Like the proverbial Phoenix emerging from the ashes or the bad penny turning up again depending on your preference towards modern art ,the Frieze Art Fair has once again transformed Regents Park into a psychedelic wonderland of conceptual bits and bob ranging from a mob of headless figures to a ten foot tall penguin, all of which blending both successfully or otherwise with the conservative avenues of flowers and trees and greeted by a mixed audience of art lovers and tourists. We are teased with this tasty starter before the main course is opened to the public along with the cash registers on the 4th of October. Lets not forget that the Frieze both here in the London and New York is staged for the purpose of selling art and sell it does to the tune of many millions of pounds.
As the progressive building works transforms a modest field into a small city featuring 170 contemporary galleries that will once again play host to a estimated 70,000 visitors, Frieze has outgrown its original conception back in 2003 to become a regular favourite on the London scene and the Frieze Sculpture Park now even features in the tourist guilds. But not everybody welcomes Frieze, as many believe art has been highjacked by investors who see nothing but a fast way to build cash in the lucrative if unpredictable world of art investment. Back in 2003 Taylor Jardine and hundreds of investors and artists lost millions of pounds with the collapse of Britains largest investment company that was thought gilt edge at the time, banking with Harrods and storing art at Christies. Over 750 investors it is now believed lost on average £8,000 each and 8k was worth a awful lot more seventeen years ago then it is now. But far from deterring people, art investment has never been more popular.
A quick search on Google i found 3,000 pages on the subject of art investment, many offering advice on dumping the stock market in favour of artwork and even the BBC suggested that as art has no correlation to the Stock Markets fickle ups and downs and that art can and does go up in value when markets are crashing, making it a good diversification for a investment portfolio. But is there more to art then its monetary value, if i may quote from a very fine article on the subject of the real value we place on creativity by Donald Kuspit, Art Values or Money Values is a must read and this short passage sums up what many feel about the way art is going.
“I will suggest that the irrational exuberance of the contemporary art market is about breeding money, not the fertility of art and that commercially precious works have become the organ grinders monkey” Donald Kuspit.
The problem with art investment like any other investment is the danger of favouring and promoting one artist over many others by way of protecting ones investment ,much the same way as one would protect and promote a rock band, racehorse, football star or any other commodity. Could art critics, major art competitions, art publications or even major art galleries be influenced by outside investors perhaps by way of generous donations or advertising space in case of art publications. The very idea could be seen by Joe or Jane public who enter competitions in good faith as a corruption in the selection process of their talent and at best they are there only to make up the numbers. Lets face it the very idea of art (competitions) is subjective to the point of absurdity and open to all kinds of interpretation as to the meaning of impartiality. But then again if the judging of art competitions is based on nothing more then the sellibility of the work,It could also be argued this is resonable and expected behaviour in the palm greasing world of business and investment and all those aspiring artist in search of fame and fourtune should expect nothing less from this harsh lesson in business practice and lets face most successful artists are and have always been smart business people.
This is nothing new of course, for instance would the world have heard of Van Gogh had it not been for the years of promotion of his work by his sister-in-law Johanna van Gogh-Bonger ,wife of Theo, Vincent’s brother. After the death of both Vincent and Theo, Johanna spent the rest of her life until her death in 1925, spreading the word of Vincent’s life and donating paintings to early retrospective exhibition across Europe with the help of German art dealer and publisher Paul Cassirer. Put the most successful artists of our time under the microscope and on most occasion you will find a magic benefator or to use the gambler’s terminology ‘the ace in the hole” or perhaps a quote from the business bible “there is no secrets to success and great things in business are never done by one person”.
If art is to be judged only on its monetary value, then in the case of modern art there is a need to ask does it have a sell-by date. Will the seven foot (frankly aggressive) looking plastic penguin standing to attention on the lawn of Regents Park share the same longevity as Michelangelo’s David, will our reverence and affection grow over he next five hundred years or will it become another victim of the age of disposible plastic, to fade from sight never to be seen again after a year or two. Perhaps the only real art is screaming at us from every wall and pavement in the city with the exception of the ones in our art galleries.
Banksy had it right (had)
TheFitz Words photographs David Coomber