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2011/1 (Vol. 14)

  • Pages : 88
  • DOI : 10.3917/mana.141.0436
  • Éditeur : AIMS


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Article précédent Pages 436 - 466



“Everything revolves around this Salon : the satisfaction of pride, reputation, fame, fortune and the guarantee of bread and butter.”


Tabarant A. (1963 : 12), La vie artistique au temps de Baudelaire.


Field Configuring Events (FCEs) are defined as “settings in which people from diverse organizations and with diverse purposes assemble periodically, or on a one-time basis, to announce new products, develop industry standards, construct social networks, recognize accomplishments, share and interpret information, and transact business” (Lampel & Meyer, 2008 : 1026). FCEs have recently become a subject of growing interest in the field of organizational theory (for an example, see the special edition of the Journal of Management Studies, 2008), particularly the study of cultural industries, where they are major coordinating events (see, for example, Anand & Watson, 2004 ; Anand & Jones, 2008 ; Moeran & Pedersen, forthcoming). These works have studied the development and maintenance of periodically recurring FCEs, such as award shows, but they have not explored the deinstitutionalization of this specific type of institution. This oversight is problematic for two reasons. First, the results provide an incomplete vision of their life cycle. Second, recent research focuses on the configuring aspect of FCEs, but says nothing about the reconfiguring effects linked to shifts to other forms of coordination within a field. Nevertheless, the powerful configuring effect of FCEs suggests that the reconfiguring effects linked to their decline are of great importance, not only for the structure of the field in question, but also for the relationships between the members of that field.


The objective of our article is twofold : to contribute to emerging research on FCEs, and to respond to the above-mentioned gap. First, we examine the micro causes of deinstitutionalization and, second, we focus on its consequences at the meso level. Our aim can therefore be expressed as follows : what exactly is the process involved in the deinstitutionalization of well established FCEs ? And how does this deinstitutionalization affect an FCE ?


In order to answer these two questions, we offer an analysis of the progressive decline of the Paris Salon. Prior to losing its power of selection and legitimacy, towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Salon was France’s largest annual or biannual art exhibition. It allowed field members to “make sense” of artistic production, and to determine which style should be appreciated, thus enabling artists to receive recognition and, potentially, fame and fortune.


Our results are subjected to a historiographical analysis, and thereby contribute to FCE research by accounting for the deinstitutionalization process, and how it affects a given field. This was achieved by contrasting the effects of the FCE’s structuring of the field with that of the alternative coordination system that replaced it. These results also allow us to make contributions to broader research on the process of deinstitutionalization.


This article is divided into five sections. The first presents the theoretical basis on which the research questions were formulated. The second is devoted to a brief explanation of the Salon, in order to shed light on its pivotal role in the Beaux-Arts field in nineteenth-century in France. The methodology employed for this study is described in the third section. The empirical study is presented in the fourth section. The final section presents a discussion of the results.


The pivotal role of FCEs in organizational fields


Existing studies emphasize that FCEs play two important roles in structuring organizational fields.


First, FCEs are temporary events at which field members have the opportunity to meet, network and collect information on other members activities (Kerin & Cron, 1987 ; Lampel & Meyer, 2008), thus developing a shared perception of the field (Oliver & Montgomery, 2008). Referring to Durkheim (1965), Anand and Watson (2004) emphasize that FCEs create an order and favour social coherence. By assuming this role, FCEs contribute to the definition of a field and its boundaries. For instance, Anand and Watson (2004) report that the Grammy Awards have a selection process that uses different categories, each of which represents a kind of music. Those kinds of music that belong to any one of these categories are considered legitimate members of the American music industry. Those not included are denied such legitimacy and must struggle to obtain it, as was the case for hip-hop in the 1980s.


Second, FCEs play an important role as “tournaments of value” (Anand & Watson, 2004 ; Anand & Jones, 2008). Indeed, an FCE serves as a reminder of the field’s dominant values, at a time and in a place where field members are assessed in the light of those values. FCEs favour the creation and distribution of reputation in a field (Anand & Jones, 2008 ; Lampel & Meyer, 2008 ; Rao, 1994). This may be achieved informally, as members exchange information (Kerin & Cron, 1987), or formally, through contests (Rao, 1994). Those members rewarded can hope to benefit from future advantages, such as more significant funding. Continuing with the example of the Grammy Awards, Anand and Watson (2004) establish a positive correlation between an artist’s receiving a Grammy Award and subsequent record sales.


Current research on FCEs focuses mainly on their influence on the emergence and structuring of the fields (Anand & Jones, 2008 ; Garud, 2008), but not on the way in which FCEs are deinstitutionalized. However, this issue is crucial in the light of the characteristics described above. The decline of this structuring event may have important consequences for the field’s structure (Peterson & Anand, 2004 ; White & White, 1993), and on the relationships among field members. This is why this article seeks to study the deinstitutionalization process of a FCE and its consequences.

The deinstitutionalization process


Although the question of deinstitutionalization has occupied a significant place on the agenda of current neo-institutional research (Desreumaux & Hafsi, 2006), many authors emphasize that this issue has been insufficiently studied (Ahmadjian & Robinson, 2001 ; Maguire & Hardy, 2009). This is a result of the complex nature of the deinstitutionalization process. As Ahmadjian & Robinson (2001 : 627) highlighted, deinstitutionalization does not happen “simply because better options present themselves”. Multiple reasons may explain this, such as failure to acknowledge the potential benefits of those new options, or refusal to meet the unrecoverable costs associated with the abandonment of a routine. These are factors of institutional inertia (Oliver, 1992). According to Ahmadjian and Robinson (2001), a loss of legitimacy is necessary for established institutions to be deinstitutionalized. The approach to this loss of legitimacy has evolved in the very limited corpus of works on deinstitutionalization.


Oliver (1992) was the first author to devote a theoretical article to deinstitutionalization and to establish the basis of the problem. According to her, this loss of legitimacy results from a process in which the pressures of inertia run counter to the pressures of entropy. In the end, the pressures of entropy prevail, and deinstitutionalization results. Thus, Oliver (1992) presented the forces at work in the loss of legitimacy. Further empirical works on the subject adopted a macro-social approach to the subject (Ahmadjin & Robinson, 2001 ; Davis et al., 1994), and considered deinstitutionalization as the result of wider changes penetrating into an organizational field.


Only recently have authors insisted on the necessity of accounting for the strategic actions of those actors involved in the deinstitutionalization process in order to adopt a more micro-social view. Returning to Oliver’s work (1992), Lawrence and Suddaby (2006) emphasize the need to document the institutional work accomplished by two types of main actor (DiMaggio, 1988) who may engage in specific discourses (Ben Slimane, 2009 ; Blanc & Huault, 2009 ; Fourquet-Courbet & Messeghem, 2009) or actions (Delacour, 2007) to bring this institutional work to fruition. The first type of actor is in favour of change ; he/she draws on current institutions to support his/her arguments, and to question “the validity of a long-standing tradition or established activity”, (Oliver, 1992 : 567) in order to lead to deinstitutionalization. Conversely, the other type of actor seeks to “maintain the status quo” (Oliver, 1992 : 578), because the existing institutions serve his/her interests and values (Levy & Scully, 2007). Studying the debate surrounding the decline of DDT pesticide, Maguire and Hardy (2009) analyzed the discursive strategies of both members supporting the ban and those opposing it. Nonetheless, in their empirical study, Maguire and Hardy (2009) focused on members who were strongly engaged in the conflict, either supporting or rejecting established practice. However, the actions of institutional entrepreneurs alone may not be sufficient to ensure institutional processes (Lounsbury & Crumley, 2007). These actions must be taken up and passed on by others (Battilana, Leca, & Boxenbaum, 2009).


Following recent works (Meyer, 2006 ; Reay & Hinings, 2005), we suggest that, in order to study a deinstitutionalization process, it is necessary to take account of all the members of an organizational field. This is particularly important in the case of an FCE, since this type of institution structures the organizational field and influences the behaviors of all members, whilst also depending on such behaviors. This leads us first to question the micro dynamics leading to the decline of an institutionalized FCE, that is to say, how the actions of all field members affect this decline. Similarly, we question how deinstitutionalization affects the field : that is to say, how the decline impacts members’ behaviors.


We then look at the case of the deinstitutionalization process of the Paris Salon in France at the end of the nineteenth century. This decline has already been the subject of such studies as White and White’s (1993) referential work. Their research focused particularly on macro-social evolutions and the initiatives of institutional entrepreneurs, especially art dealers. As such, it was criticised for its restricted approach to the interaction of different members around the time of the Salon’s decline (see for instance Brouillon, 1986 ; Galenson & Jensen, 2002 ; Vaisse, 1995). It follows from this that accounting for the entirety of the field’s members’ actions can contribute both to the study of the deinstitutionalization of FCEs, and to an analysis of the decline of the Salon.



We chose the Salon as the setting for an investigation of the dynamics that led to the deinstitutionalization of an FCE, and the consequences of this decline on the field, because there is no equivalent today of such a dominant FCE within the field of the Beaux-Arts.


The Paris Salon (the Salon) was established in 1667 by the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture (the Academy), and was supported by Louis XIV. This annual or biannual exhibition became the main cultural attraction of the year in the nineteenth century (e.g., Mainardi, 1989 ; White and White, 1993). According to Hauptmann (1985), from 1830 to 1848 the Salon had more than one million visitors every year, and the numbers attending were so great that, in some years, it had to remain open for three months (Lemaire, 2004).


This prominent FCE shaped how field members made sense of artistic production. The system worked as follows. Artists submitted their works to the jury, which decided which works to display. The Salon’s jury was dominated by members of the Academy, who were themselves artists, and perpetuated a peer selection system. The artists who gained acceptance enjoyed huge exposure. All field members, including the public, critics, patrons, collectors, art dealers, and artists, came to the Salon to view and discuss contemporary artistic production, thus making sense of it. Art criticism developed along with the Salon, and became increasingly popular (Wrigley, 1993). By analyzing French journals, Parsons and Ward (1986) found 65 articles on the Salon in 1852, 426 in 1860, and 1,619 in 1870. The critics who had columns in the journals included famous writers such as Stendhal, Baudelaire, and Zola (Bouillon, 1986). Their role and influence became increasingly important, and most of them insisted that the style of the paintings exhibited at the Salon represented the sole definition of art, and thus stimulated sales.


The Salon was initially intended to be an exhibition of only the best paintings, but it became the place where reputations were made and paintings sold (Mainardi, 1989, 1993 ; Moulin, 1987 ; Vaisse, 1995 ; White & White, 1993). At each exhibition, the jury presented medals and awards. Art historians suggest that gaining such a distinction favored access to more resources. Rheims (1981) relates that, in 1861, before actually ordering his portrait, a rich businessman would first convene his notary and his chosen artist. The terms were agreed upon : the artist would receive 1,000 francs if the painting was not admitted to the Salon, 2,000 francs if it was, 3,000 francs if it received an honorable mention, and 5,000 francs if it won an award. Furthermore, in the nineteenth century, when the art market was still little developed, the Salon was the place where the artists came into contact with their economic partners : first, the representatives of the State, who were the principal purchasers, and who bought paintings displayed at the Salon although they did not commission painters (e.g., Mainardi, 1993 ; Monnier, 1995 ; Vaisse, 1995 ; White & White, 1993), and second with art dealers such as Goupil & Cie, who were highly dependent on the Salon, because they selected painters on the basis of their Salon reputation (Whiteley, 1979). In particular, they looked for popular paintings, because most of their profits were earned in the form of reproductions, as engravings or photographs (Le Cadre, 1995), rather than from commissions on sales. Third, the artists came into contact with the wealthy private collectors, the bourgeois, who were influenced by the critics, and would buy paintings depending on the recognition they obtained from the jury at the Salon (Moulin, 1987). Hence, Hauptman (1985 : 96) suggests that “it is no exaggeration to say that the decision of the jury… became for the nineteenth-century artist a fundamental upon which his basic public and private status depends”. Inclusion in or exclusion from this exhibition could make or break an artist’s career (e.g., Assouline, 2002 ; Mainardi, 1993 ; White & White, 1993). In 1886 one painter, Jules Holtzapfell, even committed suicide because his work had been rejected by the jury (Lemaire, 2004).


However, throughout the nineteenth century, the way in which the Salon was organized became controversial, and the pressures for change increased. There were challenges from both inside and outside the Academy, as external actors such as artists and art dealers developed alternatives. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Salon had lost its prominent position. In 1910, Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler, an influential art dealer who represented such prominent artists as Picasso and Braque, asked his artists not to show their works at the Salon, because he considered it a waste of time (Monnier, 1995).



For this study, we used the historiographical method, thereby linking longitudinal and qualitative approaches (Ventresca & Mohr, 2002). This method seems particularly well suited to account for the complexity of institutional processes. Indeed, it makes it possible to take into account all the members of a given field over a long period of time, and enables an exploratory process. The different steps of our analysis are described in Appendix 1 and detailed in this section.

Data collection


In conducting the historiographical analysis, we followed practices based on the historical methodology (Passmore, 1958 ; Startt & Sloan, 1989), as recommended by Farjoun (2002 : 854).


Primary and secondary sources were collected (Goodman & Kruger, 1998) according to an iterative process.


Where possible, we favored contemporary sources (Godelier, 2005). Archives covering the period 1830-1920 were obtained, using accessible documentation from the Institut National de l’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) and the French National Library (BNF) in Paris (Appendix 2). More specifically, data were gathered from contemporary sources, such as Salon booklets, correspondence between art dealers and artists, and critics’ articles in journals (L’Artiste, la Chronique des Beaux-Arts et de la Curiosité and le Mercure de France). To obtain information on painters’ ratings, we collected data from the archives of the Hotel Drouot, where all the main auctions of contemporary art took place.


The secondary data on which we drew were biographies of painters and art dealers (Assouline, 2002), analyses of artistic movements (Rewald, 1989), artistic life (Martin-Fugier, 2007 ; Vaisse, 1995 ; White & White, 1993) and history books referring to the contemporary social and economic context (Levy Leboyer & Bourguignon, 1985). A complete list of the secondary sources used in the text is presented in Appendix 3.


The danger of the historiographical approach is the risk of being submerged by the amount of data. We therefore selected data not only according to their relevance to the subject in general, but also on the basis of their relevance to our research questions. (Golder, 2000 ; Goodman & Kruger, 1988).

Data analysis


For data collection as discussed above, our data analysis follows the historiographical method, which is fairly specific in this area. Three steps can be distinguished (see for instance Golder, 2000 ; Gottschalk, 1969). The first is source evaluation. As recommended by Goodman and Kruger (1988), we determined whether our sources could be used to respond to the two research questions, by comparing them to each other. This source evaluation considered the credibility of the sources (known by historians as external validity), but also the possible bias of their authors (known by historians as internal validity). This second aspect is particularly important in this case, as those alive at the time of the Salon often held extremely strong views about it, and also because our approach was entirely based on their support for or rejection of the Salon. The credibility of the sources was evaluated using the principles of historical research (Gottschalk, 1969 ; Langlois & Seignobos, 1992 [1898]) :

  1. Always favoring primary sources.

  2. Considering that the more sources a piece of information was found in, the more credible it was.

  3. Considering that each source (particularly judgments of opinion, which are at the heart of our topic) has a specific bias, therefore striving to confront it with an opposing source.

  4. Deeming events and interpretations that form the object of a consensus to be facts.


By following the above principles, it is possible to produce knowledge and guarantee a fairly faithful representation of the object of study.


The second step involves data analysis and interpretation. In order to achieve this, we organized the data into intermediate forms : the first of these was to take thorough notes on the texts (Ventresca & Mohr, 2002). We also created files to gather quantitative data and to ensure the systematic search of variables. These data were then organized into intermediate formats, such as tables, which allowed them to be summarized, and to facilitate the retention of only the most important elements. (See Appendix 4 for an example of an intermediate table involving the first phase of analysis). These tables are also paired with note taking.


The third step is to structure the data in order to be able to present them and to draw conclusions. This involves selecting the data that will be presented (see, for example, Appendix 4) and putting them in order. To accomplish this, we chose two methods suggested by Langley (1999) to perform a longitudinal analysis : the narrative technique and temporal bracketing.


Narrative techniques are particularly well suited for “organizing data when time plays an important role and where a single case provides rich and varied incidents” (Chiles, Meyer, & Hench, 2004 : 505). Using the different sources we had gathered, we developed a narrative woven around the evolution of the Salon to account for the different layers of explanation of its deinstitutionalization.


Based on this narrative, we used temporal bracketing, and decomposed the Salon’s deinstitutionalization process into different yet connected periods separated by major breaks (Langley, 1999). This technique is well suited to an analysis of non-linear organizing processes and “permits the constitution of comparative units of analysis for the exploration and replication of theoretical ideas” (Langley, 1999 : 703).


The Salon’s deinstitutionalization process was thus divided into four periods, each triggered by a change.

  1. A period of initial protests began in 1830 ; according to Hauptmann (1985), this was when the first major complaints about the Salon’s system arose. These came from both inside and outside the Salon, and they increased in this initial period.

  2. The next period started with a major break in the form of the first Impressionist exhibition, in 1874. This was the first occasion on which, during the Salon period, a group of artists had organized an alternative exhibition that was expected to become regular.

  3. The third period is the emergence of two distinct systems. It began in 1881 with the State’s withdrawal of its official support for the Salon. This was followed by the emergence of a sustainable alternative to the Salon, the “dealer-critic” system (White & White, 1993).

  4. The final decline of the Salon was triggered by a split, in 1890, in the artistic association in charge of organizing the Salon. Although 1920 was not in itself a break, it was chosen as the end of this study because we found that by this time the Salon no longer exerted any influence whatsoever.


This process-based method enables us to examine in each period the actions of the field members, how the actions of one period lead to changes in the context that affect actions in the following period, and how trends accumulate (Grenier & Josserand, 1999 ; Langley, 1999). It also enables us to account for the evolving positions of the field members toward the Salon.


The initial protests (1830-1873)


During this period, despite political changes, France enjoyed increasing prosperity, and the Salon increased its appeal and power as the major forum in which tastes were conditioned, art discussed and commissions decided. First, the Salon enjoyed the political support of the different regimes : the liberal regime known as the July Monarchy in 1830, then the Republic proclaimed in 1848 and, finally, the Second Empire established by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte in 1852. Furthermore, the Salon benefited from the support of State representatives and collectors, who relied mainly on the verdicts of the jury and critics when deciding whether to purchase from the Salon.


However the Salon’s dominant position became increasingly problematic, for two reasons. First, the number of submissions continued to increase, and exerted what White and White (1993) call “demographic pressures” on the Salon. This was linked to the everincreasing number of artists at work during this period. In 1843, two thousand individuals were listed as ‘artistes painters’ in Paris alone (Hauptmann, 1985). They produced an increasing number of art works and submitted them to the Salon, making it very difficult to maintain a system that was originally conceived for only a few hundred submissions. In 1843, when 4,000 works were submitted and only 1,637 accepted, one critic calculated that the jury had had about one minute in which to judge each work (Hauptmann, 1985). The Salon continued to grow and, despite successive changes in location in an attempt to increase space, works were often displayed from floor to ceiling (Illustration 1). This poor layout was the subject of much debate amongst both artists and critics (Ward, 1991).

Illustration 1 - The Salon of 1868 by Gustave Doré
Paris, National Library, Prints department.

Artists regularly petitioned for reform and asked for more liberal selections, but often with little success (Lemaire, 2004).


Second, the jury increasingly imposed its academic views as to which painting styles should be adopted (Regan, 2004). As it remained closed to artistic innovation, the Salon’s jury became increasingly conservative over the course of the century. Its standards reflected the Academic taste for historic, mythological, and Biblical themes. It valued somber, conservative colours and definite lines. The painters who followed these rules, such as Meissonier, Cabanel, and Bouguereau, were acclaimed at the Salon, received honors, and were celebrated by the public. Their paintings were also highly valued. Those who opposed these views, such as the Realists or the future Impressionists, were rejected. In 1863 the Salon famously rejected, amongst other works, the ‘Déjeuneur sur l’herbe’ (Luncheon on the Grass) by Manet, because it depicted a nude woman with two clothed men at a picnic. The jury considered nudes acceptable in historical and allegorical paintings, but their appearance in contemporary settings was regarded as indecent. After seeing the rejected works, Emperor Napoleon III decreed that public should be allowed to judge works by itself, and organized a “Salon des Refusés” (Salon of Refused Works) alongside the Salon. This Salon was rejected by art critics and the public alike (Hauptmann, 1985).


Despite all their complaints, artists had no choice but to be displayed at the Salon if they wished to increase their reputation and the rating of their works. Rejection was extremely damaging for artists, as the realist painter Gustave Courbet observed in 1847 :


There is a bias on the part of the gentlemen of the jury : they refuse all those who do not belong to their school […] That does not bother me in the least from the point of their judgment, but to make a name for oneself one must exhibit, and unfortunately, that is the only exhibition there is. (Galenson and Jensen, 2002 : 8)


In 1869, Monet, who had again been rejected by the Salon, wrote to someone from whom he expected support :


That fatal rejection has almost taken the bread out of my mouth ; in spite of my not at all high prices, dealers and collectors turn their backs on me. Above all, it is saddening to see how little interest there is in a piece of art that has no list price. (Rewald, 1961 : 225)


In the 1860s, a new generation of art dealers tried to offer alternatives and to promote avant-garde painters, such as Monet, who were often rejected by the Salon. Paul Durand-Ruel, considered by most historians the incarnation of this new breed of art dealer (e.g., Green, 1987 ; Jensen, 1988 ; Whiteley, 1979 ; White & White, 1993) bought avant-garde paintings for which there was no demand, and ran the risk of selling, or not selling, these works. Only a few critics supported this initiative, including Zola, who commented in 1866, in the newspaper l’Evènement, that if he had enough money he would buy a work by Manet (Lemaire, 2004). However those art dealers achieved little success because the number of collectors ready to take the risk of buying such artists remained very limited, and was insufficient to provide a sustainable basis for an alternative market (Distel, 1989).

The collective Impressionist exhibitions (1874-1880)


During this period of economic recession, the Salon remained the most important and popular event in the field. The Salon was still the best way for an artist to gain a reputation and fortune, as the majority of art dealers, collectors and representatives of the State continued to support it.


However, the factors contributing to tension within the Salon remained, whether these were demographic pressures related to the always-increasing number of artists, or the jury’s rejection of innovation. The number of works continued to grow, from 2,067 in 1872 to a record 7,311 works in 1880, thus making the exhibition extremely difficult to manage, despite the fact that additional galleries were constructed at the last minute (Mainardi, 1993). The jury continued to reject the most innovative works. Cézanne submitted his work eight times between 1874 and 1884, and was never admitted (Rewald, 1961). The excluded artists found it difficult to obtain any recognition. The new generation of dealers, who tried to sell these innovative works, failed to convince the collectors. In 1894, Durand-Ruel even had to give up supporting these innovative artists because of a lack of funds (Assouline, 2002).


In 1874, however, a group of the painters in question created a cooperative society, outside the Salon but taking place at the same time as it, that organized regular collective exhibitions and sales (Bouillon, 1986). To exhibit at those exhibitions, a painter had to agree not to submit his/her works at the Salon. This was an important innovation, because no artist had previously dared to organize such counter-exhibitions on a regular basis (Galenson & Jensen, 2002). However, this first exhibition, organized during the Salon in 1874, was both a public scandal and a financial failure (Bodelsen, 1968 ; White & White, 1993). Those critics who had already called for exhibitions organized by artists, without the intervention of art dealers, celebrated the initiative (Bouillon, 1986 ; Galenson & Jensen, 2002), but they disliked the paintings. Some stated that the exhibited works could not be called paintings. One critic suggested that this was not painting but mere “impressions”, a name that the group decided to adopt by calling itself the “Impressionists”. The public response remained limited. That year 400,000 people visited the Salon, but only 3,500 attended the Impressionist exhibition, and most of them were attracted by the scandal (Rewald, 1961). However, the group persevered, and between 1874 and 1886 it organized eight Impressionist exhibitions. The fourth exhibition in 1879 was financially successful, and the critics’ hostility began to decrease (Rewald, 1961). However, this alternative system could not provide a sufficient reputation or enough financial resources to bypass the Salon, and several avant-garde artists, such as Renoir, Sisley, and Cézanne, continued to submit their works for the jury’s selection (Bouillon, 1986). In a letter to Durand-Ruel in March 1881, Renoir justified his submission of his paintings to the jury in 1878 :


There are hardly fifteen art lovers in Paris capable of liking a painter without the Salon’s approval. And there are eighty thousand who would not buy a thing from a painter not exhibited at the Salon. (…) My submission to the Salon is just commercial. (Reprinted in Venturi, 1939 : 115)

The emergence of two distinct systems (1881-1889)


In the early 1880s the political situation became more stable. For the first time the republican government decided to reduce the State’s influence in the domain of the arts. After the jury’s decision in 1880 to admit 7311 works of art rendered the Salon’s exhibition unmanageable, the State decided to withdraw its official support in 1881, and offered the artists the opportunity to organize the Salon themselves (Monnier, 1995 ; Vaisse, 1995). All those artists who had been admitted to the Salon at least once were invited to elect the committee that was now in charge of the Salon. This emerging organization eventually became the “Société des Artistes Français” (Society of the French Artists, SAF), and was dominated by artists willing to continue the Salon tradition. Although the Republic had reduced its influence, the representatives of the State, as well as art dealers and collectors, continued to allow their purchases at the Salon to be informed by the jury’s recognition. Despite this change, the Salon remained a popular success and the largest marketplace for art. The factors of tension related to demographic pressure, and to the jury’s refusal of innovation, remained in place.


While the Salon remained dominant, more and more field members were increasingly dissatisfied with this system. Critics found the Salon increasingly boring as little innovation took place there. In 1882, Guy de Maupassant made this complaint : “Who will get rid of the Salon, this annual bore, wet blanket of personalities ?” (cited in Lemaire, 2004 : 226). In parallel, multiple initiatives by artists and art dealers were developed to offer alternatives to the Salon. Although the last Impressionist exhibition took place in 1886, a new alternative exhibition, the “Salon des Indépendants” (Independents’ Salon), had been created in 1884 with no jury and no prices, in order to oppose the SAF’s event and to break its monopoly permanently. At the same time, art dealers and critics began to develop a sustainable alternative to the Salon expressly to promote innovative painters. Durand-Ruel had been the pioneer of this, but in the 1880s other art dealers, such as Georges Petit and Théo Van Gogh, started to imitate his strategy. They ensured the promotion of innovative artists through both group exhibitions, and series of one-person shows in their galleries. These exhibition spaces were luxuriously appointed, and they offered viewing intimacy. Paintings were exhibited on one or two rows rather than from floor to ceiling, as was the case at the Salon. They increasingly became a credible alternative to the immense and overcrowded Salon (Monnier, 1995 ; Ward, 1991) (Illustration 2).

Illustration 2 - “The Durand-Ruel Gallery, Rue Laffitte in1893”. Anonymous engraving
Paris, National Library, Prints department

To increase the legitimacy of these innovative painters, art dealers worked closely with art critics and involved them in the development of the selection process (Becker, 1982 ; Jensen, 1994 ; White & White, 1993 ; Wijnberg & Gemser, 2000). Finally, while a new generation of bourgeois disdained the academic tradition and looked for innovative paintings that they considered more elitist and refined (Assouline, 2002 ; Distel, 1989 ; Mainardi, 1999 ; Ward, 1989), they were unable to constitute a critical mass to support this alternative. The support of rich American art collectors such as the Havemeyers was instrumental. Those collectors started to buy Impressionists in large numbers after the exhibition organized by Durand-Ruel in New York in 1886, entitled “The Impressionists from Paris” (Distel, 1989 ; Rewald, 1961). This led to an increase in sales to the public from 1880 onwards, and this, along with the constant circulation of those works through successive sales, initiated a sharp upward spiral in the prices of the more innovative works (Green, 1987). The Salon system remained dominant, but this alternative system became profitable and stable.

The decline of the Salon (1890-1920)


During this period of economic growth, which marks the triumph of both the Republic and the new bourgeoisie, the Salon’s system was internally contested. As the jury’s Salon did not dramatically change its selection procedure after the withdrawal of the State in 1881, some academicians, opposed to an SAF orientation that they judged too liberal in its conception of art, promoted a more elitist Salon in a more elegant setting, where fewer art works were displayed (Mainardi, 1989). In 1890 this led to a split in the SAF, which remained an increasingly large marketplace, and the creation of a new society, the “Société Nationale des Beaux Arts” (National Society for Fine Arts, SNBA), which received official support and organized a competing annual Salon. However, both these Salons remained highly conventional, and the critics found them increasingly dull. In 1894, a renowned critic, Charles Morice (1894 : 62), wrote that “the most slavish imitations of the most conventional models, or plagiarism of recent tendencies” find their natural place in the SAF and SNBA Salons.


At the same time, more regular alternative exhibitions developed, such as the “Salon d’Automne” (Autumn Salon) created in 1903, which displayed the most innovative works. The State recognized this development, and expanded the range of exhibitions at which official acquisitions were made. After the split of the 1890s, the State continued to acquire art works at the Salons of the SAF and the SNBA, but in 1903 it bought 15 paintings at the Autumn Salon and 22 in 1905 at the Independents’ Salon (Vaisse, 1995).


In addition to these various increasingly successful public exhibitions, the alternatives initiated by art dealers appeared increasingly sustainable, and eventually became the basis of the contemporary art market in the twentieth century (Moulin, 1967). Since 1892, the critics had definitively acclaimed the Impressionists (Venturi, 1939), and contemporary art became a speculative and potentially highly lucrative activity, as the galleries increasingly developed (Distel, 1989). According to Huston (1989, cited in Rodriguez, 2002 : 128), the index of the “Chronique des arts et de la curiosité” (Chronicle of Arts and Curiosities) listed 15 private exhibitions in 1880, 27 in 1890, and 117 in 1900. This initiated a new generation of art dealers, such as Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler, who supported the Cubists (e.g., Braque or Picasso), and Ambroise Vollard, who supported the Fauves (e.g., Matisse or Derain). New collectors looking for ever more innovative works developed close relationships with these new art dealers (Assouline, 2002 ; Green, 1987 ; Monnier, 1995). Those art dealers received the support of newly wealthy bourgeois who were looking for ever more innovative artworks, and also developed closed relations with those dealers. Art dealers became both sellers of art and advisors, and were even mandated to create whole collections for amateurs (Assouline, 2002 ; Green, 1987 ; Monnier, 1995).


The Drouot archives reveal that the prices of works by painters closely associated with the Salon and the Academic tradition decreased over this period, while the prices of some painters who made their careers mainly outside the Salon increased. For example, prices for works by Meissonier, an acclaimed master of academic art (King, 2006), who received five medals at the Salon, decreased dramatically. One of his works, “The Love Letter”, which was auctioned for 43,500 francs in 1890, was auctioned for 23,100 francs in 1910. Over the same period, Monet, who never received a medal at the Salon, and had many works rejected by the jury, saw the prices of his works increase dramatically. In 1890, a landscape of the banks of the Seine sold for 1,750 francs, while another landscape of the banks of the Seine, of comparable size, sold for 27,000 francs in 1912. Finally, in 1920, in the same auction, a landscape by Meissonier sold for 2,000 francs, while another Monet piece fetched 79,000 francs. The acclamation of the Salon was no longer a necessary step toward artistic reputation and fortune.



This research completes existing work on FCEs. While existing works have stressed the way in which these structuring events performed a coordinating role (Anand & Jones, 2008 ; Garud, 2008), the analysis of the deinstitutionalization process suggests that FCEs should be considered as a form of field coordination that cannot be sustained as acquired, but should rather be considered likely to collapse. Several contributions can be drawn from this study. These are relevant to the FCEs’ deinstitutionalization process and how their decline affects the field’s organization. These results also contribute to the more general study of the deinstitutionalization process.

Contribution to the analysis of the deinstitutionaliza tion process of FCEs


The case study allows us to point out several dimensions that together explain the decline of the FCE.


First, the case study shows that the decline of an FCE involves many different actors, and that this decline is the result of their interactions. This is consistent with recent works on institutional processes (for example, Bartley, 2007) that insist on the collective and conflictual nature of institutional processes. Table 1 shows the different categories of actors, the support that each of these categories devotes to the Salon, and the evolution of this support. A growing disaffection can be observed on the part of field members who, in their vast majority, turned away from the Salon during the last period. This table shows an accumulation of rejections that accelerates : the periods become shorter, with a point during the 1880s where some sort of balance is maintained, and two systems exist side by side before decline finally sets in.

Table 1 - Changing positions of field members towards the Salon 1830-1920

Note. The darker the shaded area, the more field members support the Salon and conversely


The analysis suggests that this progressive accumulation of opposition to the FCE, as well as its acceleration, can be explained by four different factors that gradually set in. It is the interaction between these factors and their common dynamics that led to the deinstitutionalization of the FCE, rather than the presence of one factor in particular (Table 2)

Table 2 - Evolution of factors leading to the loss of legitimacy of an FCE

N. B : The area is grey when the factor contributes to the Salon’s loss of legitimacy. The field members involved in the development

of each factor are shown in italics. of each factor are shown in italics.


The first factor is the accumulation of internal pressures stemming from disagreements between jury and artists. These disagreements resulted from artistic differences, but also more generally from the demographic pressure exerted on the jury and the Salon by the thousands of artists who sought to be exhibited. As White and White (1993) have shown, the Salon’s system ran into difficulties when the number of works presented increased to such proportions that the existing system could no longer make a selection in a way seen to be equitable, and which relegated a growing number of artists to the sidelines. The jury was increasingly criticized for selecting the same type of paintings and for remaining blind to other artistic approaches. In some ways, this conservative attitude provided a solution to the demographic pressure. It was easier to make a selection if only a small number of artistic tendencies could be admitted. However, this caused frustration for those who were rejected, of whom there were inevitably many. Despite these pressures, the Salon retained its central position until the 1880s. These frustrations had been embodied for decades in petitions, newspaper articles and reviews without deinstitutionalization ensuing.


The second factor was the institutional work done to set lasting alternatives to the FCE. One alternative form of coordination to a centralized FCE would have been for art dealers and artists to set up several decentralized locations where events took place, and these rendered legitimate by the critics. The type of coordination within a field may thus change. It may no longer be centralized in a single FCE, but rather be dispersed amongst several locations (in the case in question, these included galleries, independent salons, exhibitions of groups of artists, auctions) and members (dealers, critics).


The third factor concerns the establishment of a critical mass of resource providers to support the alternatives. Indeed, although the institutional work of developing alternatives is a necessary factor, it is not sufficient. It does not on its own contribute to the deinstitutionalization of the FCE. There must be a critical mass of those who hold the material and symbolic resources (collectors and critics, respectively) to lend their support. The existence of such a mass [1][1] We use the notion of critical mass in the same way... ensures the viability and sustainability of these alternatives (Boyd, 2005 ; Fischer, 1975, 1982). The institutional work of creating and structuring alternatives is a necessary precondition for this critical mass of members to turn away from the FCE in place. Indeed, as in the preceding phase, the frustration felt by resource holders, such as collectors, in relation to the system is not sufficient on its own to lead to the establishment of alternatives. On the other hand, the fact that these alternatives exist makes it possible for these resource holders to withdraw their support from the FCE, and shift to other modes of coordination. The result is the establishment of a community within the field, which unites those who reject the FCE. It seems important to emphasize that the setting-up of this critical mass later secures the viability of the alternative system set up by dealers, critics and artists, without the established FCE being threatened. This critical mass does allow the creation of two distinct systems that can co-exist.


For the established FCE to decline, a threshold had to be crossed beyond which the institutional pressures exerted on field members would lead them to turn away from the Salon. Granovetter (1978) defines this threshold effect as the point beyond which the benefit actors obtain from joining a movement outweighs the cost involved in joining, independently of their personal preferences. In the case of the Salon, this threshold was crossed when the alternative systems obtained the support of American collectors and the new bourgeoisie. From that point on, collectors turned towards the alternative systems and away from the Salon.


Beyond this threshold, the fourth factor we identified accelerated the process. These were the institutional pressures that developed, and which convinced the vast majority of field members to turn away from the Salon. These institutional pressures are normative and mimetic (according to the typology developed by DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). They are normative in the judgment of specialized intermediaries, in this case the critics, who take the place of the jury’s judgment, and with peer selection of the distinction of artists. The pressures are also mimetic. For one thing, the other field members see a growing interest in siding with the critical mass of those who have already left the central FCE, particularly given their hope of potential financial rewards. In addition, adherence to change is reinforced by the positive image this carries. The study shows that it is not these factors taken separately that led to the decline of the FCE, but rather their interaction. All these factors are necessary, and none on its own is sufficient to provoke the threshold effect beyond which institutional pressures incite actors to abandon the FCE. Figure 1 illustrates this dynamic and its development in three phases.

Figure 1 - A dynamic model of the deinstitutionalization of an FCE

We would like to thank two evaluators for this suggestion, and for improving this figure.


Studying the deinstitutionalization of an FCE does not result in a weakening of this concept. On the contrary, it reinforces it by better defining its limits, compared to other forms of coordination. This makes the analysis of the impact of the decline of the FCE on the functioning of the field even more important.

Contributions concerning the consequences of the decline of a central FCE in a field


The decline of a central FCE and its replacement by another form of coordination has deconfiguring/reconfiguring effects on the field in question.


This study shows that the decline of a central FCE has an impact on the structure of the field and the relationships within the field, on the mechanisms of power within the field and, above all, on its temporality, which distinguishes it from other institutions (Table 3).

Table 3 - Impact of the existence and decline of an FCE

The existence of an FCE contributes to structuring the field between its centre and its periphery. To be central means having presence and recognition within the FCE. Being on the edge is like being excluded. By enabling the definition and periodical redefinition of the value of competing works, the FCE establishes a clear structure for the field (Anand & Peterson, 2000). This distinction disappears with the decline of an FCE and the emergence of a much less centralized coordination network. In this alternative configuration, a complex network of members takes care of coordination and information without a central event serving as a point of reference to define a clear structure for the field.


The existence of a central FCE also maps out the distribution of power within the field (Anand & Jones, 2008 ; Lampel & Meyer, 2008). Those who control the FCE have a lot of power because they decide whether to accept or reject those applicants wishing to participate in the FCE, and to gain its recognition. On the other hand, all the other members of the field who depend on the FCE (for example, in the case of the Salon, art dealers who could not hope to sell works by artists outside the Salon) have no power. This structure of power distribution changes with the decline of the FCE and the subsequent organization of the field as a network. In this new configuration, information is dispersed. The challenge is to access this information. Power is therefore held by members placed at the field’s nodes of communication, because they are the ones who hold the information, and who can therefore co-ordinate the field. Power is thus held by those intermediaries that set up exhibitions (art dealers), or inform the public about the exhibitions and give their opinion of the value of the exhibited works (critics).


The existence of an FCE also has an impact on the type of power in the field. When an FCE is present in a field, its power relationships are long lasting. Field members who control access to the FCE have “systemic” power (Lawrence et al., 2001), which comes from their control over the structure. If there is no FCE, power is far more random, or “episodic” in the words of Lawrence et al. (2001). The intermediaries corresponding to art dealers and critics in our study are therefore constantly engaged in negotiations to mobilize and control the appropriate networks in a field that is constantly changing. In this case, it becomes far more difficult to maintain a dominant position over the years, as is shown by the succession of generations of art dealers.


Finally, in the light of our study, what seems to be typical of FCEs, and to distinguish them from other types of institutions, is the existence of temporality in the field. When a periodically recurring FCE exists, it acts as a “temporal milestone” (Demil, Leca, & Naccache, 2001) for that field : that is, as a recurrent moment at which field members can coordinate, because they know that, at a certain date, such-and-such an event will take place. Demil et al. (2001) indicate that the actors recognise the importance of being present at these milestone events, and organize themselves accordingly. This gives the actors a vision of time that is structured around these periodical events, which are the periodically recurring FCEs. Without these FCE, all the field’s members no longer share any temporal milestones. Time has a more continuous nature. In this context, even if exhibitions in private galleries constitute events, they are too local to configure the field. The temporality of the field’s actors is no longer structured around the annual or biannual Salon, but rather around continually renewed gallery exhibitions.

Contribution to the analysis of the deinstitutionalization process


Even though the main purpose of this study was to analyze the process of deinstitutionalization of an FCE and its consequences on a field, it is also possible to gain more general insights into this process.


Ahmadjian and Robinson (2001) and Maguire and Hardy (2009) have pointed out that there are few empirical studies of deinstitutionalization. Of all of these, this study is, to our knowledge, the only one that takes account of the actions of the different field members over such a long period. This was made possible by the historiographical method (Ventresca & Mohr, 2002), which we adopted. By taking account of all the field members, this method avoids the criticism frequently leveled at neo-institutional studies : that they apply only to a small number of actors, mainly institutional entrepreneurs (see Delmestri, 2006 ; Lounsbury & Crumley, 2007). Indeed, it is necessary to go beyond the “hypermuscular” viewpoint (Lawrence, Suddaby, & Leca, 2009 : 1) of the institutional entrepreneur, according to which a single actor, the institutional entrepreneur, is the sole originator of institutional change, and the only one capable of making sure that this happens in a positive fashion, by counting on allies, in order to appreciate the complexity of the process and its interactions. In such an approach, although institutional entrepreneurs may initiate a decline by proposing alternatives, all the actors fashion the process of deinstitutionalization and determine its conclusion.


This study shows that the deinstitutionalization process begins when an institution can be contested, that is, when it can be interpreted (Boltanski, 2009). In the case in hand, this possibility was introduced by the gap between the institution and the situation. The study also shows that the deinstitutionalization process involves the development of an alternative to a situation perceived as out of step. This involves a necessary disruption at the level of the institution, in order for the deinstitutionalization process to take place. It is the coalition of these actors and their mutual support that finally lead to deinstitutionalization (cf. Table 1).


As far as institutional disruption is concerned, Lawrence and Suddaby (2006) indicate that this often comes about in a gradual and indirect manner, in order to reduce possible opposition. Members engaged in this disruption may therefore underline the continuity between new forms of co-ordination and the established institution (Hargadon & Douglas, 2001 ; Rao, Monin, & Durand, 2003, 2005), or highlight the advantages available to central members of the field if they support the change (Greenwood & Suddaby, 2006). Our results show that the opposite strategy, which insists on a clear rupture with the system in place, is also possible. In this case, it is a question of gathering a critical mass of support, putting forward not the idea of continuity, but rather the radical nature of the proposed rupture. A parallel can be made with the emergence of rock and roll in the United States in the 1950s. This radically new type of music corresponded to the expectations of a new audience : that is, the white baby-boomers who no longer identified themselves with the romantic music predominant at the time (Peterson, 1990).


This study also contributes to the analysis of institutional maintenance (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006). In conformity with the literature (Angus, 1993 ; Jones, 2001), this is initiated by the elites in place (in this case, the jury, recognized artists and the leading critics). While Maguire and Hardy (2009) show that these elites may undertake defensive institutional work, which intends to adapt the institution to avoid its decline, the case of the Salon jury is an example of maintenance with no attempt to adapt. The reason for this strict maintenance, which eventually accelerated decline, warrants further research. Conversely, it seems possible to suggest that a defensive work of adaptation may allow the decline to be limited or even avoided (e.g., Maguire & Hardy, 2009). This suggests that further analysis should lead to distinguishing between several types of institutional maintenance work. This might also lead to investigating further the differences between the actors carrying out those different forms of institutional work, and to clarifying in which circumstances opponents to change will choose to adapt, and the consequences for the institutional processes.


This study also enables us to offer a managerial contribution for the organizers of FCEs. Our analysis suggests that, for an FCE to be maintained, it needs to take account of innovation that, if ignored, may result in decline. This is what has happened to the biggest and most resilient of contemporary FCEs in creative activities, such as the Cannes Film Festival. This Festival features an “official selection” of movies eligible to compete for the “Grand Prix”, but it has also encouraged other selections that are likely to include more innovative, but still relatively minor, productions. These selections take place during the Cannes Festival. For example, the International Critics’ Week, founded in 1962, presents an alternative selection of first or second movies, and the Directors’ Fortnight, created in 1969 by the SRF (French Directors Guild), presents a selection of new talents and filmmakers who are as yet little-known in the Western world, or whose work has not been shown at the major international festivals. All these lesser events enable the Cannes Festival to remain a manageable FCE with a limited official selection, and simultaneously be a vivid place where more demanding and innovative movies are shown.

Limitations and future paths of research


The main limitation of this study is the uniqueness of the case studied. Although reference to examples such as the Cannes Film Festival suggest that the results obtained can be extrapolated elsewhere, further research on other examples is necessary. Moreover, all our examples are from creative and cultural organizational fields. This raises the question of whether the dynamics of FCE deinstitutionalization would be the same in other types of organizational field.


Concerning avenues of further research, our analysis reveals new horizons for the study of the deinstitutionalization process and FCEs. First, this empirical study proposes a rich and detailed analysis of the deinstitutionalization process, which has as yet been little studied. As Lawrence and Suddaby (2006) suggest, it is interesting to pay more attention to members’ actions as well as their motivations (which may be cultural and strategic) in order to account for deinstitutionalization as a complex process of interactions among members of diverse interests and values. This study has aimed to achieve this, thus contributing to the current trend in organizational institutionalism, which pays more attention to the agents themselves while still accounting for their institutional embeddedness. Furthermore, this article is a first step in the study of the dynamics of the decline of FCEs. More research on this theme is necessary in order to prevent work on FCEs from being limited only to their emergence, and to their influence on the structuring and development of organizational fields.


Further research is also necessary to determine whether a threshold exists beyond which a central FCE is so big that its size becomes problematic and begins to threaten its future. Finally, this study suggests that another avenue for research consists in analyzing situations in which there are several FCEs in the same field. It would then be interesting to study how these FCEs compete with or complement each other, as well as the implications of this diversity for the common or divergent points of view that members may have of their field.


APPENDIX 1. Methodology

APPENDIX 2. Archives used

Salon brochures

  • Les catalogues des Salons (1830-1880).

    Réimpressions publiées par L’Échelle de Jacob dirigée par P. Sanchez et X. Seydoux. INHA [3][3] Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art.. Cote : Usuel 706 SAN

  • Les catalogues des Salons (1881-1886).

    Réimpressions publiées par L’Échelle de Jacob dirigée par P. Sanchez et X. Seydoux. BnF [4][4] Bibliothèque Nationale de France.. Cabinet des Estampes. Cote : 708.016 Sanc c13 à c14

  • Les catalogues des Salons (1887-1890).

    BnF. Cabinet des Estampes. Microfiche Yd2 980-8°

  • Les catalogues de la Société des Artistes français (1891-1920).

    BnF. Cabinet des Estampes. Microfiche Yd2 980-8°

  • Les catalogues des Salons de la Société nationale des Beaux-Arts (1890-1920). Réimpressions publiées par L’Échelle de Jacob dirigée par G. Dugnat. INHA. Cote : Usuel 706 DUG

  • Les catalogues du Salon des Indépendants (1886-1920).

    BnF. Cabinet des Estampes. Microfiche Yd2 1777-8° (suivi du numéro d’année)

    Dictionnaire du Salon d’Automne.

  • Répertoire des exposants et liste des œuvres présentées. Dirigée par P Sanchez. Éditions Échelle de Jacob. BnF. Cabinet des Estampes. Cote : 708.016 d1 à d3


  • Ensemble de correspondances réuni par L. Venturi (1939) : Les archives de l’impressionnisme. Lettres de Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley et autres. Paris, New York, Éditions Durand-Ruel. ENSBA 21720 II

Drouot Archives

  • Catalogues des ventes aux enchères conservés aux archives (1880-1920)


  • L’Artiste ENSBA INHA. Fonds Général P 00073 in-4°

  • La Chronique des Beaux-Arts et de la Curiosité (1861-1922). INHA. Fonds général. Mfilm 377

  • Le Mercure de France (1890-1909). INHA. Fonds général. Mfilm 9 bis

APPENDIX 3. Secondary data


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? Becker, H.S. (1982). Art worlds. Berkeley, CA : University of California Press.


? Bodelsen, S. (1968). Early Impressionist sales, 1874-1894 in the light of some unpublished Procès-Verbaux. The Burlington Magazine, 110 (783), 330-349.


? Bouillon, J.-P. (1986). Sociétés d’artistes et institutions officielles dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle. Romantisme, 54, 89-113.


? Boyd, R. (2005). Black musicians in Northern US cities during the early 20th Century : A test of the critical mass hypothesis of urban sub-culture theory. Urban Studies, 42 (13), 2363-2370.


? Distel, A. (1989). Les collectionneurs des impressionnistes. Paris : Bibliothèque des Arts.


? Galenson, D.W., & Jensen, R. (2002). Careers and canvases : The rise of the market for modern art in the nineteenth century. Working Paper, 9123, Cambridge, MA.


? Green, N. (1987). Dealing in temperaments : Economic transformation of the artistic field in France during the second half of the nineteenth century. Art History, 10 (1), 59-78.


? Hauptmann, W. (1985). Juries, protests, and counter-exhibitions before 1850. The Art Bulletin, 67 (1), 95- 109.


? Huston, L. (1989). L’évolution des expositions d’art à Paris et le pouvoir dans la vie artistique (1864- 1914). Thesis, Montreal, Concordia University.


? Jensen, R. (1988). The avant-garde and the trade in art. Art Journal, 47 (4), 360-367.


? Jensen, R. (1994). Marketing modernism in fin-de-siècle Europe. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press.


? King, R. (2006). The judgment of Paris : The revolutionary decade that gave the world impressionism. Canada : Doubleday.


? Le Cadre, J. - M. (1995). Auguste Toulmouche (1829-1890)- Peintre de la vie bourgeoise au temps de l’Impressionnisme. MA Thesis. Mimeo. University of Rennes 2.


? Lemaire, G.-G. (2004). Histoire du salon de peinture. Langres : Klincksieck.


? Levy Leboyer, M., & Bouguignon, F. (1985). L’économie française au XIXe siècle, Une analyse macroéconomique. Paris : Economica.


? Mainardi, P. (1989). The double exhibition in nineteenth-century France. Art Journal, 48 (1), 23-28.


? Mainardi, P. (1993). The end of the Salon : Art and the state in the early Third Republic. Cambridge, MA : Cambridge University Press.


? Martin-Fugier, A. (2007). La vie d’artiste au XIXe siècle. Paris : Audibert.


? Monnier, G. (1995). L’art et ses institutions en France. Paris : Gallimard.


? Moulin, R. (1987). Le marché de la peinture en France. Paris : Editions de Minuit.


? Morice, C. (1894). Salons et Salonnet. Mercure de France, 10, 62-64.


? Parsons, C., & Ward, M. (1986). A bibliography of Salon criticism in Second Empire. Cambridge, MA : Cambridge University Press.


? Regan, M. (2004). Paul Durand-Ruel and the market for early modernism. Master of Arts dissertation, Louisiane, LA, Louisiana State University.


? Rewald, J. (1961). Histoire de l’Impressionnisme. Paris : Albin Michel.


? Rewald, J. (1989). Cézanne and America : Dealers, collectors, artists and critics, 1891-1921. London : Thames and Hudson.


? Rheims, M. (1981). Les collectionneurs. Paris : Ramsay.


? Rodriguez, V. (2002). L’atelier et l’exposition, deux espaces en tension entre l’origine et la diffusion de l’œuvre. Sociologie et sociétés, 34 (2), 121-138.


? Tabarant, A. (1963). La vie artistique au temps de Baudelaire. Paris : Mercure de France, 2ème édition.


? Vaisse, P. (1995). La Troisième République et les peintres. Paris : Flammarion.


? Venturi, L. (1939). Les archives de l’Impressionnisme. Paris et New York : Durand-Ruel éditeurs, volume 1.


? Ward, M. (1991). Impressionist installations and private exhibitions. The Art Bulletin, 73 (4), 599- 622.


? White, H.C., & White, C.A. (1993). Canvases and careers. Institutional change in the French painting world, Chicago, IL : University of Chicago Press, 2nd edition.


? Whiteley, L. (1979). Accounting for tastes. Oxford Art Journal, 2, 25-28.


? Wijnberg, N.M., & Gemser, G. (2000). Adding value to innovation : Impressionism and the transformation of the selection system in visual arts. Organization Studies, 11 (3), 323-329.


? Wrigley, R. (1993). The origins of French art criticism from the Ancien Regime to the Restoration. Oxford, UK : Oxford University Press.

APPENDIX 4. Example of an intermediate table for the second period


Empirical data was organized into intermediate tables by period, field members and context (Column 1) Data in bold were directly used when writing the article (Column 2). These data, as well as the notes on the texts, enabled us to analyze the general position held by the group towards the Salon over the period in question (transition from Column 2 to Column 3). The boxes in Column 3 are shaded more or less according to the group’s support for the Salon. For the period considered here, only the excluded artists complained of this FCE.


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  • ? Anand, N., & Watson, M.R. (2004). Tournament rituals in the evolution of fields : The case of the Grammy Awards. Academy of Management Journal, 47 (1), 59-80.
  • ? Anand, N., & Jones, B.C. (2008). Tournament rituals, category dynamics, and field configuration : The case of the Booker Prize. Journal of Management Studies, 45 (6), 1036-1060.
  • ? Angus, L.B. (1993). Masculinity and women teachers at Christian Brothers College. Organization Studies, 14 (2), 235-260.
  • ? Bartley, T. (2007). Institutional emergence in an era of globalization : The rise of transnational private regulation of labor and environmental conditions. American Journal of Sociology, 113 (2), 297-351.
  • ? Battilana, J., Leca, B., & Boxenbaum E. (2009). Agency and institutions : A review on institutional entrepreneurship. Annals of the Academy of Management, 65-107.
  • ? Ben Slimane, K. (2009). La stratégie comme action symbolique. 18ème conférence de l’Association internationale de management stratégique (AIMS), Grenoble, 2-5 juin.
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Acknowledgements : We extend our thanks to the editor, Emmanuel Josserand, and to the three anonymous reviewers for the quality and richness of their comments. We thank Narasimhan Anand, Jean-Pascal Gond, Royston Greenwood, Isabelle Huault, Sébastien Liarte, Isabelle Royer, André Spicer and Jean-Philippe Vergne for their helpful comments on an earlier draft. This article was improved through presentations at research seminars such as OTREG and at conferences such as AOM and AIMS.


We use the notion of critical mass in the same way as in urban sociology : , that is, to define a set of actors sufficient to ensure the stability of a group (Boyd, 2005 ; Fischer, 1975, 1982), and not in the meaning given in diffusion sociology (Oliver & Marwell, 1993), which does not distinguish between critical mass and threshold effect.


Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art.


Bibliothèque Nationale de France.



This article examines the deinstitutionalization of a Field Configuring Event (FCE) and the consequences of this deinstitutionalization for an organizational field. To this end, we carried out a historiographical study of the deinstitutionalization of the Paris Salon. This pivotal FCE was the central event of the Beaux-Arts field in France for over two centuries before its progressive decline at the end of the 19th Century. From a theoretical point of view, our results show that the deinstitutionalization process of FCEs is the result of the interaction and dynamics of several factors, notably, the internal contradictions of the FCE, the emergence of alternatives resulting from institutional developments, and the constitution of a critical mass, followed by the development of institutional pressures that encourage the abandonment of the FCE. This study also enables us to analyze the impact of an FCE’s decline on the structure, distribution and nature of power, and especially on temporality within a field. Finally, it contributes to the study of the deinstitutionalization process in general. From a managerial point of view, this study suggests that promoters must organize themselves to integrate innovation, in order to avoid the decline of the FCE.

Key words

  • Deinstitutionalization
  • Field configuring event
  • Organizational field
  • Historical study
  • Cultural activities

Plan de l'article

    1. The pivotal role of FCEs in organizational fields
    2. The deinstitutionalization process
    1. Data collection
    2. Data analysis
    1. The initial protests (1830-1873)
    2. The collective Impressionist exhibitions (1874-1880)
    3. The emergence of two distinct systems (1881-1889)
    4. The decline of the Salon (1890-1920)
    1. Contribution to the analysis of the deinstitutionaliza tion process of FCEs
    2. Contributions concerning the consequences of the decline of a central FCE in a field
    3. Contribution to the analysis of the deinstitutionalization process
    4. Limitations and future paths of research

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