- Year: 2016
- Language: Russian
- Publisher: Ad Marginem
- ISBN: 9785911033095
- Page: 288
- Cover: paperback
Published during the art boom of the 2000s, Isabelle Graw’s study explores the transformation of art market and the changing role of the artist in a neoliberal economy. It is one of the central assumptions of this book that art is a commodity unlike any other.
When leading auctioneers claim that the most expensive works are also the best, and collectors’ opinions are more important than those of critics, when Damien Hirst’s works, made by his assistants, are sold for millions while he entertains bankers and celebrities at exhibition openings, one can’t help arriving at the conclusion that art has been completely commercialized and the art world, like the fashion and film industries, is governed by corporate mergers and the celebrity principle. However, apart from the market price, any work of art has a symbolic value, which cannot be completely monetized. This surplus value, created by art professionals, stops the realm of the aesthetic from being completely devoured by economy. Much as art dealers, auctioneers and art fair organizers would love to do without intermediaries, they still have to turn to art historians and critics in order to maximize their profits.
According to Graw, a similar logic can be applied to today’s artistic practices: only those aware of the dichotomy between the market and symbolic values can produce a contemporary artwork. Gustav Courbet was able to do that as early as in the nineteenth century: developing a critique of art made for salons, he also attracted attention to his own practice. The first art celebrity Andy Warhol was rich and famous, yet managed to distance himself from the image of an established artist by turning his own life into a performance. Today, Isabelle Graw argues, this critical function is often performed by artists like Andrea Fraser and Merlin Carpenter, whose practice is focused on the relationship between art and commerce. Unlike Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons, they use the art market and expose its structure, without rejecting—or buying into—the mainstream culture.