When Financial Products Shape Cultural Content

A recent report from Art Institutions of the 21st Century, authored by Sebastien Montabonel and Diana Vives. “This report considers the conditions that transformed the art world in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, and evaluates the consequences of this radical shift with the aim of encouraging a constructive debate between the many stakeholders of the art ecosystem

The report makes an interesting assertion: “But overall, the impact of technology on art over the last fifteen years has been minor compared to other industries and the big changes are yet to come. The biggest transitions were in fact caused by two major shifts: firstly, the intensive branding, of artists, galleries and institutions; secondly, the addition of a financial dimension to the business model of art.”

Perhaps we haven’t seen overt changes similar to those brought about by Apple, Facebook, Google, Uber, AirBnB, Huawei, et al. However, I would argue that whilst new technologies lie at the heart of many interesting and important art works, and have facilitated innovative developments, along with associated challenges, in the production, distribution, exhibition and collection of art, they have also played a key role in the creation of divisive and damaging oligopoly within the contemporary art world.

The report goes on to note: “At the Davos World Economic Forum in 2015 the American economist Nouriel Roubini argued that the art sector was an opaque market with no clear financial value, prone to “fads, passions, manias, booms and busts” with serious “distortions”, vulnerable to money laundering, tax evasion, trading on inside information and price manipulation – “While art looks as if it is all about beauty, as a business it is full of shady stuff.””

The report is available here.

The New Conservatism: Complicity and the UK Art World's Performance of Progression

Morgan Quaintance's provocation/accusation in the e-flux conversations series. The article and the associated comments are worth reading as a starting point for debate about the shortcomings of the current structure of the visual arts eco-system:

"Today, despite a passion for the vocabulary of change amongst those who populate the art world’s upper echelons, and a conceptual belief in ‘rupture’, ‘paradigm shift’, and ‘the turn’, radical alteration of the field, and the concrete and cognitive institutions that comprise it – galleries, museums, art criticism, notions of best practice, etc. – has not taken place..."


Statement by the Shortlisted Nominees of the 2017 Preis der Nationalgalerie

Another interesting e-flux conversation that reflects upon the institutional structures of the art-world:

"Our statement is a means to highlight and recommend changes to three problematic aspects of the prize, which we find indicative of broader and growing trends in the art field and therefore deserving of a public ear..." Sol Calero, Iman Issa, Jumana Manna, and Agnieszka Polska.


The Digital Divide: Contemporary Art and New Media

Claire Bishop's provocative polemical critique of mainstream contemporary art's use of and intellectual engagement with the internet and digital technologies remains an important and relevant contribution to the debate around the current structure of the contemporary art world and the profound impact of new technologies. It's worth reading the original article (published in September 2012 edition Artforum - available here to registered users), the related comments published on the Artforum website, and the reply from Lauren Cornell and Brian Droitcour (plus Bishop's response) published in the January 2013 Artforum.

"To recap my argument: 'Digital Divide' examines the mainstream art world’s disavowal of digital media in its ongoing fixation with the analog, the archival, the obsolete, and pre-digital modes of communication and presence. I argue that contemporary art’s attachment to these modes is largely a consequence of its being wedded to a market that prefers and privileges auratic forms. The article is first and foremost a critique of the dominant tendencies in contemporary art since 2000, as found in museums, galleries, and biennials: those that receive the majority of curatorial, critical, and art-historical attention. It’s not an article about new media or digital art."

It shouldn’t be called Computer Art in the first place. There’s confusion between how something is produced and what you show.  Nobody says: ‘he’s a pencil artist’ because he makes only drawings.  I always laughed when people asked if it was art.  What else is it?  It’s what I do…  It’s either art and it’s interesting or it’s nothing.” Manfred Mohr, 2012


Writers Have Long Perceived The Power Of Words To Shape Experience

Marina Warner's reflections (in the LRB's Diary 16 November 2017) on the the importance of the arts and artistic ways of thinking in shaping people's lives and, by extension, of Government support for the arts and libraries and museums and public broadcasting and... 

"'We were speaking about writing, Friedman said... Some of us never forgot its value. That the reason we continue to live on this contested scrap of land today is because of the story we began to write about ourselves in this place nearly three millennia ago... we didn't invent the idea of a single God; we only wrote a story of our struggle to remain true to Him and in doing so we invented ourselves. We gave ourselves a past and inscribed ourselves into the future." From Nicole Krauss's Forest Dark.

"You and I longed for Querig's end, thinking only of our own dear memories. Yet who knows what old hatreds will loosen across the land now? We must hope God yet finds a way to preserve the bonds between our peoples, yet custom and suspicion have always divided us. Who knows what will come when quick-tongued men make ancient grievances rhyme with fresh desire for land and conquest." From Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant.


Creativity can be taught to anyone. So why are we leaving it to private schools?

"The myth goes that the true artist is born, mysteriously fully formed in their own exceptional talent. A second myth holds that creativity thrives in adversity; a third that creative sorts are somehow morally wayward, something to be tolerated as long as the results are diverting, but not a model for citizenship. These three combine gloriously in the icon of a lascivious and poverty-stricken Mozart, writing sonatas while still in the womb. It seems increasingly clear that the British government has bought into this fiction. What other explanation can there be for the baffling disconnect between its industrial strategy, which prizes the creative industries as a priority sector, and an education policy that is deliberately squeezing creativity out of our children’s learning?..." Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, writing in The Guardian.