Share on the web
I live in New York City and as any good citizen of the Big Apple, I watch the Art World blossom with much interest and a bit of amusement. Everyday there are more galleries, artists, established or emerging, filling up the streets of our city. Whether at galleries or online, the era of self-publishing makes everyone an artist.
That's awesome and scary at the same time. It sounds like the democratization of the art world. But while the myth of the struggling artist, and struggling gallerist is unfortunately, not a myth at all, a brand new phenomenon has emerged: That of the celebrity artists, who capture people's imagination via skyrocketing prices, and their mass media-friendly personalities. Nothing wrong with that, one can say, but I'm just interested in finding out why:
Well, before there was a simple rule: You were an artist if an art critic, and a couple of key dealers / collectors, said so. Today, diminishing distribution costs, and the ability to self-publish, makes it less critical to filter out the supply. It follows that the only feedback mechanisms left to validate an artist are: 1) attention - check the number of Banksy pictures posted on Flickr, and 2) price - the more you sell, the better, check Damien Hirst prices for example. Because money follows attention, one can quickly argue that price is the ultimate barometer for artistic success. "We Sell or Else," could be the mantra of 21st century's artists. Ironically the term was coined by famous Advertising Man David Ogilvy in the 60s. One might wonder how much of this philosophy influenced the art tastes and collection choices of another famous Ad men, Charles Saatchi ?
I'm not against commercial art. In fact, some of my favorite artists described business art as the ultimate form of art (yes it's from Warhol.) But one must wonder just how solid of an indicator for Art price has become. For an artwork to pass the test of time, and be art, it has to live way beyond an artist fame, the mode-du-jour, and the current art market craze. How do we empower today's makers of the market (in large part, people buying art today,) with the necessary tools to develop critical thinking, and be able to see beyond the current craze?