Status in the Art Market

“… in an art world so fixated on market successand that increasingly mistakes the high price a work fetches for artistic significance – reminding people of the difference between the market’s demands and the intrinsic criteria of art (history) may now be a strategic necessity. It is worth pointing out, in any case, that art works that do well in the market sphere may, in fact, be irrelevant in the eyes of artists and art historians. Yet to draw this distinction, we need not subscribe to the illusion that what is happening in the market is entirely divorced from the art itself. On the contrary, even the space of the artist’s studio is necessarily marked by the requirements of the market – when, say, work is produced for an art fair, manufacturing expenses are estimated, edition sizes are determined, and particular formats are selected for paintings.
Art history and art criticism are not immune to the hierarchies of the market either. By contributing evolving assessments of aesthetic value, they generate the symbolic meaning on which market value relies. When an art critic wishes to contest the symbolic significance of a work of art, she cannot simply ignore its status in the art market, however persuasive her arguments may be; in fact, a work’s market status will influence her approach to the work, whether she is aware of it or not. Art and the market are manifestly not antithetical but fundamentally related to each other by an uneasy interdependency: neither can do without the other, yet they also never fully coincide.” [Isabelle Graw on False Polarities & Economic Subtexts]

“Hirst and his peers—the tricky but relatively dignified sculptor Rachel Whiteread and the painter Gary Hume, among them—were embraced by the mega-collector Charles Saatchi and promoted by the prestigious curators Nicholas Serota, of the Tate, and Norman Rosenthal, of the Royal Academy of Arts. Storms of public outrage were music to the artists’ ears, and the avidity of collectors, as the art market recovered from a steep recession in the early nineteen-nineties and commenced to soar, swelled their purses. Their vulgarity and their strength are identical: conceiving of contemporary art as a game and playing it to win. (In this regard, there’s mythic bite to Hirst’s career: the working-class lad who gulls the toffs and makes them like it.) They constituted a racy cultural export for Britain like nothing since the Sex Pistols. In 1999, a show at the Brooklyn Museum of works owned by Saatchi, “Sensation”… The show so blatantly courted hatred that amusement was the only sane response. Its impact evanesced. In general, Y.B.A. art made scant headway on this side of the Atlantic, in the art world or in public notice. It was too transparently desperate…” [Peter Schjeldahl on YBAs and markets]

“I think that the whole relationship between art and money altered so greatly after the Second World War – really, after 1960 – that our way of perceiving art in its social relations (what we expect from it, how we approach it, what we think it is good for, how we use it) has been deeply, if not always consciously, changed. What we are seeing, in the last years of the twentieth century, is a kind of environmental breakdown in the artworld. It is caused, as breakdowns customarily are, by a combination of shrinking resources and exploding population. And the cultural pressures it has set up have altered our relationship to all art in a way that our fathers – or even our younger selves -could not have imagined or predicted….
The size of this sector of the new art audience, the gratifying uniformity of its taste, and its insecure obsession with mutually recognizable signs of status, produce many consequences for artists. One of these is that the race is not necessarily to the swift, but more likely to the voluminous. The successful artist today must exhibit more widely than ever before. He or she is apt to get locked into a market structure which resembles, and parodies, that of the multinational corporation. Twenty or 30.years ago, dealers in New York used to struggle against dealers in Paris or London, each affirming the, national superiority of their artists. These transatlantic squabbles are now extinct. What you have instead, on the multinational model, is associations of galleries selling the one product in New York, London, Dusseldorf, Paris, Milan. The tensions of national schools are dissolved. But this means that the successful artist must work on an industrial scale... Market pressure encases artists in a formula, but it also makes it hard on the person who paints ten pictures a year: the conditions of maximum exposure demand two a week.” [Robert Hughes on Art & Money]

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