Bargaining for Prestige in the Hide/Seek Exhibition: The Ambiguous Relationship between Economic and Non-Economic Capital and Its Effects


  • Wiebke Kartheus Universität Leipzig Institut für Amerikanistik



Pierre Bourdieu, symbolic capital, economic capital, disavowal, anxiety, art exhibition


In 2010, the National Portrait Gallery removed David Wojnarowicz’s video A Fire in My Belly“ (1987) from their Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture“ exhibition. By gauging the reactions to the removal, this article discusses transactions that illustrate the tenuous relationship between economic and non-economic capital within the art world; a field that constantly disavows the existence of capitalist modes of operation. Based on an unwavering belief in the validity and legitimacy of its own practices, the artistic field tirelessly reproduces its value and continues to determine the value and meaning of art. My analysis of the system, which draws on Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of the field, disavowal, and different forms of capital, aims at showing that anxiety is a driving force within the artistic field that motivates the practices of the field’s agents and thus becomes an influential structuring impetus for the system as a whole. 

Author Biography

Wiebke Kartheus, Universität Leipzig Institut für Amerikanistik

Wiebke Kartheus received her BA in World English studies, art history, and visual studies from Saarland University and her MA in American studies from Leipzig University, where she has been a member of the editorial board of the peer-reviewed print journal for European American studies aspeers: emerging voices in American studies“ for four consecutive years (‘American Memories’ [2013], ‘American Anxieties’ [2014], ‘American Health’ [2015], ‘American Youth’ [forthcoming]). In September 2015 her article “The ‘other’ as Projection Screen: Authenticating Heroic Masculinity in War-Themed Heavy Metal Music Videos“ was published in the peer-reviewed journal Metal Music Studies“. Currently she is conceptualizing her PhD project “Presenting Art, Preserving Value: The American Art Museum and Capitalism in the 21st Century“ [working title].




How to Cite

Kartheus, Wiebke. “Bargaining for Prestige in the Hide Seek Exhibition: The Ambiguous Relationship Between Economic and Non-Economic Capital and Its Effects”. Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, May 2016, doi:10.5283/copas.259.