Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Eric Wolf

Second Advisor

Stephanie Jeanjean


This thesis explores the impact of the ease of photographic reproduction on the
experience of contemporary art viewership. This study establishes historical precedent and explains the phenomenon of the serial photographic reproduction of works of art by contemporary audiences. In doing so, the thesis identifies the implications of reproductions on the original work of art they replicate as well as the consequences of such reproduction. The photographic duplication of artworks in the museum allows the viewer to recommodify the artwork, become its quasi-possessor, and alter its meaning and function. This study is centered around the argument that this widespread practice reflects contemporary society’s dependence on data to perform artistic-value judgments as well as mirrors collecting practices. Through the works of Walter Benjamin, Jean
Baudrillard, Arjun Appadurai, John Berger, Ben Davis, David Joselit and Seth Price, a framework to analyze this phenomenon is developed. The framework is subsequently applied to three case studies that represent precedents of art reproduction and echo contemporary behaviors toward art: Agnolo Bronzino’s Portrait of Duke Cosimo I de'Medici in Armour (1543), Giovanni Paolo Panini’s Ancient Rome (1757), and Andy Warhol’s The Last Supper Series (1986). The thesis demonstrates that mass-art replication is impacting the way art is produced and displayed, and suggests that this practice will only increase and evolve over time.