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Art, money, politics

Post #908 • November 15, 2006, 11:10 PM • 5 Comments

Pissarro to his son Lucien, April 13, 1891:

Since Durand is unable to support all the impressionists, it is entirely to his interest to let them fall by the wayside after he has obtained enough of their work, for he knows their pictures will not sell until much later. The lower the rpices, the better for him - he can leave our canvases to his children. He behaves like a modern speculator for all his angelic soft-spokenness. Sisley, who can't forgive his promises, is convinced that Durand has lost out with Monet whose exceptional luck and real talent served him in good stead. If I could find some base of support, I would certainly frustrate his hyena-like calculations - but my work is not understood, particularly since the death of Théo Van Gogh. Such is the influence of a man who believes! That is the sort of man it is necessary to find. But such men are not ready-to-order. Perhaps I am out of date, or my art may conflict and not be conciliable with the general trend which seems to have gone mysteical. It must be that only another generation, free from all religious, mystical, unclear conceptions, a generation which would again turn in the direction of the most modern ideas, could have the qualities necessary to admire this approach. I firmly believe that something of our ideas, born as they are of the anarchist philosophy, passes into our works which are thus antipathetic to the current trend. Certainly I feel that there is symapthy for us among certain free spirits, but the one I can't understand is Degas, for he loves Gauguin and flatters me so. Friendliness and no more? ... How [to] understand him ... such an anarchist! in art, of course, and without realizing it!

Comment

1.

jordan

November 16, 2006, 12:09 AM

...wow! I'll return with comments later...

2.

Oak

November 16, 2006, 8:11 AM

History repeats.

3.

anusim

November 18, 2006, 3:13 AM

Pissaro ? Lewis for sure!

4.

jordan

November 19, 2006, 2:08 AM

I would like to read Prof. Harpers comments here.

What would Pissaro express about Monet's images adorning cups, neck ties and even garbage buckets?

What Cezanne learned from Pissaro and then passed on to the 20th century seems worthy of discussion.

Trends are seductive in as much as they are related to ones survival and reflect a fear/insecurity of losing basic needs. I can attest. It is hard for us to see how the impressionists were so radical given the overkill of their painterly efforts in a media society. However given that Pissaro (among others) was conscious of being "misunderstood" , it appears to be a favourable possition to some artists working out their thing, and unfavourable to those who where dealt with a different hand and want to assert their presence in the world and thus shape trends. In reality I am much closer to Pissaro's sentiment. In fantasy I am both hotter and cooler. Either way, a looser.

5.

George

November 19, 2006, 11:20 AM

I would like to suggest that the artworld is so different today that making comparisons with the periods at turn of the last two centuries might lead one to draw incorrect conclusions about how the artworld is actually functioning today.

The obvious major difference is the sheer size of the art world today compared with its size at the turn of the 19th century. By ‘size’, I mean everything, the number of artists, the number of collectors, the number of galleries and the amounts of money transacted. Obvious reasons for this are the increases in the world population and the world GDP.

As Capitalist economies mature, the consumer sector becomes a larger part of the economic structure because it facilitates full employment by expanding the means for providing both goods and services. The art market has now become a small but significant niche in the consumer market. It is still a luxury market, but so are yachts and Ferraris.

Pisarro’s lament that his work is not ‘understood’ would probably not apply in today’s marketplace. Certainly fashion dictates what is currently in favor, but this has always been the case. Today I think that saying ones work is ‘misunderstood’, in Pisarro’s sense that it is too radical, is a misplaced notion. The idea of the hegemony of a dominant single ‘style’ has been crushed by the sheer number of artists working today.

If the idea of a ‘dominant style’ has been deprecated, what has replaced it? I think it is the dominant artist, one who’s work defines or is in the forefront of an aspect of art world fashion. Fashion is nothing more than another word for style. Today’s most successful artists have succeeded because their work has a fashion stylistic identity which makes the work visible in a noisy background of thousands of artists.

Those who cheer the 140 million dollar sales of De Kooning and Pollock and then roundly jeer at the sale of a Klimt in the same price range (or a Johns for half) are really only expressing a preference for Armani over Prada (or Givenchy? nevermind). Like Warhol or not, he defined an era and will have a place in museums in the future. All artists have periods when they are more favor than others and as such their ‘museum visibility’ will vary.

The real question an artist could ask oneself might be ‘is my work misunderstood, or am I misunderstanding the marketplace?’ and what does that mean?

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