Despite the carnage seen in the Contemporary Art market, the last year has not been nearly as bad as many predicted. There remains a market for Contemporary art that just didn’t exist in the 1990s. Britain’s Guardian offers a clue as to why in a story questioning the value of Birmingham’s opening its own museum of Contemporary. Here’s Matt Price on the subject of Contemporary Art’s unexpected drawing power:
Regardless of the art market’s current woes, contemporary art has never seemed more popular with the public. More than 60,000 people make their way to London’s Frieze art fair each October, while 750,000 visitors attend the Serpentine Gallery’s exhibitions, summer pavilion and Park Nights programme each year. At the top of the contemporary art charts is Tate Modern, which has an extraordinary 4.6 million visitors per year – more than double the number it was designed to accommodate. […]
Their success masks a problem, however. Although many cities and towns are showing strong exhibitions, most of them don’t actually own much of the art they show; public collections of contemporary art around England simply aren’t as good as they should be. Arts Council England acknowledged this in a 2006 report, bluntly asserting that “regional collections in England do not represent the visual art of our time”.
With its plans for a new museum, Birmingham is the first city that seems to be seriously addressing this problem. From the public discussion earlier this month, it was clear that Watkins is thinking big: he wants vast spaces capable of presenting large-scale sculptures and installations, with an acquisitions policy aiming to collect the most celebrated artists currently working around the world. It’s an ambitious plan. There’s no doubt that the West Midlands’ collections of contemporary art need to be much bigger and better, but do they need to be this much bigger and better? And do they need their own bespoke museum?
For our purposes, the real issue is whether all of these museums–in the UK and around the world–are acquiring art and supporting the market in the process. In other words, is there greater demand for contemporary art than anyone realized?