Entitled “How Contemporary Came to Eclipse Classic at the Art Auctions,” this article really got me thinking. The art market apparently has this inevitable, impending sense of bubble that everyone seems contemporary art is in, and it will BURST soon. But will it?
Even after the peak of a universal recession, there are filthy rich (SUPER filthy) people who have cash to keep buying very very expensive art. In fact, they hike up the prices in a bid to pay more! I love art, I love this industry and all its weird crazy kinks but there seems to be no shame in the crazy different way emerging and established artists live. Life is always unfair I know, no matter who you are, but why does it seem the art world plays it to another level? Yes it’s a great avenue for black money etc etc but not everyone can possibly into that, right? Or am I just too naive? Many emerging artists cannot be full-time artists because it just cannot pay the bills, and generally have 2-3 extra jobs to pay the rent, expenses and art supplies. Especially the very gifted artists who do not only work with painting mediums but instead work with experimental installations and sculptures that are CRAZY expensive and time-consuming and incredibly difficult if not impossible to sell or get paid for.
Even as somebody working in the industry, there seem to be different levels that art professionals just aren’t allowed in. Yet. Many people working in art companies or organizations get shit pay. It’s generally due to the upkeep of the company itself, for the artists, and due to slow sales at various months and so forth. I read this and try to understand how much this Tobias Meyer is making by solely working at Sotheby’s all his life. After graduation, he was a trainee at Sotheby’s and is now the Head for Contemporary Art – worldwide! He is essentially an amazing sales expert who happens to have extensive knowledge about his “product” and sells to the filthy rich. I have worked in quite a few art environments – from corporate company, to commercial gallery, to non-profit events and hopefully starting up something of my own with artists around the world (one step at a time though!).
I don’t mean to sound jealous or compare my life to other art professionals in any way, especially since situations and times play a very big and important role in shaping the economy, mentality towards art, etc are so different to today to any time before in history.
But it’s insane how fate works, how some paintings (even though they are quite brilliant in their style, concept and execution!) are sold for more than 900,000 US. If that money could instead jump start an idea that artists can execute – whether it’s to collaborate with other artists around the world, promote awareness/education (affordable) programs for the public or in universities, create studio spaces for artists, or help the digital generation connect with the real, physical world instead of facebooking from noon to dawn – wouldn’t it be better worth the money? If there is no avenue for them to direct their money… all they need to do is ask another art professional (probably not at an auction house though. Damn vicious cycle. Although very sparkly and glamorous looking from the outside)
But as I’ve learnt on my job… sometimes the richer ‘they’ are, the more they hold on to the money. So they ‘invest’ and try to grow more. Cuz you know, everybody totally gets to take all that money and power when we die and go to … heaven? hell? reincarnation? another universe? So which better to way to feel you’re investing in art than through auctions and the tertiary market – where you feel you’re being financially sane while simultaneously showing-off your level of sophistication & wealth at the same time? Two birds, one stone! Bravo!
(Jackson Pollock’s “Number 19” at Christie’s)