Subtitled 20 Key Topics, this is a symposium devoted to the business of the art business. The editors both hold senior positions at Sotheby’s Institute of Art and many of the contributors are involved with that body. This is, therefore, nothing if not authoritative. Subjects addressed include globalisation, ethics, emerging markets, authenticity, due diligence and artist/dealer/collector relationships.
Art business is a fact of life, although it has little, if anything, to do with the creative process. It would be nice to think that patronism fitted in here somewhere – that dealers could (would/should) develop relationships with collectors and, in turn, introduce them to emerging talent that could be nurtured, if not for its own sake, then as a possible investment. That happens, of course, but not at this level. Those involved here are the high rollers who want works that are guaranteed to at least hold their value and preferably increase immeasurably. Much of this was visible in the recent BBC documentary on the rival auction house, Christies.
Do you detect a note of jaded cynicism here? You bet you do. I’m perfectly aware that there is a market for “great” art and that, once an artist dies, their oeuvre is complete – to quote from another context, “buy land, they aren’t making any more”. However, I can’t help feeling that there’s an evil spirit driving this multi-billion [insert currency here] behemoth and I’m not sure I’m all that keen on this uncritical insight, excellently done though it is.
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