Art is not a Modern Phenomenon
“To Mr. Galenson markets are what make the 20th century completely different from other eras for art. In earlier periods artists created works for rich patrons generally in the court or the church, which functioned as a monopoly. Only in the 20th century did art enter the marketplace and become a commodity, like a stick of butter or an Hermès bag. In this system, he said, breaking the rules became the most valued attribute. The greatest rewards went to conceptual innovators who frequently changed styles and invented genres. For the first time the idea behind the work of art became more important than the physical object itself.” [Patricia Cohen on David Galenson]
“There are two very different types of artists, which I call Old Masters, who work by trial and error and tend to improve with age, and conceptual people, or Young Geniuses, who generally do their best work early in their careers…
Conceptual people—the Young Geniuses—emphasize the new idea, and plan their work very carefully. They often say that the execution is perfunctory. Indeed, in today’s world, some of the greatest conceptual artists don’t even execute their own work—they have it made by other people. But the Old Masters are never entirely sure what it is they want done, so they couldn’t possibly have anybody else do it. Cezanne couldn’t have said to somebody, “Go and make a painting for me.” [David Galenson on artists]
“Outsiders to the art market often find it difficult to comprehend the importance of supply in the art market. This is not an industry like most others, where the problem lies in finding buyers for your product.
The problem here is to find desirable works for sale, notably on the secondary market. In the primary market, there is a theoretically endless supply as living artists create new work. The reality is more complicated. Galleries control the market for their artists, “rationing” it in order to maintain prices and high demand. Only a small number of artists account for the bulk of the market and so the pressure on them to produce enough for their galleries can be intense.
The demand is not only for quantity—it is also for works of a certain size. And while “huge” art is not a modern phenomenon—centuries-old artworks such as the Sistine Chapel in Rome or the great Baroque palaces in St Petersburg were vast undertakings—a number of elements in today’s world have stimulated the need for large-scale artworks.” [Georgina Adams From Studio to Factory]