Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon attended Victor Pinchuk’s event at Davos. Salmon, who is married to an artist, has some interesting lacunae when it comes to applying his understanding of finance to art. His recent post about the Pinchuk event featuring Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons contains one or two. The most valuable blind spot to focus upon is this statement:
On the flight back from Davos I read Art of the Deal , a new book by Noah Horowitz taking a deep look at the art market in general and art funds in particular. It’s definitely not for a general audience — Horowitz writes, for instance, about “desubjectivization as a challenge to the ‘capitalist character of aesthetic relationships’ and networks as an anticommodification avant-gardist strategy,” and that’s only a little bit of a single sentence — but he did help me think more about the way in which the art market has become less and less about art, and ever more about people.
The emphasis has been added to underscore a simple point that is easily obscured. The art market has always been about people. The purpose of a market is to allow persons to exchange goods. One enters a market with a thing that one values less–meaning you want to give it away–hoping to trade it for a thing you value more–you want to take it away. In a market, money is just another good. Persons with a great deal of money might prefer any number of things to more slips of colored paper.
The art market itself is a mechanism for distributing art from one person to another. So it must be “about people.” Art’s great power–literature, music and culture too–is that its value lies beyond the market. It has no direct use. And cannot be consumed. With many works of art, the art persists long after many persons who have owned it have perished.
When Plutocrats Collect Artists (Reuters)