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READER JP PAUL SAYS ABOUT THE CONTEMPORARY ART BUBBLE:

‘Pricing and interpretation rarely need to intersect. Even many insiders don’t understand much of what’s happening in the arts but they have no problem buying and selling objects.

However, it’s undeniable that dollars are the new critics. Look at all the curators, journalists and reviewers who have abandoned the art field entirely over the past few years or have taken influential positions in the commercial sector. Their opinions rarely matter anymore.

One example is young artist Nate Lowman. Most reviews I’ve read find his work vapid and silly, yet the Mugrabi juggernaut is all in, recently purchasing a work for 300K. As are the Brants. With that kind of backing, the opinion of both the public and art professionals means squat. Same may be said about the rapid rise of Oscar Murillo, Jacob Kasay, Wade Guyton, Tauba Auerbach, the YBAs and countless others. No critic could explain what’s special about their work nor why it’s any better than anyone else’s. Didn’t matter. The dealer-collector-curator machinery anointed them anyway and then retrofitted explanations for the masses.

Major Collector Tico Mugrabi put i this way in an article about mega-dealer David Zwirner by Nick Paumgarten: “At $8,000 something is not that interesting. At $80,000 it becomes more interesting. At $800,000, it’s the talk of the town. That is what this market is all about.” No mention of understanding.

Journalist Paumgarten also says this: “It is possible to make a very fine living in contemporary art if you know what to buy when and have some ability to control supply.” Key words: ching-ching… control.

It’s really not about understanding or value. It’s about control. With it, you create whatever prices and interpretations you like. Guggenheim director, Richard Armstrong, says “the major dealers like Zwirner and Gagosian have all the integrity they can afford to have.” That’s chilling.

On Cynic Sunday, bottom line in my view is that confusion and obscurity are actually desirable traits that enable price manipulation in the first place. Understanding just doesn’t matter. That’ll be left for the hindsight of historians to filter and mould just like it’s always been done. Problem for us trying to make sense of all of this today is that hindsight doesn’t work until we’re looking backward’

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