Thursday, 25 October 2012

Selling the Unsellable

LSE Public Lecture: Selling the unsellable. Bringing experiential and ephemeral woks of contemporary art to market.
Noah Horowitz, Director of the Armory Show NY
15th October 2012

My notes on the lecture: 
Much of contemporary art is anti-market. Marxixt/ commodity critique.
Process oriented.
'Immaterial art'. LUCY LIPPARD.

Artprice - 2/3 of the market is paintings. Drawings & sculpture -
Other 2%

Kunstkompass - (artists rankings at the top end of the market)
7/top 20 work in video/film
Supported by market/collectors/limited editions etc.

How to record and sell immaterial art works?

Ives Klein 'chequebook' of immaterial things.

Nicholas Bourriand 1998 'Relational Aesthetics'. Artists are creating experiences
Weightless economy
Artefacts for sale are not the art itself, but a record of the event. Sometimes framed or beautifully presented, sometimes for different parts of the very top of the market. (Private, corporate, museum)
Schematics for engagements.
'It's physical, but it has to be activated.'
eg the Shindler House construction
'Cult of the Artist'.

Struggle for authenticity, embedding


'\slippage between performance, documentation...interesting FIASTER

Some of my thoughts brought up by the lecture:
Odd to hear a man who makes a living from the very richest talking about Marxist ideas and antimarket/commercialism. Made me think about some things I've been reading in Art Theory for Beginners by Richard Osborne, Dan Sturgis, illus. Natalie Turner. Published in 2006 by Zidane Press London.

 They quote Theodor Adorno, of the Frankfurt School ( a philosopher, referred to Freud and Marx) as asking, 'Can art survive in a late capitalist world? By this I mean, is the existence of art as a producer of critical vision imperiled by the commodity culture of mass society?'

I think he meant 'High Art' as opposed to mass media reproductions or kitsch. I'm not sure where I stand on this. Obviously High Art is something like the pinnacle of human achievement. But I'm not sure about the exclusivity thing, limited editions etc. Does reproducing the Mona Lisa as an advertisement really devalue it or make it no better than sweety packaging?

Walter Benjamin thought about this from 1927 onwards and in a book he wrote called 'The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.' and the same ideas came up in the 1960s with Marshall McLuhan. He said that the 'aura' of a work of art is destroyed by reproduction, by reducing the distance between the work and the audience. For some reason he thought this, and the ability to see more detail than the artist intended, undermines the uniqueness of the original, and 'called into question its authenticity.' I'm not sure I agree with this. And it rather reminds me of the removal of the screens in front of altars in Catholic Churches so that the congregation could actually see what was going on and join in the service. Can't be bad, can it? Democratisation destroying cultishness.

I was interested in reading about Adorno's idea, because it the problem of making art in a commercial world has been on my mind.
So much of art and design is harnessed for marketing and advertising purposes.
We live in an environment where good design is used for selling so much that it takes an effort of will to see design as intended to do something else.
I guess I think this because I believe that 'Art is a freedom to become something. The free becoming of truth.' Martin Heidegger. And truth has a tendency to fall by the wayside when there's something to sell. (I can say, having watched adverts on tv just like everyone else, and briefly tried to be a freelance journalist).

And thinking about the process of making art, can you explore 'the truth' if you are thinking about what the market wants?

Unless your art is exploring the market. Kiss at an empty Guggenheim, refusing to leave physical traces, memorabilia, or even catalogue pages. Is this anti-market, or as some suspect, a sophisticated way to play it?

An article by Holland Cotter reviewing the show in the NY Times 31st Jan 2010 said, 'Things are a problem for Mr. Sehgal, who lives in Berlin and studied political economy before he studied dance. He thinks the world has too many of them, that production is ceaseless and technology destructive. His art is a response to these perceived realities as they play out microcosmically in the context of the art industry. His goal is to create a counter-model: to make something (a situation) from virtually nothing (actions, words) and then let that something disappear, leaving no potentially marketable physical trace.Link to whole article. This philosophy is laudable, and doesn't stop him from selling his events.

I think I agree with Marcel Duchamp who is quoted in the Art Theory book as saying 'There doesn't have to be a lot of the conceptual for me to like something. What I don't like is the completely non-conceptual, which is purely retinal, that irritates me.' If that means what I think it means, that the only good art is one with an... idea. Having said that I'm not so sure about his readymade objects as art.

The uniqueness of a work of art has to be preserved, by making limited editions, contracts with the artist to arrange a performance in a specific way only. What is this about uniqueness? Does it still apply in this open source world? Or only in the top top echelons of the market?

So where is textile art in all of this?

I think it might be investigating ARTPRICE and KUNSTKOMPASS a bit further.

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