Every day, legions of fast-talking, so-called art experts are selling objects that they know too well have no chance of surviving the test of the global art market, let alone art history, to financial advisers and their business clients.
These include a certain breed of private, online and traditional gallerists, content-providers-masquerading-as-critics, art flippers and interior designers whom the art press loves to tout as art experts … not to mention their celebrity clients. Most of us working in aspects of the art world know who these characters are though we may choose to deny their existence, or give them the benefit of the doubt, for any number of reasons.
How do these characters manage to excel in the art world, you may wonder?
Aside from (1) Orating faded academic jargon that are systematically configured to intimidate non-practitioners; they (2) Play perversely entertaining pseudo-elitist mind-games that are often effective on the huge percentage of new American, and emerging markets’, self-made millionaires;* (3) Flaunt flowcharts and algorithms that are deeply flawed by virtue of their systematic exclusion of certain fundamental facts and data; (4)Claim to be disruptors of the system by ‘giving them [business clients] a taste of their own medicine;’ and (5) Good old fashioned lying … through their teeth.
Remember the “Everything is art!” mantra?
Quite often this amusingly affected declaration is followed by “It’s just how you package it, man. It’s all bullsh*t anyway.” Art flippers, in particular, love this phrase since the sheer power of its stupidity serves as an effective conversation-stopper for anyone who is serious about art.
Of course when these flippers – artists, gallerists, etc. – make this claim they are only talking about their own products. As for the other guys’ art being “art,” too? Well, not so much.
Along with “Everything is art!” – a phrase that should alert any serious investor to run for their money – “Everyone knows that art appreciates with time!” is another astonishingly shameless lie in which far too many otherwise sound and sane people choose to believe.
“Everyone knows that art appreciates with time!” No, it doesn’t. In fact, the value of the majority of contemporary art depreciates with time – sometimes, the moment you leave an art gallery, an artist’s studio or an art fair. Much like buying a brand new car as opposed to investing in, say, a 1933 Maserati 8CM.
Honestly, if you believe in any of these statements, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you that comes with flowcharts and algorithms that prove its solidity. Call me.
Back to my Defense of Wall Street: How do you think that so much junk gets sold under the auspices of art for hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars per transaction? Every day? How is it that so many art historians, academics, critics and museum curators choose to look the other way when they clearly recognize poorly conceived and shoddily executed objects that are based on tired, old traditions and whose ‘concepts’ are packaged as avant-garde or cutting-edge art?
Do these art buyers – I refrain from calling the poor fellows collectors – even realize that they have been swindled out of not too small fortunes?
When I was an undergraduate in art history, I used to think that most of them do. This, of course, was my level of intellectual understanding, or lack thereof, of the complexities of cultural production and its interdependence with economics. I suppose this is why 20-something year-old producer-artists are in great demand, these days. It is very easy to engage young (a fiercely fashionable buzz word) artists who don’t care to appreciate the long-term affects of their poorly produced bulk cultural productions.
This, of course, is the inverse (or is the reverse?) of what an academic-humanist like myself used to believe in: that what I did was above money matters as opposed to a certain new breed of art world practitioners who believe that money matters are above all else. Either way, it seems that the art world is infected with a toxic apathy toward anyone with, or access to, wealth.
Experience has proven me oh so very wrong. I learned the hard way – through personal, professional and scholarly experience – that a multitude of these business folks truly don’t realize that they have been bamboozled by a group of impersonators masquerading as art experts.
If they were in any way aware, I doubt that they would boast about ‘art collections’ that match their luxury penthouses’ carpets and curtains. Why would anyone who knows what has happened to them wish to brag about being deceived by some ventriloquist art adviser, or artist? Majority of them don’t know. They are victims of an art market whose formation, unwittingly or unwittingly, has been facilitated by art historians, artists, art advisers, curators, museum directors, critics, publishers and other informed collectors. That is by those of us who know better but have chosen to remain silent in the face of this much cultural defilement. We see what is being done in the name of art, and our profession, yet choose to remain silent by allowing our society’s economic elite be defrauded, every day.
So, what does it matter if a notable majority of our affluent class is exploited by certain artists or galleries, you may ask?
First, talk to any number of authentic cultural disruptors - curators, scholars and artists who have dedicated their lives to their arts and craft, including those artists and administrators in the non-tangible heritage fields: indie filmmakers, dancers, choreographers, poets, playwrights and performers. Ask them how excruciatingly difficult it is for them to find patronage for their work. Ask them how hard it is for them to gain the trust of the members of the affluent class who have been burnt by others in the name of art.
Every dollar conned out of a potential arts patron is a dollar stolen from true and dedicated artists and cultural practitioners whose contributions form our cultural heritage – its past, present and future.
Second, some of the “Hey, man, everything is art” objects eventually find their into our public museums and thus enter the canon of our art, culture and history. At tax payers’ expense.
This is a travesty.
These are the wrongful results of deceiving our country’s financial elite, in the name of art. What does it take to right these wrongs? We, art historians, curators, artists, filmmakers and other trained and experienced cultural workers need to authentically disrupt those systems and organisms that have lost their mission to gather, create, preserve, research and exhibit (or disseminate) art and its histories.
No great body of art in any period in the history of humanity has ever been created, preserved and promoted without the patronage of a group of well-informed benefactors. This is why educating and Defending Wall Street should be on the top of every artmakers’ agenda.
Also see original posts on LINKEDIN: Advice on Collecting (part i) and Advice on Collecting (part ii): Disrupting Wall Street
Stay tuned for my next post: Advice on Collecting (part iv): Algorithms and Cyberspace