Painting

Name of Their Creator

Even insiders who should really know better cannot help discovering artistic merit in the work of commercially successful artists. This willingness to “elevate the stock market value of the modern artist to a sign of quality,” as sociologist Pierre-Michel Menger has aptly put it, is now quite widespread even in the specialist press. Well-relevance of a commercially successful artist are rarely to be found, at least until recently. In the traditionally market-critical arts and culture pages of German broadsheet newspapers, the output of commercially successful artists like Neo Rauch and Daniel Richter suddenly met with a reverence reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s worship of saints. In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, for example, various critics were asked to engage with a picture by Neo Rauch. The result could not have been more assiduous, recalling the narrative style of high school art students asked to describe a painting. And Daniel Richter was recently permitted to pose as a fake street artist sitting in front of the Centre Pompidou, where he committed quick portraits to paper for passing tourists. With a mix of bewilderment and enthusiasm, we were informed of the market value of these works on paper, a value their clueless owners were shown to have been completely unaware of. Apart from the populist impetus of this test setup, which sends the famous artist into the lowly realms of street art purely to remind us all of his great potential for value of the aesthetic quality of the resulting portraits—which, incidentally, looked alarmingly dull and feeble—was never raised. It was as if the name of their creator, who vouches for a certain market value, was enough to guarantee their artistic relevance.” [Isabella Graw on the Market]

Blinky Palermo Untitled (Stoffbild) 1969

“For a long time, until well into the 1990s, commercial success was disreputable. Especially among cultural producers, it was viewedpointed out that this was already the case in the literary milieu of late nineteenth-century France. Whereas under normal economic conditions success equates with a guarantee of quality, in the “economic world turned upside down” of “pure art” there was something suspect about it: “The artist can triumph on the symbolic terrain only to the extent that he loses on the economic one.” This pattern of valuation also dominated the art milieu for a long time, until well into the second half of the twentieth century. In one anecdote about Blinky Palermo, for example, the artist was sharply criticized in the early 1970s for the popularity of his textile paintings by friends who accused him of producing them solely for the market—striking a blow to his artistic credibility and damaging his aura as an incorruptible artist-subject. Apparently, the respect and favor shown to him by fellow artists outweighed the applause from the wrong side (the market). Since then, much has changed. Today, rather than posing a threat to artistic repute, success in the market and in the media is actually capable of generating such prestige.” [Isabella Graw on the Market]

Jake and Dinos Chapman Sad Presentiments of What Must Come to Pass 2003

“I don’t take seriously the current moment of contemporary art, as I say — but a lot of the artists who are currently in the spotlight I do think are the genuinely good ones. I think the Chapman Brothers are fantastic, very good and intelligent and thoughtful and clever and funny – the things they’re supposed to be, according to, say, the dim lights of ‘Dazed’n’Confused’ they actually are. 
And I think the same about Sarah Lucas and to a slightly less extent Tracy Emin, and maybe a bit higher up but sometimes much further down, because he’s a bit amazingly variable, Damien Hirst. But still it’s a low moment, because there’s nothing in society anymore that asks for art to exist, except the market or the celebrity game, which are both trivial things. Or if they are important they’re important in ways that are irrelevant to art. 
Obviously it’s economic values that rule now. Celebrity is a trivia side-product of them, in that it’s a popular sign of success. Success has become our main cultural value. We know clearly what it is. Of course art can have aspects of anything but what makes it worth having is what’s soulful, serious and important. The last things you want it to be are sexy and celebrity-driven, or daft and amusing. And those are the only things people want art to be at the moment.” [Matthew Collings in conversation with Richard Marshall]


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