|Screen grab of the article that started the conversation...|
A few weeks ago while surfing my Twitter feed, I noticed a tweet from documentary filmmaker Ben Lewis, producer of The Great Contemporary Art Bubble, citing a "bombshell" announcement that Sarah Thornton was no longer reporting on the art world. He quoted her statement that summed up quite simply: "the art market is too corrupt to report on and I quit." I was immediately intrigued and being a huge fan of Thornton's writing I followed Lewis's link to an article Thornton published in the October edition of Tar Magazine titled "Top 10 reasons Not to write about the art market."I have summarized her points in a list here below:
1. It gives too much exposure to artists who attain high prices.
2. It enables manipulators to publicize the artists whose prices they spike at auction.
3. It never seems to lead to regulation.
4. The most interesting stories are libelous.
5. Oligarchs and dictators are not cool.
6. Writing about the art market is painfully repetitive.
7. People send you unbelievably stupid press releases.
8. It implies that money is the most important thing about art.
9. It amplifies the influence of the art market
10. The pay is appalling.
|Sarah Thornton became well known for her study of the|
institutions making up the art world in her wonderfully written
Seven Days in the Art World (2008)
Image courtesy: Canadian Art
Moreover, Schwendener's observations only reinforce Thornton's ten points:
"What all of these shows do, however, is return protest and activism to the white cube and institutions funded, as Occupy Museums points out, by the very people the art work theoretically rails against. "Stop using my art to wash your money," one participant said at Momenta. But this happens all the time…Like other fields, art has a serious money and institution problem that reached a breaking point under neoliberalism. What past art movements taught us is that changing the medium or the definition of an artist doesn't help."
|Christie's auction of a Renoir painting in October-- it wasn't even over and |
the price was already well over $4 million.
Image courtesy: UK Telegraph
As a final note, I absolutely love this 2011 interview with Thornton posted below. Here, much like in her recent article, she offers up candid, honest, and valuable assessments concerning the art world in straight-forward and concise language. In particular, Thornton convincingly argues that too much time is taken up talking about whether people "like" particular kinds of art versus understanding the way art is deployed as a potent form of cultural capital (Ah yes-- this really *is* the task of any good art historian afterall). She also describes how and why she decided to combine her skills in sociology and art history to arrive at her eye-opening accounts of the mechanisms, interests, and power mongering within the contemporary art world-- a fascinating topic in and of itself. But in the end, and despite any misgivings she now has about the subject she has spent so much time invested in, Thornton does share one pearl of wisdom that I think is worth repeating here: "A successful artist is one who doesn't feel bitter." Words to live by, in my humble opinion, whatever your profession.
Horowitz, Noah. Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market. Princeton University Press (2011).
Thompson, Don. The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art. Palgrave Macmillan (2010).
Thornton, Sarah. Seven Days in the Art World. W.W. Norton and Company (2009).