Nina Dubin, Meredith Martin, and Madeleine Viljoen will present at the Françoise and Georges Selz Lectures on Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century French Decorative Arts and Culture. Their talk will be followed by a moderated conversation and Q&A session.

“Fortune and Folly in 1720: Picturing the World’s First Bubble Economy”

This talk will explore The New York Public Library’s upcoming exhibition Fortune and Folly in 1720 (Fall 2021) and its accompanying publication Meltdown! Picturing the World’s First Bubble Economy (Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2020). Co-curated and co-authored by Dubin, Martin, and Viljoen, they tell two parallel stories: one of the spectacular rise and fall of the first bubble economy, and another of the enterprising art industry that chronicled its collapse. The Mississippi and South Sea Bubbles, spawning the invention of French banknotes as well as joint-stock companies built on fantasies of New World trade, imposed on everyday Europeans a crash course in new financial products. In turn, a bubbling print market relentlessly caricatured the meltdown of 1720, offering viewers an entertaining primer on the otherwise bewildering realities of modern economic life. Three hundred years later, our current moment offers a uniquely fitting vantage point from which to reconsider the significance of the bubbles and of the artworks that channeled the fears and desires they unleashed.

Nina L. Dubin is an associate professor of Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Specializing in European art since 1700, she has published widely on the production of art within an economy of risk.

Meredith Martin is an associate professor of Art History at New York University and the Institute of Fine Arts. Specializing in European art of the long eighteenth century, she has published widely on gender and architectural patronage as well as maritime art, mobility, and exchange in the early modern world.

Madeleine C. Viljoen is Curator of Prints and the Spencer Collection at The New York Public Library. Responsible for the Library’s collection of prints and rare illustrated books, she has published widely on early modern printed images, with special attention to the goldsmith-engraver, the reproductive print, and ornament.

Bard Graduate Center is grateful for the generous support of the Selz Foundation.