The New York Times is back to being hostile to the art market. Today, the editorial pages carry a brief essay on the meaing of the Giacometti record price set two weeks ago: “Not only does it signal that the plutocracy believes it successfully eluded financial Armageddon. At a stroke, the sale made clear that the rich are back in their rightful place at the apex of the world.”
Art, of course, is a window into the soul. It builds meaning from thin air. It measures the pulse of culture, the heartbeat of civilization. All that. But it also is a neat indicator of the unique economics that govern the lives of the Masters of the Universe who buy it. [ . . . ] Evolutionary biologists argue these conspicuous purchases do the same job as peacock tails — signaling to peahens that they are fit enough to expend an inordinate amount of energy on producing colorful feathers. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argued that aesthetic choices are social markers with which the powerful signal their power and set themselves apart from other, inferior groups.
Editorial Notebook: The Power of Art (New York Times)