OUR COLUMNIST SCULPTURESTEPH REFLECTS ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRICE AND VALUE WHEN TALKING ABOUT ART:
‘Who decides and defines what is ‘impressionism’, or that Michelangelo, Picasso or Pollock are great artists and their works are worth a fortune? To a big part (hopefully) the aesthetics, what emotions, thoughts or ideas it may conjure up with one or multiple viewers, how it achieves that. Another dimension of value may be added through an appreciation for specific narratives of a dramatic story associated with the creation, display and/ or selling of a work, it’s vandalism and miraculous survival, ‘mis’ interpretations and ‘new’ findings, etc….
At the end of the day all of this requires for viewers (a human being) of the work to see some value in it worthwhile communicating, or otherwise it wouldn’t get it’s ‘reputation’ spread to wider audiences. Each human is subjective and will have differing definitions of the ‘language’ he/ she uses to express their very own definitions of their values. For all values, except the monetary one, these can all co-exist and be valid individually.
To allocate a monetary value, there needs to be a common consensus on agreeing to a value attachment. The most effective way to do so is to do a good ‘sales pitch’ (Art fairs, gallery, exhibition openings, award ceremonies, magazines, news, etc) which through modern media is easy to do, and the recipients do not even physically need to ‘experience’ the product, which if they did, would also address the other values specific to each individual with the result that it may not mean much to them, or not enough to part with their money.
What is relevant today, in the past and in the future (for which ever values, aesthetics, monetary, information, emotional, etc…) is determined by the ‘mass societies’ common values, and hence one Art work may be thought after one day and forgotten 50 years later when events have altered these views, values and fashions (not very good investment when bought at the wrong time).
‘Rarity’, ‘age’ and the name of a well known ‘artist’ (or ‘maker’ or ‘celebrity’) are always reasonably safe tags for any art work to immediately jump up the monetary valuation scale, because demand outstrips supply, so to speak. The motivation for being willing to pay large sums of money in these cases, is often less about the artistic value and more about ‘Trophy hunting’ and therefore does not give an indication of the artistic, emotional, aesthetic, etc, qualities of the work.
At the same time not everything that is currently marketed in this way is subsequently ‘not really Art’ or must be ‘bad Art’.
Only appreciating an art work through the price tag is misleading and doesn’t even scratch the surface of a work’s real potential (in meaning, inspiration, historical document, personal contemplation, resolve, happiness, spiritual, fun, etc…) to one or many individuals, groups, communities, societies, cultures.
The image, and idea of ‘Art’ today is so marketable, because the term Art and it’s definition have become ‘currency’, through the dominance in our language on communicating Capitalism to sustain consumerism that defines and builds Capitalism.
If the experts (curators, gallerists, buyers, auction houses, art critics, art institutions) say it is ‘Art’ and attach million dollar (or pounds Stirling) price tags to it, than they can be seen as the ‘stock brokers’ (and not necessarily as ‘experts’) selling us shares of the ‘idea’ of having ‘taste’ or ‘being hip’ by consuming the advertised product (just like buying into the concept of ‘youth’ by paying money to have lots of plastic injected into ones body).
Art is the mechanism to see through the ‘marketing’ (or ‘manipulation’) and ‘ad campaigns’, to raise above the ‘masses blind following’.
So it can’t be sold (hence useless to capitalism) only experienced or learned and applied- until you change the language of mass communication that excludes the vocabulary of Art and are left with a language of judgement; good, or bad, worth or worthless, right or wrong, useful for reaching numerical values expressed as ‘money’.
As communication is also a mechanism to make the intangible, concepts conscious and to be conscious; Art has been pushed into the subconscious, so no longer distracts our consciousness to consume. And I do feel that we are conscious consumers.
I like to argue that it is merely a shift in our consciousness and language of communication, that could abolish the concept of the ‘art market’ to a less significant one.’