[iDC] Art Basel: Signs of a Broken Food Chain

Frank Pasquale frank.pasquale at gmail.com
Tue Jun 19 11:51:28 EDT 2007

My guess is, that when someone like Bryant complains about lack of great
art, he's really complaining about a lack of art that has accumulated the
"buzz" necessary to assure a prudent investor of the resale value of the
work down the line.  It's an artificial scarcity based on the "economics of
attention <http://madisonian.net/index.php?s=richard+lanham>" and Girard's
idea of "triangulated desire": buyers want what everybody else wants.

I found the Hans Abbing's <http://www.hansabbing.nl/> *Why Are Artists
Poor*an insightful analysis of some issues here.  Tyler Cowen's Good
and Plenty<http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2006/03/good_plenty_par.html>also
does a great job commenting on gaps between economic success and
artistic quality.  He states "we cannot have a coherent political philosophy
without bridging the gap between economic and aesthetic perspectives" on
arts economics.


On 6/19/07, Cynthia Rubin <cbrubin at risd.edu> wrote:
> I am curious about how others are reacting to the buzz on the big art
> fairs.  In particular, I was struck by comments in Carol Vogel's report from
> Art Basel, June 14, NY Times
> http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/14/arts/design/14fair.html
> =========
> quotes from Vogel's text:
> Collectors are grumbling about the scarcity of top-quality art.
> "There are some good things, but not as many as there used to be here,"
> said Donald L. Bryant, a Manhattan collector and trustee of the Museum of
> Modern Art. "The market is so hot, and the demand is so great, it's getting
> harder to find great art."
> ===========
> The food chain is broken.  Everywhere I go, I find intelligent people
> working on interesting ideas - wonderful artists who have stockpiles of work
> in their attics, basements, under their beds, or digitally stashed on
> hard-drives.  I am not talking about totally unrecognized artists, but about
> artists who once were in important shows, who had their work discussed at
> length in art magazines, or even on the cover of art magazines, or have been
> honored with grants and commissions.  Not overlooking younger artists, we
> find artists at all stages of their careers who are making installations or
> exhibitions in their homes, restaurants, wherever they can.
> I am writing from Avignon.  Yesterday I stumbled into a gallery where
> stacks of abstract paintings recalled the 1970s, but the gallery owner
> explained that even these do not satisfy the local market of buyers who are
> clamoring for Provencal scenes which could have been painted more than 100
> years ago.  On Saturday night I went to an open house by an established
> artist in one of those elite "year-in-Provence" towns --- an artist whose
> name shows up in google searches of auctions - -and who does some
> interesting work - and he had the stockpiles described above.  I also
> visited the new contemporary art museum "Collection Lambert" , and saw the
> Cy Twombly exhibit http://www.collectionlambert.com/pages/expofutur.htm.  Nice
> paintings, but it still is not clear how these merit the title "quality"
> while many others did not get there.
> We know that we live in a curated time, a time in which the interest comes
> not from the artists but from those who envision and organize exhibits
> around conceptual movements that they either identify or invent (who
> knows?).  If work falls outside of the parameters of the curatorial mission,
> then it is not shown.  If work is too similar to already selected work, it
> is not shown.
> But if work goes too long without being shown, it fall out of view of the
> curators, and it is difficult to resurrect it.  Consider this observation in
> the Vogel article:
> =======
> quotes from Vogel's text:
> Art fairs help to gauge popular tastes, and dealers hungry for material
> often revisit artists who have gone out of fashion. A decade ago no one
> would have paid attention to the installation of Belgium street signs by
> Marcel Broodthaers adorning the booth of Michael Werner, a dealer in Cologne
> and New York. But by the afternoon of opening day they had all been sold.
> "Michael has had them since 1969," said Gordon VeneKlasen, his partner.
> "He showed them at Mary Boone in New York in 1987, and nobody touched them.
> Now everyone wants to have them."
> =========
> The non-artist frequently has a view of artists receiving first local
> attention, then national, then international, all of the basis of aesthetic
> or conceptual merit.  What is really happening, however, is that if artists
> are interested in "the market" (and many are not), that they artists are
> forced to spend more and more of their time second guessing the
> curators.  Others, who do "quality work", fall into void.  A few fortunate
> ones, like Marcel Broodthaers, may get pulled out again, but consider that
> he might not have been - that all these years he had to pay storage for work
> that 20 years later is "great".  Was his timing off?
> Is there anyway to mend the food chain? Do we care?  What does the "lack
> of quality work"mean for the many artists making quality work that never
> gets shown?
> Cynthia Beth Rubin
> http://CBRubin.net
> _______________________________________________
> iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity (
> distributedcreativity.org)
> iDC at mailman.thing.net
> http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc
> List Archive:
> http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/
> iDC Photo Stream:
> http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/idcnetwork/
> RSS feed:
> http://rss.gmane.org/gmane.culture.media.idc
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/attachments/20070619/0077bd55/attachment.html

More information about the iDC mailing list