julho 18, 2014
Centro Internacional de Fotografia nos EUA tem mostra de Caio Reisewitz por Camila Molina, Estado de S. Paulo
Centro Internacional de Fotografia nos EUA tem mostra de Caio Reisewitz
Matéria de Camila Molina originalmente publicada no jornal Estado de S. Paulo em 26 de junho de 2014.
O reconhecimento, diz Caio Reisewitz, está vindo no momento certo. Artista, prefere definir-se, que trabalha com fotografia, ele realiza, até 7 de setembro, uma grande mostra individual em um dos templos do gênero fotográfico, o International Center of Photography (ICP) de Nova York. Não se trata de uma retrospectiva, mas há oito anos o curador da instituição, Christopher Phillips, queria promover uma ampla apresentação da produção do brasileiro, "de reputação internacional", escreve, no renomado centro americano.
A primeira fotografia - e a mais antiga - da exposição é Butantã (2003), trabalho que sintetiza algumas características da obra de Caio Reisewitz. "Pensei essa imagem em minha cabeça e fui atrás dela", afirma o paulistano, de 47 anos, no ICP. "Os gringos poderiam pensar: O que é isso? Prédios dentro da floresta? É esse truque que eu queria captar." De fato, um conjunto de edifícios parece se erguer de um horizonte verde e denso de árvores nesta criação, de grande escala (180 cm x 282 cm), a partir de um ângulo da realidade.
É o campo fotográfico que permite a Reisewitz, como ele diz, explorar as bordas ou o limite da dúvida, através de sua obra. "Trabalho muito na margem da representação do real, no caminho de montar uma imagem que parece real, mas é artificial, ou o contrário”, explica o artista, apontando, na mostra, uma peça impressionante, Boituva (2008), clique aproximado de um pedaço de terra vermelha de barranco, no qual repousa uma folha seca. O tamanho da fotografia (232,3 cm x 180 cm) contribui para a estranheza - e beleza - do motivo.
Nesse sentido, a exposição no ICP, na verdade, destaca esse terreno da produção de Caio Reisewitz em que ele "assume" o duvidar. Boa parte da mostra apresenta uma produção mais recente do artista, baseada no desenvolvimento - ora mais, ora menos explícito - de colagens. "Para mim, a elaboração dessas obras está muito mais relacionada à pintura", diz.
Em um dos trabalhos expostos, por exemplo, plantas transbordam, artificialmente, do interior da Casa das Canoas de Oscar Niemeyer, no Rio de Janeiro. É uma imagem montada e essa característica é evidente - entretanto, não é sempre que temos essa certeza ao longo do percurso da exibição em Nova York. Basta chegar perto de outras obras, como Sucupira (2011) e Paretinga (2010), para identificarmos, em meio ao registro de matas exuberantes, fragmentos de imagens da cidade de Goiânia. "A fotografia é muito poderosa, ela é um objeto que representa uma realidade, mas que nesta dimensão se torna bombástica", define o artista fotógrafo, considerando ser esta a razão de a potência do gênero fotográfico ser tão reconhecida atualmente “dentro da arte contemporânea".
Serras e florestas - a natureza - são temas recorrentes na produção de Caio Reisewitz, mas a arquitetura também se faz presente como um dos campos de interesse do brasileiro. Tanto que estão na entrada da exposição criações nas quais ele ressalta a grandiosidade estática e imponente de interiores de construções brasileiras como o Real Gabinete Português, a Igreja São Francisco de Assis de Ouro Preto (representada por seu teto, pintado por Mestre Ataíde) e o Palácio do Itamaraty em Brasília. "São obras que apresentei na Bienal de Veneza, sobre as 'Utopias Ameaçadas', que era a representação do poder do Brasil através da arquitetura”, conta o artista, representante do País na 51.ª edição da mostra italiana, em 2005.
É inegável que o trabalho de grande escala de Reisewitz, com formação na Alemanha, tenha sofrido a influência da estética e do romantismo alemães, mas desde sempre interessaram ao curador do ICP as qualidades que diferenciam o paulistano dos europeus. Próximo (intimamente) de fotógrafos como Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth e Candida Höfer, o brasileiro considera que sua conduta é própria. Ele agrega o truque ("trick", diz, em inglês) à beleza.
Capital simbólico + pilar institucional = preço de mercado por Paula Alzugaray, Istoé Dinheiro
Capital simbólico + pilar institucional = preço de mercado
A leitura do recém-publicado “O Valor da Obra de Arte” e a experiência da seleção brasileira na Copa 2014 fazem-nos ver o que o jovem jogador e o jovem artista têm em comum. Para se desenvolver dentro do Brasil, ambos precisam não só de mercados monitorados mas, acima de tudo, de pilares institucionais fortes
Em 1976, aos 28 anos, o artista carioca Cildo Meireles costumava desembarcar em São Paulo com uma mala cheia de desenhos, para vendê-los por conta própria. Só em 1981 sua obra passou a ser representada profissionalmente pela galerista Luisa Strina. Até 1990, quando vendeu sua primeira instalação para um museu do Texas, nos Estados Unidos, o artista costumava tirar dinheiro do próprio bolso para produzir seus trabalhos em grande formato. “Nesse meio tempo, o mercado de arte internacional se ampliou em direção ao Brasil”, diz o artista à jornalista Angélica de Moraes, em entrevista publicada no recém-lançado “O Valor da Obra de Arte” (Metalivros, R$ 28).
Na entrevista concedida à jornalista e crítica de arte, fica evidente que as portas de sua carreira foram abertas por instituições internacionais. Seu trabalho, mostrado pela primeira vez no exterior em 1988, na exposição “Brazil Projects”, no então espaço independente PS1, em Nova York – uma exposição importante, mas de repercussão restrita dentro do sistema da arte –, atingiria projeção massiva 20 anos depois, em retrospectiva na Tate Modern, de Londres. Hoje a obra de Cildo Meireles está em coleções públicas de nove países, incluindo o Brasil.
Mas para que os Cildos Meireles de amanhã possam vender suas instalações e viver de seu trabalho no Brasil, é necessário não apenas um mercado de arte saudável e bem monitorado, mas de pilares institucionais fortes dentro do país. Essa é uma das conclusões passíveis de serem extraídas após a leitura de “O Valor da Obra de Arte”.
Com entrevistas e ensaios de Angélica de Moraes, Alain Quemin e Ana Letícia Fialho, o livro elucida os processos de valoração simbólica e mercadológica da obra de arte a partir de análises sobre a expansão do mercado de arte brasileiro em relação ao contexto global. A partir da leitura dos ensaios dos três autores, é possível entender, por exemplo, que a internacionalização da arte brasileira fez parte de um movimento global.
Alain Quemin, especialista em sociologia de mercado e instituições de arte e catedrático da Universidade Paris-8, na França, expõe de que forma a instabilidade econômica global dos últimos 30 anos teria influenciado o fortalecimento de mercados de arte emergentes. Evidenciam essa tese os números do mercado chinês, que a partir de 2007 começaram a mudar o mapa mundi da arte: nesse ano, a China ultrapassa a França e passa a ocupar a terceira posição nas vendas mundiais em leilões, representando 6,7% do mercado mundial. Quatro anos depois, em 2011, o gigante asiático ultrapassa a Inglaterra e os EUA, abocanhando 41,4% do mercado mundial.
“Foi nos anos 1990 que agentes do sistema das artes dos Estados Unidos e da Europa passaram a buscar em regiões ‘periféricas’ uma ‘renovação controlada da oferta’, dando início a uma expansão das fronteiras do mapa internacional das artes”, aponta a gestora cultural e pesquisadora do sistema das artes Ana Letícia Fialho. “Em decorrência da crise econômica hipotecaria desencadeada em 2008, esse processo de reconfiguração se acelera em favor de economias emergentes como o Brasil”.
Mas, embora os especialistas frequentemente destaquem a notável performance chinesa, o Brasil ainda não aparece nas estatísticas internacionais. A atuação brasileira na distribuição do market share global dos leilões de arte, segundo dados do Artprice (plataforma internacional de informação sobre arte), está diluída entre os 6,7% dos “demais países”, depois de China, EUA, Reino Unido, França, Alemanha, Suíça e Itália.
Ana Letícia Fialho destaca que a dificuldade de avaliar o lugar do Brasil no ranking global se deve à falta de sistematização de monitoramento de vendas no Brasil. A lacuna de indicadores, publicações, sites e bancos de dados locais fica evidente quando a pesquisadora enumera uma dezena deles, provenientes de todo o mundo, inclusive da Argentina, e dedica aos brasileiros – a versão brasileira da Artinfo e o site Catálogo das Artes – apenas uma nota de rodapé.
Autora de um dos poucos e raros estudos sobre o setor da arte contemporânea brasileira, a Pesquisa Setorial Latitude (com dados sobre o mercado de arte primário), Ana Letícia Fialho tem informação suficiente para afirmar que o mercado de arte contemporânea no Brasil vive desde os anos 2000 um momento de amadurecimento. Mas ela chama a atenção para uma situação paradoxal. “De um lado tem-se o mercado em plena expansão e produção pujante e internacionalizada; de outro, um quadro institucional extremamente frágil, incapaz de fomentar, exibir, refletir e sobretudo colecionar a produção contemporânea”. Os motivos, segundo a pesquisadora, residem na carência de políticas públicas consistentes para estimular melhores práticas nos museus e espaços culturais.
Assim, chegamos à equação básica do sucesso de qualquer mercado de arte: Capital simbólico + pilar institucional = preço no mercado.
Portanto, não é nenhum absurdo compararmos aqui o estado da arte e o do futebol. Há um claro paralelo entre a crise do futebol brasileiro, o enfraquecimento de suas instituições e a evasão de seus talentos para grandes clubes mundiais, e o fato da produção artística brasileira contemporânea estar muito melhor representada em coleções no exterior do que dentro do Brasil.
É preciso encarar que tanto o jovem jogador quanto o jovem artista, para se desenvolver dentro do Brasil, precisam não só de mercados regulados e monitorados, mas acima de tudo de pilares institucionais fortes.
julho 6, 2014
Mostra apresenta um novo Nuno Ramos por Audrey Furlaneto, O Globo
Mostra apresenta um novo Nuno Ramos
Matéria de Audrey Furlaneto originalmente publicada no jornal O Globo em 1 de junho de 2014.
Em ‘Ensaio sobre a dádiva’, artista ‘instaura momento menos épico’ em sua carreira
Uma menina enche um copo com água do mar. Da praia, segue para um bar. Deixa o copo no balcão. Uma mulher no mesmo bar se levanta, sai de cena e ressurge com um violoncelo, para então entregá-lo à menina do copo. Está feita a troca: um copo d’água por um violoncelo.
O roteiro, escrito por Nuno Ramos no livro “Ensaio geral”, de 2007, foi decupado (por ele e por Eduardo Climachauska) e transformado em filme neste ano. É exibido agora diante da escultura de um barco de quase dez metros que equilibra, de um lado, um violoncelo; do outro, um copo d’água. O barco se lança pelo vão central da Fundação Iberê Camargo, em Porto Alegre, onde o artista paulistano acaba de inaugurar a exposição “Ensaio sobre a dádiva”, em cartaz até 10 de agosto.
Há tensão — cinco metros da embarcação estão para fora do beiral e avançam no vão central do prédio projetado pelo arquiteto português Álvaro Siza — e grande escala, recorrentes na obra de Nuno. Para o artista de 54 anos, no entanto, a mostra inaugura algo de novo em sua trajetória, um novo cujo sentido exato ele ainda tenta definir.
— Sinto que é uma exposição muito importante para mim, porque talvez instaure um momento menos sublime, menos épico, menos “ó”, menos Nuno nesse sentido. É mais alegre, mais lúdica, cheia de ecos, menos impressionante no sentido físico — diz o artista.
Nos últimos anos, Nuno tem sido, de fato, épico. Em 2012, com o artista e parceiro Climachauska, ele instalou um globo da morte dentro de uma galeria carioca. Conectou-o a imensas prateleiras com objetos quebráveis e fez girarem, dentro dele, duas motocicletas. No mesmo ano, o artista enterrou na lama réplicas das casas onde nasceu, onde nasceram seus filhos e onde vive, tudo isso dentro de uma galeria em Belo Horizonte, que precisou ter o piso rebaixado para acolher a obra.
Antes ainda, em 2011, levou dois aviões monomotores embrenhados em troncos de árvores para dentro do Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) do Rio e os cobriu com sabão (fabricado no próprio museu). Em 2009, ele já havia instalado uma fábrica de sabão numa galeria do Rio (usou, então, três toneladas do material para cobrir dois barcos, com sete e 11 metros de comprimento).
Agora, embora utilize uma embarcação de dez metros para “Copod’águaporvioloncelo” e um trilho de montanha-russa (em “Cavaloporpierrô”), ambos projetando-se pelo vão da Fundação Iberê Camargo, os materiais não derretem, não são reduzidos a cacos por alguma ação violenta inesperada, nem são soterrados pelo artista.
As obras são feitas de, como diz ele, formas “nomeáveis”, como o violoncelo e o copo d’água, e “individualizadas”, como o cavalo de carrossel que figura em uma das pontas do trilho de montanha-russa (na ponta oposta a ele, há um aparelho de som de onde saem canções sobre pierrôs — a escultura simboliza, assim, a troca de um cavalo por um pierrô, também retratada num filme diante da peça).
— Estou mais distante do tema da fusão, de o material fazer muito (pela obra). Talvez eu esteja num momento em que as coisas estão mais “individuadas”, não estou precisando afundar, derreter, desfazer... O copo d’água, o violoncelo, o cavalinho são o que são: eles mesmos. Isso é diferente para mim. Já tinha lidado com objetos antes, mas eram sempre objetos se fundindo. As coisas perdiam a individuação e estavam relacionadas pela fusão, pelo derretimento ou pela quebra — explica. — Agora, os objetos estão se oferecendo, e eu gosto dessa ideia de troca em que as coisas são equivalentes. Essa exposição passa uma certa distância com relação à matéria e sinto que vai me permitir me apropriar de coisas.
Nuno conta que sua mulher, Sandra, fez uma análise sobre essa mudança que lhe agradou:
— Ela diz que eu saí do luto da minha mãe e que cheguei a uma coisa mais alegre, mais jocosa, e fiquei feliz com isso. Achei que é uma identidade nova.
A mãe do artista, a historiadora Dulce Helena Pessoa Ramos, morreu subitamente, em janeiro de 2011. Pouco depois da morte, Nuno passou meses no ateliê criando desenhos que acabaram por rodear instalações feitas com breu derretido na mostra “Hora da razão”, realizada na Caixa Cultural do Rio no início deste ano. Na exposição, “lágrimas” de breu escorriam sobre redomas de vidro e, dentro delas, cantores entoavam, ao som de violão, versos melancólicos como “Se eu deixar de sofrer, como é que vai ser para me acostumar?”, do samba “Hora da razão”, do compositor Batatinha (1924-1997).
O luto, Nuno lembra, também marcou a exposição “Ai, pareciam eternas (3 lamas)”, em que afundou as casas de sua vida na lama, e ainda o rondou quando criou o inventário de objetos da mostra “O globo da morte de tudo”.
Em “Ensaio sobre a dádiva”, talvez os materiais apareçam mais “à moda Nuno” apenas na última sala que o artista ocupa na Fundação Iberê Camargo. Nesse ambiente, há morfina e glicose circulando por mangueiras translúcidas entre réplicas (em alumínio e latão) das instalações “Copod’águaporvioloncelo” e “Cavaloporpierrô”. A glicose é referência à “vitalidade”, e a morfina faz alusão ao “sono e ao torpor”, nas palavras dele.
— Há (nas réplicas) uma espécie de neutralização das trocas. Parecem um pouco uma crisálida, como duas lagartas trocando líquidos. E são também uma dádiva, uma etapa a mais das trocas — completa.
Em toda a exposição, Nuno partiu do conceito de trocas que não são motivadas por lucros, “que põe em relação coisas sem que haja essa abstração chamada valor”. Ele se inspira sobretudo na obra “Ensaio sobre a dádiva”, do sociólogo e antropólogo francês Marcel Mauss (1872-1950), publicado pela primeira vez em 1925, que trata de sistemas de trocas em sociedades primitivas. O autor aborda um “sistema de dádivas” em que as trocas materiais se dão “sob o signo da espontaneidade” — e, sob esse regime, não há disparate em se trocar um copo d’água por um violoncelo, ou um cavalo por um pierrô.
Da dádiva, Nuno passou ao “movimento entre ordem e desordem, construção e ruína” na exposição “É isto um homem?”, que foi aberta ontem, na reinauguração do Museu da Imigração, em São Paulo. O ponto de partida do artista é o livro homônimo de Primo Levi (1919-1987), clássico dos relatos da Segunda Guerra — em especial, o trecho em que o autor amaldiçoa os tijolos, citando a palavra em diferentes idiomas, criando, assim, “uma maldição dupla: ao trabalho e à diversidade de línguas”, segundo Nuno.
No Museu da Imigração, ele encena a passagem do livro de Levi com duas obras: 1) uma redoma de vidro e, dentro dela, um tijolo sobre uma cadeira e uma caixa de som, que repete, em loop, a palavra tijolo em diferentes idiomas; 2) a caçamba de uma carreta carregada com 27.500 tijolos (fabricados especialmente para a obra de arte) que, levemente torcida, deixa cair parte de sua carga no chão.
Trajetória de Abraham Palatnik é exibida em mostra no MAM por Camila Molina, Estado de S. Paulo
Trajetória de Abraham Palatnik é exibida em mostra no MAM
Matéria de Camila Molina originalmente publicada no jornal Estado de S. Paulo em 2 de julho de 2014.
Artista é considerado o pioneiro da arte cinética
Em 1953, o escritor Rubem Braga alertou aos leitores da Revista Manchete que não deixassem de ver, no fundo de uma exposição no Museu de Arte Moderna, um quartinho escuro onde se passava um "cineminha". "A fita (que não é fita) leva 3 minutos e 24 segundos. Não há figuras, mas apenas formas coloridas que se movem, criando composições contínuas, que vão se modificando lentamente." Era a descrição de um Aparelho Cinecromático de Abraham Palatnik, uma das mais belas invenções da arte brasileira.
Já naquela época, o artista, pioneiro da arte cinética no Brasil, era reconhecido como um dos mais originais (termo do crítico Mário Pedrosa) em atividade. Hoje, aos 86 anos, Palatnik, nascido em Natal, no Rio Grande do Norte, mas residente no Rio, produz diariamente, e está totalmente focado, como conta o curador Felipe Scovino, em sua obra atual, basicamente, nas pinturas da série W, composições de ripas de madeira cortadas a laser, coloridas com acrílica. E, sendo assim, uma delas, feita este ano, está presente na mostra Abraham Palatnik - A Reinvenção da Pintura, retrospectiva que o Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) inaugura nesta quarta-feira, 2, e que perpassa a trajetória do criador.
Felipe Scovino e Pieter Tjabbes assinam a curadoria da exposição, já apresentada em Brasília e em Curitiba antes de chegar a São Paulo, ampliada. Seguindo um percurso cronológico, a exibição começa com um conjunto raro de pinturas e carvões figurativos - naturezas-mortas e retratos -, que Palatnik realizava na década de 1940. Mas já é uma história conhecida o fato de o artista ter pensado em "começar de novo" sua arte depois da impactante visita que realizou, na época, ao Hospital Psiquiátrico Pedro II, no Rio, a convite do colega Almir Mavignier. No local, conheceu as obras de esquizofrênicos tratados pela dra. Nise da Silveira.
A retrospectiva coloca, assim, esses trabalhos antigos de Palatnik de frente para os de dois pacientes, Emygdio de Barros e Raphael Domingues. É a menção a um episódio crucial em sua carreira, o salto para a invenção. É o momento em que o artista une sua destreza para as máquinas (reconhecida quando desempenhou curso de mecânica de motores em Tel-Aviv na década de 1940) e sua ligação com o pictórico, nunca abandonada. "Seu olhar é sempre para a pintura", afirma Scovino, e por isso a menção ao gênero no título da exposição.
Seguindo o percurso da mostra, uma sala, surpreendentemente, reúne um conjunto de quatro Aparelhos Cinecromáticos. Tjabbes calcula que há, no mundo, cerca de apenas dez dessas históricas criações dos anos 1950 e 60.
Depois deles, um ambiente aberto e central no museu abriga 15 Objetos Cinéticos de Palatnik, delicadas engrenagens com seus mecanismos expostos e audíveis, feitas com ímãs, fios de metal e figuras coloridas de fórmica produzidas, principalmente, entre 1966 e 67. Munidas, agora, de temporizadores, as máquinas terão funcionamento revezado durante a mostra, com intuito de preservá-las.
"É sempre importante o lado artesanal de sua obra e o fato de ele se sentir artesão perpassa toda a mostra", diz Tjabbes sobre o artista. Dessa maneira, vemos o trânsito natural e fascinante que Palatnik faz entre o bidimensional e o tridimensional em sua pesquisa dedicada à questão do movimento, seja criando máquinas, peças de design ou composições com ripas de madeira ou cartões cortados e barbantes.
A ideia de pintura ampliada em conversa com o inventor
Convidado pelo MAM a realizar para a Sala Paulo Figueiredo do museu uma mostra com obras do acervo da instituição que dialogassem com a produção de Abraham Palatnik, o curador Felipe Scovino diz ter fugido do que seria óbvio, ou seja, centrar seu olhar para os cinéticos. "O primeiro viés dessa exposição é uma ideia de pintura ampliada", ele diz, referindo-se à própria característica da obra de Palatnik, que sempre se muniu do ensejo pictórico na realização de trabalhos diversos – alguns deles, até escultóricos – como Objetos Cinéticos, Aparelhos Cinecromáticos e sua série W, amplamente expostos na presente retrospectiva.
A primeira obra referencial da curadoria de Scovino em Diálogos com Palatnik, também em cartaz até 15 de agosto, é Nota Sobre Uma Cena Acesa ou Os Dez Mil Lápis (2000), de José Damasceno, um trabalho em que o artista carioca cria uma imagem tridimensional com o uso de lápis fincados na parede, representando a silhueta de um homem olhando um quadro. "É uma síntese, uma obra que envolve uma dinâmica de pintura e que entra também em um segundo viés, o da manufatura, que está em Palatnik", afirma.
O cinetismo, de forma mais direta, é colocado através de esculturas de Willys de Castro e Sergio Camargo, mas outro conceito foi desenvolvido por Scovino na seleção das obras da coleção do MAM, o do "signo construtivo". A mostra, assim, vai se costurando com criações de Geraldo de Barros, Jac Leirner, Aluísio Carvão, Nelson Leirner e Raymundo Colares, para citar alguns.
julho 2, 2014
Cultural Entrepreneur Stefan Simchowitz on the Merits of Flipping, and Being a "Great Collector" por Andrew M. Goldstein, Artspace
Cultural Entrepreneur Stefan Simchowitz on the Merits of Flipping, and Being a "Great Collector"
Entrevista de Andrew M. Goldstein com Stefan Simchowitz originalmente publicada no Artspace em 29 de março de 2014.
If you bring up the name Stefan Simchowitz in the company of art dealers, collectors, advisors, or other professionals, you are bound to get a vigorous reaction. A producer of Hollywood movies like "Requiem for a Dream" and a co-founder of MediaVast, the photo-licensing site that was sold to Getty Images in 2007 for $200 million, Simchowitz is one of the world’s most successful—and controversial—collectors of work by emerging artists. He also works as an art advisor to a coterie of enormously rich young mavericks from the tech sector and entertainment business, both flush fields that have been traditionally difficult for the art market to penetrate. How has he accomplished this? By positioning himself, convincingly, as a disruptor almost entirely at odds with the art establishment.
In fact, many people may have first encountered Simchowitz when he was featured in Katya Kazakina’s widely read Bloomberg article about “art flippers,” which reported that he had bought 34 paintings by the white-hot market star Oscar Murillo—whose canvases can now command as much as $400,000 at auction—for a total of roughly $50,000 early in the artist’s career. But Simchowitz’s real market influence might be found online, where he uses his Facebook and Instagram accounts to advertise the young artists he is championing (such as the Post-Internet star Petra Cortright, who parted ways with her gallery, Steve Turner Contemporary, to pursue alternate modes of distribution) and inject a potent sense of “virality,” his favorite term, into the art world.
To find out about the philosophy guiding Simchowitz’s multipronged assault on the traditional art structure, Artspace editor-in-chief Andrew M. Goldstein spoke to him about the rise of the Post-Internet artists, the vulnerabilities of the gallery system, and why he considers himself to be a great collector.
As a collector and art advisor, you have a unique way of manipulating the levers of power in the art market on behalf of yourself, your clients, and the artists that you work with. The way you operate is in stark contrast to the traditional modes of doing business in the art world. Can you talk a little bit about the worldview behind your approach?
The alchemy of art is that it’s not just the artist who produces the work but the spectator and audience that essentially refines the art in its raw state into a refined product. After 1945 and the destruction of World War II we saw the emergence of the postwar art world in a very systematic way: you had the emergence of small galleries, expert writers and critics, academics, curators, and small groups of artists—many of them emigrants escaping the bleak landscape of Europe—that led to the expansion of the art business, both demographically and geographically. And over a 60-year period, as dealers like Leo Castelli guided artists’ prices to grow in a linear fashion, art was given its value by the people who wrote about it in journals and more traditional media.
Then the Internet occurs, you have the browser, and in 2006 you have the emergence of what is essentially the mainstream social media, and you begin to see the distribution of imagery and artworks begin to expand online at the same time that you see the rapid expansion of the art business, because essentially there’s much less friction for the spectator to experience the artwork. More people see the art, more people can consume it and engage with it, and, more importantly, many more people have started taking and sharing photos and describing what they’re seeing. These posts aren’t in a descriptive format like a critical review, but they’re microbursts of cultural criticism that can balloon to be seen by a multitude of people.
So one artwork can be encountered by 20 people, but if they capture an image of it and distribute it then the viewership can become exponentially larger. In this way, the curator, the critic, and the context become fragmented, and we go from a hierarchical system that’s controlled from the top to a system that’s more like a beehive, where many people performing very simple actions can be aware of each other and create an organism that is actually extremely intelligent and able to achieve huge results. This is changing the way culture is distributed and marketed and thought about, which I think is pretty radical.
How do you use social media professionally?
I think that when it comes to art and culture, as opposed to having singular authorities that define it, you have what you could call amplification nodules—people who for some reason have cultural integrity and a following that they address through a social-media structure. And it’s not so much about speaking to a mass of 10,000 people, but rather being followed by key decision-makers, players, and collectors in that network. I happen to have been communicating on Facebook actively for many years now—I joined in 2008—and I really am an early adopter of not only social media but also what I call ‘curated social media,’ systematically managing my Facebook presence, which is essentially a very inexpensive way to have an editorial platform that people can follow. Instagram has been an extension of that, and I use it less to directly market artists than to create some kind of narrative around their work.
You call yourself a “cultural entrepreneur” rather than an art advisor. Why is that, and what does that mean?
I think art advisory is very banal in that it generally simply involves someone who has access to several rich people and who, relative to those rich people, has slightly better taste. There is very little required to enter the field. On the other hand, I run an extraordinarily expansive broad network of people who listen to me, who follow me, who are interested in this sort of ideology that I set up. I am not an art advisor that sends a client a PDF of 20 works to see what they like; I send one work and say why that client should buy it.
It’s a very different system, and there are a lot of people who are trying to do what I am doing because I have done very well, and there are outsized returns. But people who think, “Gee, I can buy a piece of art from a gallery for $5,000 and sell it for $25,000” don’t understand the complexity of thinking necessary to get to this position. It requires research, knowledge of the canon, knowledge of the past. And a lot of young guys can get access to A-level material for ten minutes, which is happening across the board, but at the end of the day it’s going to be very short-lived. The interesting thing is to be part of the paradigm shift, to initiate the paradigm shift, and support the advanced artists who are working within that paradigm shift. That is what’s interesting to me.
What kind of clients do you work with?
I work with so many clients, maybe 100. I have some very high-profile people as my core clients, but I work with many, many people. I’ve managed to build an extraordinary following in the art market that is very unique. I work with Sean Parker, Steve Tisch, Orlando Bloom, Guy Starkman, Enrique Murciano, and Rob Rankin, who is the head of investment banking at Deutsche Bank worldwide. I also work with young people like Justin Smith, who is a professional poker player, and I have clients in Australia, Israel, everywhere. I think you need a very widely distributed clientele, with everyone from the very rich to people who need to stretch to buy an artwork. You want to mix it up, like a school—you want diversity, as opposed to the traditional system, which is just looking for the super rich and famous clients. Advisors like that end up becoming inbred in their distribution. I think if you create diversity then you’re able to create a much healthier and more profound mechanism for cultural distribution.
You have to think of culture like it’s oil in the ground: it needs to be mined, refined, and it needs to be distributed. And the traditional system doesn’t like anything to be outside of its control—it likes you to follow a chain of command, to go to art school and get an MFA, to be nice and polite to the right people, to follow the chain of progression in the gallery system. It likes ticking off the boxes. But what happens in this new environment is that many of those requirements have been bypassed, because the network is able to support and sustain cultural distribution, still using the traditional systems as infrastructure but not solely relying on it in as much as they did in the past. And my role in the system is to provide that sort of intermediary support in the advisory and management capacity to clients who collect work but also to artists who create work and galleries that need assistance in navigating this new environment.
How do you work with galleries?
I help dealers decide which artists to represent, how to represent them, how to navigate the complexities of the new environment that has so many more participants, what to do strategically. My advisory capacity is very expansive—it’s not just, “Hey, let me walk around with a client at an art fair and find a piece to buy.” In fact, if I walk around an art fair, it’s never with clients. I walk around alone, and it’s not a shopping exhibition, I’m really gathering information, intelligence, figuring out what strategies to follow, and then acting. So my approach is very different—it’s about creating a substrate in the system that can help different players in the art market coordinate their actions so that cultural distribution can be managed more efficiently.
Some of the artists you have been looking at include Parker Ito, Amalia Ulman, Jon Rafman, Petra Cortright, Mark Flood, and Artie Vierkant, all very interesting figures that share a certain aesthetic. How would you describe what you look for in a work of art that you collect or that you guide clients to collect?
I look to identify a movement, and I look to identify macro-trends. What is going on in the world? How is the world changing? What are the power shifts at play? The world is constantly in flux and constantly in a period of hierarchy-restructuring. The key is to understand what exogenous factors enter a marketplace and will change it. I thought that the Internet was a very important thing in changing the way we see art and how we experience art and also how we experience history—how an artist today can go online and travel from medieval art to 17th-century Florentine art to contemporary and back in the same moment, because everything is present on a flat surface, as opposed to in the past where you would have to sequentially go through the Met century by century. The Internet changed everything, changed how art is identified. So, who are the artists who are working in this new structure, and who are going to be the leaders in that space of cultural production in coming years?
That’s how I found Artie and Parker and Jon, who I met in 2009. I was Parker Ito’s first client, I was the first guy who bought Artie Vierkant, the first guy who engaged with Jon Rafman. In all of these guys, I identified the makings of a movement, so I went to them and provided these artists with support. I introduced Jon Rafman to Seventeen, a very good small gallery in London, which introduced him to Zach Feuer. I introduced Artie to China Art Objects, which did his first two-person show and got him the “Image Objects” essay in Artforum. I introduced Parker Ito to Johan Berggren in Malmo to do a group show there, which was with Artie, Parker, Jon, Ben Schumacher, and Chris Coy. When they wanted to go to Sweden, I bought them their tickets to fly there. I mean, they had no money, you know? These guys were just kids, and I supported them and helped them get a gallery infrastructure to build their early-stage careers, gain momentum, and get started.
A lot of it is instinct, and it’s difficult to explain, to be honest with you. I can just feel it. When I saw Oscar Murillo’s work it was immediate. No one else saw it at the beginning. I can’t explain it. I saw it at the beginning with Lucien Smith. I was the first guy to buy a rain painting, and then I was the first person to buy two rain paintings. I can just see it. I can feel it. It’s weird.
You mentioned Murillo, who is one of the artists that you have collected in depth. But while he is certainly a market success, his work does not fit into the same Post-Internet aesthetic as the other artists you mentioned. How does his work tie into your vision?
Do you like science fiction movies? In these movies you have the guys in the spaceship who are wearing their fancy modern suits and carrying their special weapons. But what happens when they go down to the ground of the planet that’s under attack? What is Luke Skywalker wearing? In every science fiction movie, the guy in the space ship has a laser gun and the guy on the ground is wearing medieval peasant robes. Why do you think that is? Because human beings have a relationship to technology that is bipolar.
On the one hand, we want to embrace technology and utilize it and manifest its power and integrate it within our existence to empower ourselves; on the other hand, as this empowerment extends and expands, there’s an urge for humans essentially rid themselves of technology and go back to the earth and almost worship nature. People go to Burning Man, they do yoga, they eat organic food. It’s very interesting—if you look at the technocrats in Silicon Valley, they revolve their day-to-day lives around yoga, healthy eating, organic farming, and sustainable ways of living, all matched with technological enhancement.
Strangely, very few people think of this, but I would call what Oscar Murillo is doing neo-primitivism. Eddie Peake also has an almost neo-primitive way of making work. It’s ritualistic in nature, and exists in polarity to the Post-Internet movement. I see these approaches as the North and South poles of what is going on. So, I look for artists in that Oscar Murillo category now more than ever as technology is accelerating. I also think Oscar’s work is interesting in that it really is about hierarchy disruption to some degree—it’s about flipping the order of things, setting the painting on the floor, using all the trash in the studio for the art. A lot of the work has gamesmanship to it—like he’s playing a constant game of chance, and there’s a prospect of winning or losing.
Oscar’s market has risen so quickly—do you consider there to be any risk in collecting him?
I think Oscar, frankly, is probably the most significant artist to have arisen on the art scene in the past 40 years, in part because he also demonstrates another one of my megathemes. The idea that art is produced in power centers like New York and L.A. by white art-school-educated people who talk about the canon and come out of the academic structure is basically very problematic. What we are going to see is the emergence of people who are disrupting this hierarchy, and they are not marginalized figures—its not like anyone thinks that Oscar Murillo is a marginalized figure because he’s from Colombia and he’s dark-skinned. He is central to the practice. He is the conversation.
So that’s a major shift, and a very interesting one I think. Murillo is not like Joe Bradley, whom I love and whose work I adore, but he is captured in this network by Gavin Brown and the New York-centric environment, which is part of the traditional mafia. Finally, in Oscar you have this artist who bypasses that whole system, and in fact was initially largely rejected initially by that system as being a copycat of Joe Bradley. Now they can’t capture him, they can’t own him, the can’t possess him, and they can’t even catch up to him.
Looking at this theme of artists who are outside of the structure, Alex Israel has colluded directly with the system but in an exaggerated manner. He will only sell to rich and famous people, and he manages this very closely—he looks at the invoices himself and checks who has the work. Everything is part of a strategy to build a market among a group of people who will then trade his work within it and make it become very expensive. It is very collusive. But with Oscar, there is no collusion—his collectors are an evenly distributed group of people who love the work, and who collect it on their own accord all over the world. That’s interesting. That’s real culture, that’s real distribution, that’s a real market.
I believe the Post-Internet artists are really similar in that way. I think their distribution and their cultural profiles are much broader and exist outside of the traditional networks of distribution and control as they are centered in New York and London. What I’m doing, essentially, in that I am working with these young guys who are well known but who aren’t coming through the system—they’re not being developed at Andrea Rosen, David Zwirner, or the other major galleries. They’re coming out of nowhere. Its similar to how when the Germans invaded France, they didn’t go through the Maginot Line, the extraordinarily complex set of concrete pillboxes that the French set up to defend their country. They went through Belgium. So the heavy, immobilized infrastructure that France erected was made irrelevant through a very simple maneuver. I believe this is what’s happening in the art market, with many of the galleries and other traditional systems—including the consultants—having immobilized themselves through size, scale, and over-investments in infrastructure.
What’s remarkable is that there is so much movement and liquidity in this emerging area of the market, with new stars being minted so often and so quickly, that collectors who buy into these artists early can make a 3,000-percent return on their investment a few years later by flipping at auction, as Katya Kazakina reported. What is your view on flipping?
You can walk up and down Chelsea and see overpriced art every day by young artists to mid-career artists. What are these galleries trying to do? Extract the maximum margin possible. I believe in the trading infrastructure of the market, and I believe in inexpensive channels for art that allow it to get redistributed and redistributed and redistributed with great virality. If I sell you something for a dollar and you sell it to your mate for two dollars and he sells it to his mate for four dollars, and he sells it to his mate for eight dollars, and he sells it to his mate for 10—well, that’s five collectors who bought the work, discussed the work, studied the work, and made a profit from it. And then they feel good about investing in cultural production, which is a very difficult thing to do because art, at the end of the day, has no value.
So, the more confidence you can bring to the system, the better it is for the system. Instead of looking askance at those 3,000-percent returns that Katya wrote about, people should realize that when that article went viral it alone was probably responsible for bringing thousands of new participants into collecting emerging artists contemporary all over the world. One of the best thing that can happen is that investments are made in cultural production in an efficient way, as opposed to giving money to institutions, where a most of the proceeds go toward lavishing their boards of directors with fancy galas or building expansions by architects who mess up, or by doing shows that are managed by backward-looking institutional curators. And the most efficient way to invest in cultural production and support young artists is to buy their work and to give the people who buy their work confidence that they can make money from it and buy more.
Within the gallery world, flipping is looked at very negatively, because it can create upheavals in the artists' market that could derail a promising career.
Yes, the traditional gallery system is antagonistic toward this, of course, and they will say there’s a danger for artists of things happening too fast. But it’s only happening too fast if you’re a young artist and your response to it is that you’re going to go out and buy a Ferrari and say, “I’m going to raise my prices by 400 percent and act like an asshole because I have so much money now so I can be a prick.” The galleries say, “Oh, the speculators are bad.” But the galleries are too greedy, so they’re raising their prices and building bigger spaces in order to further raise the prices of the art and encourage more production. Their response to the market is what’s negative, not the market. The market should be embraced.
The critics also fall into this trap, because instead of looking at Oscar Murillo’s art they are so consumed by the price points and the auction records that they never discuss the work. Why does Jerry Saltz and every other critic want to write about money? Because their readership likes reading about fucking money, because people are greedy. If you put a headline on the article like “An Opportunistic Collector Makes a Fortune Collecting Young Art,” people are going to read that, and since the publications are driven by advertising revenue they need those readers. The system is structured in such a specific way. But, at the end of the day, the results are very positive.
Oscar Murillo, 27 years old, comes from less than nothing, but has been so mature in how he has handled the market. He hasn’t gone googoo and gaga. He hasn’t expanded studio space. He hasn’t bought a Ferrari. He’s a sane guy. He works by himself. His uncle Carlos sometimes helps. It’s about the response that the artist and the gallery system have to the market. Are there 3,000-percent returns? Sure, there are 3,000-percent returns. But I can tell you that when I met Parker Ito when he was 22 and he wanted to sell me a painting for $750, it was a lot of money for him. And then when I sold that painting for $1,500, the guy came back to me six weeks later and asked for his money back because he thought the work was shit, so I gave him his money back. Now that painting is worth a lot of money. It’s not very easy to make 3,000-percent returns. It’s the same as when you invest in an Internet startup—you’re only going to make 3,000-percent returns if you do it before you know what’s going to happen in the future.
Another reason that galleries are so opposed to flipping is that they want to steward an artist’s work into significant, stable collections—and ideally eventually museum collections—so that the artist has a reputational bedrock that can outlast fluctuations in the market.
Yes, and I’ve seen work that has stayed in collections forever. It goes to rich old people—no offense to rich old people—who have no connection to the work. They have houses in Bel Air and Beverly Hills that are designed by some bad architect, and usually decorated by some second-rate interior decorator. They have ugly cushions. They frame the work when it’s not suppose to be framed, or hang it next to the toilet, and then forget it ever existed because they have so much money it doesn’t make a difference. Those are the “good” collectors.
At least these other people I work with are posting pictures on Instagram, hash-tagging them, communicating the work to their friends, and trying to sell it to their other buddies. Basically, the galleries want to sell the work and have it go to a dead space. It’s good when some of the work goes to great collections, and it’s also good when some of it travels through the marketplace. But if the galleries had their way, nothing would ever show up in auction, nothing would be traded, and no one would be the wiser that the art even exists. The galleries are not protecting the artist—what they are really saying is, “We want to extract the maximum margin for ourselves and keep it off the table.”
They manage this by essentially increasing the primary-market prices radically when there is demand, but what inevitably happens is that the artist sees his prices rise and thinks he’s a genius, and says, “Oh, I’ll produce 10 paintings instead of two.” And we have this expansion. But when Michelle Maccarone says, “We raised Ryan Sullivan’s work to $80,000 to protect his market,” she didn’t protect his market—she could end up killing his market. Because when you raise the price on the primary market to around where the secondary-market price exists, you lose the market. The thing that keeps the virality going is having a low primary-market price and a high secondary-market price, so you can always sell the work. But the minute you take away that marginal difference, you lose the momentum to be able to distribute work throughout the system, and that is momentum that takes years for an artist to build.
Considering that you have such an oppositional stance to the galleries, why do they sell to you?
I don’t have an oppositional stance to all of them—I have very positive relationships with many of them. Many of them have adapted to the new environment. Many of them are finding that their old models don’t work and are adapting, so they’re coming to me and doing business with me. I am also a great collector. I have Sterling Ruby, Joe Bradley, Tauba Auerbach, Oscar Murillo. I have one of the great collections of my generation, of emerging contemporary art. I have 900 works of art in my collection. I am probably one of the best collectors of my age group around, and someone told me that I’m the biggest collector of all my clients put together. I am ambitious, driven, educated, fully informed, and I also have a client base that is extraordinary. Many galleries don’t like selling to me, but at this point they don’t have much choice. The volume I do in sales is too great, and the client base is too good. Also, any attempt to further control the system in opposition to me will asphyxiate them and asphyxiate the artist, because in the changing dynamic the network of participants is very different, and I manage that network to some degree.
Speaking of this new dynamic, speculation in the art market has reached such a fever pitch that the art world was captivated a little while ago by a new site called SellYouLater that purported to rank artists by their market heat. Tell me what happened with between you and SellYouLater.
It was started by a young guy named Carlos Rivera, who created a scraping tool that analyzes certain people’s Instagrams to see which artists they’re looking at and what artists get liked. It’s very simple. So he scraped my Instagram, and he scraped a few of my friend’s Instagrams. It’s not relevant—it is an opportunistic flash in the pan that got him some publicity. But if you look at the data, he just doesn’t have the real data. Carlos is a young guy, not particularly sophisticated, who doesn’t really have a cultural outlook broader than trying to index something. And the real data is unquantifiable.
So, I found out who he was, and I was somewhat irritated because essentially a lot of those artists were sort of scraped from the things I was doing and I didn’t like the context of it. I picked up the phone and had a conversation with him and said, “Look, you created a system that frankly has been able to take propriety information that I am very generous to give through my social media platform that you have used and abused in a bad way.” And he agreed with me and apologized, as he should have.
You must have been very persuasive, because he posted this statement on his Facebook page: "After a conversation with Stefan, we've agree that SellYouLater was a disrespectful tone for this analytics exercise. It is impossible to gauge cultural value in objective terms as is evidenced by some of our past inaccuracies…. We will aim to achieve a more respectful and accurate index." But now, instead of changing the way the site operates, they seem to have doubled down, renaming themselves ArtRank and charging fees for their data.
He did. He doubled down. He’s a young entrepreneur looking for a business model that can make money for prized information, and I wish him the best of luck.
Are you now working together in some capacity?
No, I am not.
You're deeply embedded in the Hollywood celebrity circuit as both the producer of "Requiem for a Dream" and a co-founder of MediaVast. How do you see L.A.'s entertainment culture beginning to mesh with the rising tide of contemporary art?
It’s very simple: there are a lot of young people in L.A. who make a lot of money and want to participate in a social environment that is cool, and the art world has become the new movie business—it’s the new cool. It’s a world where they can play, learn, collect, and engage socially in a more mature way, rather than just going to the Cannes Film Festival. It has completely changed, and art has become so much more culturally immediate to so many people that it has become the de facto definer of social hierarchy in Los Angeles. Going to a museum gala or a nice art event is the thing to do. The whole social hierarchy has been changed by the art business and its expansion, and frankly by the opportunity to make money from it, because these young agents and executives like making money. Now L.A. is no longer a movie-business town—it’s an art town.
So now Darren Aronofsky is using art to market his movies—he produced an art show to go along with Noah. The equation has been rebalanced, and I think that’s a very powerful thing. But a lot of my ideas actually arise from independent movie financing, production, and distribution. In order to effectively distribute culture, it needs to be evenly dispersed, and the movie business taught me that you have to embrace many different strategies to achieve that. You also have to remove the friction to pull people to engage, because when you have friction people don’t participate, they walk away.
What kind of friction do you see in the L.A. art scene?
Sean Parker, one of my good friends and clients, has a young friend named D.A. Wallach. He’s a funny guy. So D.A. went to a gallery in L.A. the other day and he called me afterwards, furious, saying, “They were so rude to me.” Now, D.A. happens to be friends with Marc Andreessen, Sean, and about ten other people any gallery would dream of having as clients—and they dismissed him immediately. So I took him to an artist’s studios to have a different kind of experience. People like Sean and D.A. don’t like the system, and they don’t like how it operates. And Sean is a massive cultural figure, worth $3 billion. But these guys have been completely alienated from the traditional system.
And you are positioning yourself as their way into contemporary art.
My whole approach in analyzing the system is very different. Is it oppositional? Absolutely it is oppositional. Is it intentionally oppositional? Yes. I want to change the system.
Can an Economist’s Theory Apply to Art? por Scott Reyburn, New York Times
Can an Economist’s Theory Apply to Art?
Matéria de Scott Reyburn originalmente publicada no jornal New York Times em 20 de abril de 2014.
Thomas Piketty is a name on a lot of people’s lips at the moment. The French economist’s new book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” is a historic survey of wealth concentration that has quickly become a go-to text for the gathering debate on income inequality.
In his book, published in English last month, Mr. Piketty argues that the rich are only going to get richer as a result of free-market capitalism. The reason, according to Mr. Piketty, is simple. Returns on invested capital are greater than rates of economic growth, and this, he says, has become a “fundamental force for divergence” in society.
Although art is one of the few subjects not mentioned in the index of Mr. Piketty’s 685-page opus, it is worth considering how the unprecedented amounts of money the wealthy have recently been spending on trophy artworks might be a natural extension of his argument.
Courtesy of the above-growth returns identified by Mr. Piketty, the rich are further increasing their wealth by buying art. Many millions have been made by a new breed of investor-collectors who buy Bacons, Warhols and Richters high, and sell even higher. Art by desirable investment-grade names makes the rich richer. And more and more wealthy individuals are now prepared to make bids of more than $100 million at auctions, while outside, beyond the shiny bubble of the art world, living standards in the rest of society stagnate or decline.
“This is well beyond the norms of inflation,” said Ivor Braka, a London dealer who has been buying and selling high-value art since 1978. “The art market has become an excuse for banking in public. People are displaying wealth in the most ostentatious way possible. It’s luxury goods shopping gone wild.”
Last year, worldwide auction sales of postwar and contemporary art climbed to a historic peak of 4.9 billion euros, or $6.8 billion, a massive increase over the €1.42 billion in auction sales in 2009, according to the 2014 Art Market Report published by the European Fine Art Foundation in March.
Using what he calls the “careless and piecemeal” data of wealth reports, Mr. Piketty calculates that today the richest 1 percent owns about half the planet’s wealth. “Global inequality of wealth in the early 2010s appears to be comparable in magnitude to that observed in Europe in 1900-1910,” he concludes.
Back then, the rich were also spending a lot of money on art. Exactly 100 years ago, the czar of Russia, Nicholas II, clearly mindful of the unrest being fomented by his downtrodden subjects, bought Leonardo da Vinci’s “Benois Madonna” in a private transaction for $1.5 million. That Leonardo, priced at three times the record $500,000 paid by J. Pierpont Morgan for Raphael’s “Colonna” altarpiece in 1901, was cited by the late Gerald Reitlinger in “The Economics of Taste” (1961) as probably the most expensive art sale in history, factoring in inflation.
In those days, heads of state and industrialists were throwing their money at art. In the 2010s, it’s financiers and those who inherit wealth through death and divorce who dominate the market. For example, Elaine P. Wynn, the former wife of the American casino magnate Stephen A. Wynn and a co-founder of the Wynn Casino Empire, has been identified as the buyer of Francis Bacon’s 1969 “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” which sold for $142.4 million — a record for any artwork at auction — in New York in November.
“Wealthy people have extra money at the moment,” said Tania Buckrell Pos, an art adviser in London. “They’re cash buyers. And it’s a truly international market. If the Brazilians drop out, there’s still the Middle East, and then you’ve got the Russians and the Chinese, and they’re all chasing the same things.”
As during the so-called Belle Époque, certain living artists, whose longevity is still unproven, find they have a cult following. Christopher Wool (born 1955) is the high priest of American painting at the moment, particularly after the record $26.5 million paid for his 1988 work “Apocalypse Now” at the $1.3-billion series of contemporary art auctions in New York in November. Private museums, packed with works by Mr. Wool, Wade Guyton, Mark Grotjahn and other must-have names, are sprouting up across the world.
“People are spending millions on works by artists who have questionable long-term value,” Mr. Braka said.
“Do they have taste?” he added. “I don’t know. That’s capitalism. You can spend money on what you want.”
Back in 1882, the British businessman-cum-art speculator Thomas Holloway, using the best art advice that money could buy, splurged £6,615 on “The Babylonian Marriage Market” by Edwin Long, an auction record at the time for any living English artist. The painter and the painting are now forgotten.
So was the art market then, and is it now, a potent signifier of income inequality? Attempts to question how the eight- and nine-figure prices now being paid by billionaires for rectangles of painted canvas might relate to a wider economic and social context tend to be dismissed by many working in the art world as the “politics of envy.”
As Mr. Piketty points out in his conclusion to “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” those who have a lot of money “never fail to defend their interests.” Those interests are also staunchly defended by those hoping to make money.
According to Mr. Piketty’s calculations, the immutable dynamic of returns on capital being greater than the rate of economic growth will concentrate half the planet’s wealth in the hands of the richest 0.1 percent within 30 years, impoverishing not only the middle, but also the upper-middle classes. This would have profound repercussions for the art trade, which is already seeing a decline in activity from its traditional “professional” base.
“Back in the 1990s we had lawyers, doctors, dentists buying paintings,” said Offer Waterman, a London dealer who specializes in modern and contemporary British art. “The professionals have now been priced out of the market and it’s shifted more toward investment bankers.”
This might be the point at which inequality becomes a problem not just for art buyers, but for art itself.
Lessons from Thomas Piketty About Rampant Art World Inequality por Benjamin Genocchio, artnetnews
Lessons from Thomas Piketty About Rampant Art World Inequality
Artigo de Benjamin Genocchio originalmente publicado no artnetnews em 29 de abril de 2014.
When I hear consternation about Thomas Piketty’s surprise new bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s somehow “breaking news” to anyone in New York’s art world that capital is concentrated in the hands of the few and is becoming even more concentrated in those hands. Don’t get me wrong here, for this isn’t an angry rant about class warfare. If you are interested above all in making, accumulating, and spending money, by definition you gravitate (in many but of course not all cases, it seems to me) either towards Wall Street or any industry that feeds off the tech boom or maybe even Big Pharma. Long story short: You don’t work in finance if you don’t like or understand or hope to accumulate money.
If being around creative, aesthetically minded, often visually gifted people is important to you, then the art world is the place to be—even if financially you are punished for it. Most artists and art world workers are at peace with the choice they have made: Lifestyle over income. For most of us worker bees in the art world, a degree of control over work and personal time is more important than, strictly speaking, earning money.
Most artists and art world workers are happy and willing to interact with the oligarchs and financial types because those people are the patrons who fund the exhibitions that help sell artworks. People in the art world understand the reality: Fundamentally it is a small wealthy elite that makes the wheels turn, supporting art museums and buying art, creating jobs so a whole lot of people like us get to do what we love. As has been for all time, it seems to me. No problem there.
The income inequality, whether growing or not, and which we benefit indirectly from, isn’t so troubling as what I will call the “opportunity inequality” that has come with increasing stratification of wealth. Opportunity inequality means bigger and more voracious galleries, individual mega-artists and museums getting all of the money, and fewer chances to succeed for the young seat-of-the-pants galleries that have traditionally been incubators for new artists. At least that’s how it seems to me it is shaking out here in New York. Which is why perhaps new opportunities are coming from different parts of the country—or different countries. Or different models, like these communal artist groups that pop up in various biennales.
Also, since the government has cut back on funding to art and artists, philanthropists have increasingly had to pick up the slack and are demanding more for their museum dollar—wings and rooms named after them, and increasingly requesting museum shows drawing upon their own collections. You could probably make an argument that what has changed is that it is now too expensive in New York (real estate, operational costs) for anyone but Big Business art world enterprises to survive. You either get with the money program, in short, or get pushed out of the industry. Little wonder art schools teach artists how to survive in the system. There is no more outside.
As actual real estate for art in New York disappears, online real estate for art expands, to some degree. I notice the online appetite for street art has expanded, also for prints and photos. So it is not all negative, with the art world evolving online to attract a different kind of collector. Innovation is all around us, sure, but the concentration of opportunity and power in the hands of a few dealers, collectors, and artists is a problem. It has, overall, been tremendously limiting, even stifling of creativity.
Fifteen years ago, when I first came to New York, small nonprofit organizations such as Artists Space, Art in General, apexart, Exit Art, and the Drawing Center were fundamental presences in the New York art world. They received state and city grants—foundation support too. They were integral to what made the art scene turn round each day and each year. Today you barely hear about them as they struggle for attention, even survival, in a vastly changed media and fundraising climate for artists and nonprofits.
Structural change in the art world also challenges traditional roles and responsibilities for institutions: The expansion of Chelsea into a big box megagallery sales center over the past two decades has created a bustling and very competitive marketplace that is most responsive to global art that can be rapidly bought and sold. We all benefit from this power center for art sales, but has it become like the Dow Jones of the art world, where stocks are bought and sold? You are, as an artist, a part of a “tradeable asset class,” or you aren’t.
All this is to say that it’s difficult to ignore that the current age of oligarchy in which we are living, as Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century articulates, widens the fissures between the lucky few who have an opportunity to live creatively and those who don’t. That’s what I mean by opportunity inequality. I see it grow every day.