The regular refrain about the art market being overpriced , overblown and an anchor weighing down creativity in our culture won’t go away. Ever. The reason is quite simple and anyone who has researched patronage even briefly, and the monetary system itself will understand: money panders to ego, vanity and power. So can art.
The inherent corruption of money is not in the monetary system itself but in humanity who created such a system. The system runs well when ethics are not included. Reagan and Thatcher broadly fought for a Free Market where the rigours of supply and demand govern everything. The problem with this and the monetary system as a whole is that many human beings think and money doesn’t. The Art Market is no more inherently corrupt than the Dow Jones, central governments or any concourse where money matters are transacted.
We have generated a system where people worship rich people. Not because they are clever, wise or ethical but because they have money. No other reason. The Art Market knows those rich people who want, as many always have, to display their wealth to the people through the visual experience. They build modern palaces, today called skyscrapers, they leave museums in their own names for posterity, they exchange notes with other rich collectors and live of the fat of general opinion amongst those who discourse about art.
The artist, creating because they want to, because they feel they must, is a child of another god. As human but utterly disengaged from the art market. The personality that does well in the art market is not that of an artist but of the entrepreneur, giving the people what fashion dictates they give. In other words ‘what sells’. Theirs is the work of those who want to take advantage of their times, not define them. Their celebrity of course, catches the headlines and seems to define the times but when their celebrity burns away with passing years what is left in the burnt out remains is the history of art. Who becomes a footnote and who becomes favoured is always decided by successive generations.
Daniel Nanavati UK Editor
Volume 30 number 6, July / August 2016 pp 6