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Thoughts on the Art Economy

The more we’ve been thinking about the current state of the art market, the more we’re growing tired of it.

Now that the economy is providing a much-needed shakedown in the art world, VoCA says it’s time to re-think where the value of art stems from. Value doesn’t come from some clever young art school grad who comes up with a new take on an old story…art has value because it contains a universally recognized, though often subtle, authentic quality.


Francesco Clemente, House of Cards, 2001. Image: artnet.com

As Marx wrote, the value of money stems from the labour to which it was once – but no longer – attached. Likewise, art on the secondary market has divorced itself from its real, important meaning and begins to take on much more sinister associations.

(Check out the excellent NYT article on mega-dealer Larry Gagosian HERE if you haven’t already)

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Jeppe Hein, Water Flame, 2006. Image: sieshoeke.com

Ultimately having a Warhol may mean you’re wealthy, but does it make you any more interesting? No. How about a Jeppe Hein? No.

(Well, maybe slightly.)

So we’d really like to see a turn toward widespread acknowledgement of the infrastructure that supports the arts in Canada. The organizers, the educators, the promoters, the museum directors, the patrons and the entrepreneurs who work tirelessly to promote Canadian art.

Stay tuned.

4 Responses to “Thoughts on the Art Economy”

  1. Thank you for reminding us why we make art and how lucky Canadians are to have the art infrastructure that we do.

  2. Bill says:

    It’s the not the Larry Gagosians and David Zwirners of the art world that I’m thinking about. They’re going to be able to ride out this economic downturn. It’s the mid-sized galleries these guys poached from and the small galleries giving young artists their first shows that I’m more concerned about. Sure, a lot of galleries that were just cynically getting in on the art boom will probably go down (and this purging is totally necessary), but it’ll be sad to see some good places inevitably succumb, too.

  3. Amrita says:

    Economic downturns can be a blessing in disguise for any business, galleries included, because it forces us to look at what’s meaningful and what’s fluff.

    I have used this time to shift the direction of my gallery to focus more on what I show and not what I sell which I think will do me well in the long run. Obviously not all galleries may not be able to ride out this downturn, but some may look at innovative ways to stay afloat.

    And I second your notion that this cooling off period may result in people focusing more on the art and not the price tag.

    In addition to the Gagosian article, there’s another good article in the NYT about this very subject. http://tinyurl.com/cdfzrd

  4. Steve "economic downturn" Jobs says:

    why should we feel lucky Margaret? Having a thriving art milieu is a right. I suppose you also feel lucky our prime minister “plays” the piano?

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