Artists, Collectors, and Questionable Intentions.
Artists, Collectors, and Questionable Intentions.
The continuous struggle that an artist can go through in order to come closer to their apparent vision of the world, is something hard to define at the best of times, and the price at which works are sold for can hardly compare to the complex relationship an artist has with their work. The value of understanding your gain from making artwork is priceless. So it seems a shame that a gift economy like the arts, is exploited the way it is.
One of the most frequently talked about topics in the arts is money, and it is done so with good reason as the price which artwork sells is steadily increasing. Where we used to be able to assume that a higher price means higher quality, we now cannot always be lead to believe the highest selling works are therefore the most successful artists; this can be a skewed vision of art that easily fools.
Where Jeff Koons’s work has been argued to be commodity, his ‘Balloon Dog (Orange)’ sold for $58 million at Christies; yet the work of Gerhard Richter, of the most monumental and varied painters of our time sold ‘Domplatz Mailand’ for $37 million at Sotheby’s New York last year. However this doesn’t therefore put Koons ahead of Richter as a better artist.
When an artist sells their work is this the qualifying point of a successful artist? What can make the distinction between something of true artistic value and an object of investment? We are often lead by the fact of what sells is therefore good, as it is apparently high in demand; however, works may only be seen in monetary value. Though we have to allow the understanding that the artist is as capable of conning the gallery and collectors likewise. The artist intentions could be just as false as the collectors.
It is frequently stated that art is a comment of the period it is produced. I believe this will always remain to be true as it is part of escapism from an often pressured reality. At any given time the social issues in society obviously shape thoughts and opinions, changing our ideals and thus influencing social needs and expectations. So the artist’s opportunity to display their work is left in the hands of the gallery owners, it can very much appear to be a process of luck though it is actually based on the simple fact of whether the gallery and society has a shared interest or need for the artist’s work.
For example Picasso’s Guernica was produced at a time of when Spain was in distress. In retrospect it is considered as one of the greatest artworks of the 20th Century, not just because he was a great artist, but also because the agony the Spanish civil war was having on its people is demonstrated so vividly. Do current political works get the same attention? It’s a challenging arena to be connected to, as the renowned street artist Banksy would know, and it is for this reason that he remains to be private about his identity.
From certain angles we can accuse the art market of being manipulated, it is actually fed on the most current and most popular pleasing aesthetic of the time. Therefore this is what sells. However it is hardly a transparent industry. For Damien Hirst since his record breaking £111 million single artist sale of 2008, the sales of his works have seen a gradual decline. At a 2009 Sotheby’s auction a piece even failed to sell. And years after their deaths the impressionist’s have still not lost their value as proved by the Christies’ four-day sales this year making a little over £196 million.
A work can be sold and resold many times over to a series of different investors and galleries. In each sale and resale, there is the danger that a work is passed further and further away from being understood or artistically valued; and as the industry is more money infused, it continues to put us in more danger of losing the priceless value of art. Perhaps this is due to the way that buying art is just too easy now. During the 1970’s there were only two art fairs, however now the number has risen to over two hundred.
In someone buying a piece of artwork, do they understand the artist intentions and do they share the same vision of art as the artist? The most likely answer is no, although is it required that a work is fully understood to truly be appreciated? Artistic and social opinions fluctuate with the times; this is why time is crucial to understanding. We could take the standpoint that you are actually investing in personal time with the work when you are buying it, you want the opportunity to understand it more… Perhaps this is optimism speaking, when the reality is that not everyone will see art in art, only investment.
The role of the art dealer is to source particular works to meet the interests of collectors, however do they know how influential their sales are to the rest of the art world’s opinions? The strong influence they hold overshadows the once, highly valued and influential views of the art critics and curators. It would seem our eyes and ears go to where the money is and affects actual understanding and viewing of art.
Text: Tara Parmar