Time again for one of our favorite games where art critics bitterly complain about the values and volume of money in the art market. Today’s episode features Dave Hickey and Will Gompertz bemoaning the confusion of price with quality. The art market is a distribution system. It’s a voting machine. Art History is a value system or a weighing machine.
Paying a lot of money to own a work of art doesn’t make that work more important or even more valuable. But Gompertz puts his finger on a far more dangerous problem: institutions that are supposed to stand apart from the distribution system like museums seem to be getting sucked into the influence of the market and following its agenda.
Hickey’s comments, on the other hand, are simply an expression of bitterness over lost status. However, top prize for dissembling goes to Laura Cummings (see below):
Dave Hickey […] is walking away from a world he says is calcified, self-reverential and a hostage to rich collectors who have no respect for what they are doing.
“They’re in the hedge fund business, so they drop their windfall profits into art. It’s just not serious,” he told the Observer. “Art editors and critics – people like me – have become a courtier class. All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It’s not worth my time.” […]
Gompertz, who recently wrote What Are You Looking At? 150 Years of Modern Art, sympathised with Hickey’s frustration.
“Money and celebrity has cast a shadow over the art world which is prohibiting ideas and debate from coming to the fore,” he said yesterday, adding that the current system of collectors, galleries, museums and art dealers colluding to maintain the value and status of artists quashed open debate on art.
The Observer’s Laura Cummings seems to to have forgotten the major museum shows for market-favored artists Damien Hirst and Gerhard Richter run recently in London:
“The palace Hickey’s describing, with its lackeys and viziers, its dealers and advisers, is more of an American phenomenon. It’s true that we too have wilfully bad art made for hedge fund managers, but the British art scene is not yet so thick with subservient museum directors and preening philanthropists that nothing is freely done and we can’t see the best contemporary art in our public museums because it doesn’t suit the dealers.”