship, creativity, connoisseurship, criticism, and teaching."*

*From the Mission Statement of the College Art Association.  Since 2001, every successive president of the CAA has been asked what those "professional and ethical standards" actually are, and where CAA members may discuss them.  And every one of those CAA presidents has been unable to identify where CAA members concerned about fiber art may be permitted to explore those standards.

For example, a proposal for a Round Table discussion for the 2010 Conference on this part of the CAA Mission Statement as it pertains to fiber art was submitted to the CAA, including:  "We [will] discuss whether current ethical guidelines are helpful and where information on this is accessible."  In response, the CAA wrote requesting the removal of the reference to "ethical guidelines".  The refernce to "ethical guideline" was duly removed.  The CAA rejected the proposal with no reference to where the CAA actually supports discussion of the "ethical standards" as claimed in its Mission Statement.