the market has spoken
Post #505 • March 29, 2005, 7:09 AM • 60 Comments
Carol Kino for the New York Times: Marlene Dumas's Number Comes Up. Dumas just set a auction price record for a living female artist - US$3.34 million. I wonder how many people picked up on Kino's barb in this paragraph:
Aside from testifying to the market's heat, the price spike suggests what is sought-after in art today. First of all, Ms. Dumas makes paintings - an enimently "housable" medium, as auction house experts like to say. Her work intermingles high and pop-cultural imagery and touches on favored hot buttons, from politics to female sexuality to race. Her overall subject can be construed as the ambiguity of the pictorial image, a major critical talking point right now. Add to that her strong museum track record, and you have market kismet, for in the current boom, as any dealer will tell you, "quality" is king.
This is pretty nasty for the NYT, and rightly suggests that the term quality has been co-opted by people who are using it to describe sales potential, social relevance, or anything besides inherent goodness.
See if you can unpack this comment by former Miamian Amy Capellazzo:
For Amy Cappellazzo, who jointly runs postwar and contemporary art sales at Christie's New York, there are obvious reasons for Ms. Dumas's market spike. "This is a perfect market in that here is an artist who is not a child - she's a mature artist with 25 years of work behind her," she said. "The subject matter is so rich and relevant and compelling. There are not too many paintings in places where you can't control the market. It's just the right formula."
So the formula is: mature artist, plus compelling subject matter, plus something about not being able to control the market, equals price spike. I think this is another barb from Kino, to let Capellazzo sound fatuous like this.
Dumas's charmless awkwardness and her sissy humor at the expense of artists who can paint circles around her don't do much for me, but the market has spoken. It said, "baaaaa." This is the flipside of the market, which I have been praising lately as a possible corrective force: it will only work thusly if someone exercises some spine.
What we need is a clever sheep.