Sunday, October 19, 2014

Contemporary Art : Why David Byrne Is Wrong

(Drivebycuriosity) - "I don`t care about contemporary art anymore", writes David Byrne (davidbyrne). The founding member of the band "Talking Heads" is still famous and finds a lot of attention for his political and cultural comments. I found the link to his article about contemporary art @ one of my favorite blogs (marginal).

Byrne claims that "the art world caters to the 1%. It’s obvious that the outrageous prices for contemporary art mean that—although anyone can look—only the very wealthy can afford it".


1. I often visit contemporary art galleries in New York´s Chelsea area and in the Lower East Side. The art brokers offer a huge variety of works and demand a broad spectrum of prices depending on the reputation of the artist. I see there a lot contemporary paintings which is often priced way below $100.000. Recently I visited the Fitzroy Gallery in in the Lower East Side (fitzroy). Currently they are showing the works of 4 artists. The price list covers a range of $3,000 to $14,000. Below this paragraph you can see a quartet of paintings by Cassandra MacLeod, all priced for $5,000. There follows another work by the same artist, which I like more, which is offered for $12,000.

The more prestigious galleries in New York´s Chelsea area also offer often works for prices below $20,000. For instance the gallery  RH Contemporary Art sells a lot of paintings for $15,000 and less (rhcontemporary). If you go to London and attend the classy Frieze Art Fair, which is running now, you can get paintings in the range of $18,000 to $40,000 (artnews).

You also can buy affordable art online of course. London`s renowned Saatchy Gallery offers contemporary paintings below $1,000 (saatchi). The online company organizes an auction where the prices start in the range of $10,000 to $25.000 (artnet) and you can purchase contemporary art @ (here a link to their art section: amazon). These works might not hit the exquisite taste bud of Mr. Byrne, but they are certainly not just for the 1%.

2. There is deluge of fresh contemporary art. Usually every day in New York City there are 2 or more gallery receptions for a new exhibition of contemporary art. It seems there is  flood of new and upcoming artists who are eager to sell their produces. And there are a lot of art fairs in the US and in Europe which create markets for new and upcoming artists. The ubiquity of events and artists leads to a strong competition between painters, sculptors and other artists, who are tryingf to sell their works for a reasonable price (even if Mr. Byrne doesn´t care anyore).

3. Just the works of some top stars like Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Anselm Kiefer and Damien Hirst are traded for $1,000,000 and more. It seems just 1% of the artists world caters the 1%. The mass of unknown artists has to struggle to survive.

4. And: Even if the "rich" buy contemporary art, the paintings and sculptures do not necessarily disappear. Recently I visited the amazing Dia:Beacon museum in upstate New York (diaart). They have an impressive collection of gorgeous sculptures including Richard Serra´s massive steel installations. I was told that the museum had already auctioned all displayed works. But the sculptures are still there even that they belong now to some investors (maybe part of the 1%). These investors don´t bother to take the acquired art works with home. Why should they? The museum takes care of the precious works (including security). Btw: There is hall with 4 huge holes in the ground (Michael Heizer: "North, East, West, South"). Who wants to take holes with him?

5. Museums like Tate Modern, MomMa, Guggenheim and others often show works loaned by external owners, who might be part of the 1%. The museum shows raise the value of their investments. Therefore I can enjoy contemporary art even when it belongs to the "rich".

6. I still enjoy going to museums, galleries & art fairs. There is always something new to see and to discover. Many art works might disappear because the "rich" will buy them. But there is a continuous stream of new things to see. Spotting contemporary art is like attending a rock festival. I don´t need to buy the groups and to take them home with me.

1 comment:

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