Markets are markets and the behavior they exhibit is neither good nor bad; it simply is. Pretty much every pundit on the anti-free-market, art- transactions-are-a-boogeyman bandwagon, are hard at the heels critics and writers feeling the pinch more than most. The market for art writing, i.e., the paying readership and remuneration for the task, has gone from little to very little. Critics were never paid much but always had power and influence. Not any more. This has as much to do with the short attention spans of the public as with the move to an economics oriented art practice—the focus has shifted from the objects to the prices by both collector-speculators and artists themselves. But so what?
To cast blame misses the point. That reputations fluctuate faster than fashion and prices are at just as much risk to go down as up only reflects actions and reactions of markets in general, sometimes psychologically caused, but so is the stock market. Why don’t people complain more then about the wild gyrations of Wall Street and its Dow? Blake Gopnik, a recently out of work, disgruntled art critic, in his own words honestly believes he can singlehandedly burst the art bubble he posits and thereby move the market. I’d love to lunch with him to hear the full explication as to how; in fact, forget the meal I think I’d like to partner with him and go into business immediately.
“I called the top of the Hirst market exactly when it happened”, so added Felix Salmon of Reuters to his market bashing, which sentiment is symptomatic of the hubris of the writers, beating their chests with proclamations of self-importance. In reality, these are merely feeble attempts at one-upmanship to out-clever the clever entrepreneurs that enjoy participating in the buying and selling of art for whatever their reasons may be, and they cover the gamut, but its their prerogative. Why not? I am going out on a limb: I love and respect the art market, it’s beauty and blemishes alike.
Gopnik calls Gerhard Richter abstractions, en bloc, “schlock”, which is worse than childish, buffoonish and moronic, it’s simply wrong, as anyone with a real involvement with art instinctively knows. He also derogatorily refers to the “souk-like atmosphere” surrounding fairs and auctions, which is blatant antipathy to the basic act of exchange; this can only be the sentiment of someone who doesn’t create or partake—should artists not sell their works and collectors refrain from buying?
Salmon and Kelly Crow pay lip service to the U’s and X’s of Wade Guyton’s inkjet printed art works (who I showed first in 1997, if you can’t beat them…) that fetch upwards of a million dollars, as fast and easy signs of eXcess (sorry couldn’t help myself) and everything objectionable about art and the art world; but to each their own, I happen to like them, and at those levels too. On another note, Salman has it out in no uncertain terms for our very own Art Market Monitor, and such attacks only serve to further undermine the overall seriousness of these spates of attacks.
Gopnik says you can buy 20 Duchamps for the price of a Koons and by all means go ahead, that is the wonderful world of the free market: we all have the unfettered volition to pursue what we wish, at whatever levels we see fit. Or not. Says Salmon, don’t buy Christopher Wools when you don’t know how many thousands he’s made. Felix, last I remember Picasso made tens of thousands of pieces in every imaginable medium (and the glory of much of it); if this uninformed, polemical nonsense was written in the 1950’s, I’d wager you’d write him off too.
Salmon closes his diatribe with the thought that new buyers stepping into the void while others have opted out is a sign of a top instead of a fundamental and healthy expansion of the breadth of the market, and the shortsighted comment: “the whole art market has become hollow at the core, in a way it never used to be.” I hate to burst his bubble but art and money have long been bedfellows, and lovers they are still. In the long run, bitterness and desperation are rather unappealing traits that will only drive the shriveling audience further away from this kind of wrongheaded, one-sided discourse.