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Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Dr. Olenka Pevny


While artist Ryan McGinness expresses a definitive viewpoint regarding the relationship between art and commerce, the lines between the two are not always so clearly defined, and commercialism holds a complex role within the world of contemporary art. McGinness’s work, Art History Is Not Linear (VMFA), provokes important discussions regarding this issue, as well as that of commercialization in the museum context. This painting also speaks to the presentation and construction of cultural history, as well as the unique artistic philosophy of Ryan McGinness. This thesis will examine in depth the 2009 McGinness commission by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the creation process of the artist in constructing his large-scale painting, and the important issues the artist and his artwork address. Throughout the last fifty years, commercialism has played an increasing role in the contemporary art world, one that Ryan McGinness has come to embrace as an inherent part of his artistic ideology, but for others the acceptance and integration of commerce and art is not as easy. The modern museum must also grapple with the realities of commercialism as it embraces contemporary art and contemporary realities. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is currently presented with several merchandising and commercialization opportunities as the McGinness’s philosophy is centered on creating and selling consumer goods in conjunction with his pieces. The VMFA will have to decide how McGinness’s commercial production of mugs, t-shirts and skateboards bearing his art fits into the cultural mission of the institution.