Thursday, April 12, 2012

Morley, Art, and Economics

On April 1'st the 60 Minutes program of CBS aired "Even in Tough Times, Contemporary Art Sells".  This is a sequel to Morley Safer's infamous 1993 art story when he interviews a young Jeff Koons (  By the way, is Jeff Koons putting on an act when he talks about his art or is he genuine?  He seems like one of those guys that will tell you what you want you want to hear just to aggravate you.  Anyway, this time Morley visits Miami's Art Basel and picks the brains of collectors and dealers on the art market.  You can watch the clip for yourself at (it's only 13 minutes long).

Three things immediately popped out to me ... 1) How awful contemporary art seems to be... and 2) How awful the buyers of contemporary art seem to be.  Perhaps artist and buyer cancel or neutralize each other out... I mean, what's the problem if crapy art is bought by crapy collectors?  Is it everyone's problem?  Maybe... I can understand how the relationship between artist, dealer, and collector affects what's exhibited by museums, which are supposed to educate the public... that could be a problem.

In my opinion, many artists who are extremely successful in the art market are artists that first and foremost know how to market themselves (self-explanatory huh?).  Secondly they're known to create work that is controversial, which helps for publicity (a marketing tactic or genuine self expression?  I wonder).   Along those same lines dealers think that they should represent those edgy artists because thats what sells most.  Why does it sell?  Because collectors think they should buy it in order to make a profit when reconciliation is made between controversy and the public (example: now everyone loves Van Gogh [not to mention will pay millions for one], but in his day he didn't sell a single painting).  The critics, dealers, artists, and collectors that mistook Van Gogh's work for that of a wild beast's made a major mistake.  But art history learned its lesson and doesn't want to make the same mistake twice.  In other words, I don't think collectors want to be the fool that doesn't notice genius when it's right before their eyes and miss out.  So they buy everything that seems questionable and/or disturbing.  Sadly, the consequence is that there is more crappy art out there than ever before.

I found these interesting comments on the 60 Minutes site...

Art today is no longer valued and admired in terms of the inspirational, creative and aesthetic qualities its compositions evoke. The most sort after works in this era of postmodernism possess little if any of these attributes. In its place the gate keepers place before us basketballs floating in fish tanks, cigarette butts in ashtrays and hats of enormous size to name but a few. And this attitude of estrangment does not only present itself at Basel; to be sure it is everywhere. Museums are controled by dealers, particularly in New York, who in turn influence their curators in what exhibits to offer (sell). Art critics no longer "judge" art; they usually just "describe" it mostly in vague "art speak" terms. The academies support the "concept" theory behind postmodernism and in a sense perpetuate and contribute to the degradation of art by indoctrinating wave upon wave of art students with its seriously flawed principles.

The art of the era of postmodernism derives and is measured for its importance by how much it can be sold for. As you correctly conclude Mr. Safer, art has become a commodity object fueled by an excess of new capital.

Art at the summit of human achievement is also well known to be prophetic. Sadly, the worldwide state of art's cultural demise may also constitute its dramatic clarion call to us warning of the decline in human civilization.
Collage Artist- George Sakkal


Thanks to Morley for trying to make sense and bring to light the "Emperor has no clothes" art world that many of us have to endure as artists. We are creating work that should have more voice in our culture, but instead we are forced to be bystanders to mediocre artspeak superficial presentations by curators, museums, and influential gallery owners that control the art world. How we long for collectors that go to the trouble of finding us in smaller galleries and quieter venues where they will find the real work that moves the human race in the long run. How foolish many collectors are in not finding these true bargains of art that will eventually hold great stature in our culture. It makes me wonder if collectors exist that are not in it just for the status and showmanship rather than the art itself. It makes me wonder if there are collectors who can tell what great art is without the limited and very biased opinion of the art world market insiders who love to manipulate them. 
Wild Natacha 

And from another perspective...

There isn't even one minor discussion of the worth of art apart from money. The Scholls are only asked about their 'investments'; why are they not asked about the joy and wonder their art brings to their daily life and the lives of people who visit their gallery in Miami? Where the art is on display for free? In fact, anyone can go to even a Gagosian gallery, and see great artworks (or Hirsts) for free. Morley just kept asking about money, and never even asked the question, "Why is this art important?" A sarcastic voice-over over Nick Cave's amazing 'Sound Suits' really answered that question for us-Morley sees no worth in contemporary art. Perhaps an opposing view, expounding on the spiritually uplifting and enlightening art people are inspired by every day, might have made this piece real journalism.
Miami Danny 

1 comment:

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