Wealth of Nations

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Kathryn McCain’s installation was created for the Master of Fine Arts Interim Show in May 2010. Taking as her departure point the recent banking crisis and subsequent economic recession, Kathryn sought to borrow every copy of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations available for loan in Glasgow, including the GSA Library’s own copies. These collected loans were then installed in the GSA’s Mackintosh Museum space.

First published in 1776, The Wealth of Nations by Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith is a seminal text in liberal economics for its assertion that free market economies are always more productive and beneficial for their societies than other forms of economy. It could be argued that, taken to its extreme, Smith’s belief in free market and laissez-faire economics provided the foundation for the kinds of economic crises witnessed in the early twenty-first century. By removing every copy of Smith’s book from public circulation, albeit for a temporary period, Kathryn sought to remove this ‘dangerous’ text from the public sphere.

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