Market Monday: Blurred Lines
This week in the industry, boundaries were smudging everywhere, for better and for worse...
In her recap of Art Basel Hong Kong's early days, Amy Qin largely focused on the newly expansive tastes of China's younger generation of collectors. According to dealers at the fair, members of this demographic are "less concerned with nationality and feel more comfortable buying works by non-Chinese artists" than their predecessors––a phenomenon I've written about before. But as the globalization of culture blurs national borders and homogenizes personal tastes, artists and dealers face a dilemma: How do you celebrate uniqueness––regional or otherwise––when so much of your audience now wants the same things? [The New York Times]
Team Gallery founder Jose Freire spoke to the same point in a wide-ranging and insightful interview, albeit from the perspective of the recent past. While discussing Cory Arcangel's now-iconic "Super Mario Clouds," Freire says that he instantly knew the best audience for the work would be in Europe, where collectors have historically embraced more overtly minimalist or political pieces quicker than their American counterparts. But the evidence he cites––enthusiastic European art-fair responses to Arcangel in 2003 and Carol Bove in 2002––are now part of an art world (and larger world) that may no longer exist. Some of Freire's later answers, like his mention of "tech people" from Chile and elsewhere "who've never bought a work of art" coming to Team because they've obsessively studied Arcangel's practice online, only make me more confident that times have changed––and that strategies should too. [Artspace]
Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, opened a massive inquiry into 25 different US federal government agencies in an effort to uncover all "wasteful" spending on artworks and related incidentals. The investigation follows a similar one, begun last year, into the State department's Art in Embassies program. Two months ago, State's assistant secretary for legislative affairs blasted the latter probe as just one of "dozens of investigations by nine different committees, involving hundreds of specific requests for hundreds of thousands of pages of documents," all dedicated to self-serving political posturing. No doubt opinions on both investigations' merits will split along party lines. However, I hope everyone in the industry can appreciate this detail buried in the story: Apparently, the federal government does not have an existing, confirmed inventory list of all the works it actually owns, making a massive bureaucracy sound hilariously similar to many, if not most, individual collectors and galleries. [The Atlantic]
The Newport Street Gallery, Damien Hirst's museum for his personal collection, announced that it will open a solo exhibition of works by Jeff Koons onMay 18th. The Art Newspaper bills "Now," which will feature "more than 30 works," as Koons's "first major solo show in the UK" since 2009. Considering that Hirst reportedly remains open to selling his inventory, not just exhibiting it, some analysts have already pegged the exhibition as another example of a private collector using an institution to juice his works' value before immediately taking them to market––and in the process, collapsing the distance between the nonprofit and for-profit spheres. At the same time, I question how much that principle really applies in the case of an established superstar like Koons. It seems dubious that one more solo museum show––especially one at Hirst's museum, of all places––will really affect his sales prices that much. Then again, as the old negotiating adage goes, all it takes to create a bidding war with reasonable buyers is one asshole. If "Now" can generate that asshole, then Hirst will prove me dead wrong. [The Art Newspaper]
The renowned Walker Art Center announced the hiring of two new curators, both of whose résumés speak to the increasing fluidity between different sectors of the art industry today. The museum chose Adrienne Edwards, a current Ph.D. candidate in Performance Studies and a curator for the Performa Biennial, to become its curator at large. Joining her as curator of visual arts will be Vincenzo de Bellis, currently the creative director of Milan's MiArt fair and the co-founder/director of alternative art space Peephole. While de Bellis's art-fair credentials and lack of scholarly experience have drawn fire from some writers, I personally see the Walker's selections as an acknowledgment that museums need to evolve beyond traditional models in order to connect with the 21st-century public. And for that, I applaud them. [Artforum]
Finally this week, artist Sarah Meyohas earned the wrath of a major financial institution when her conceptual work allegedly crossed the line into investment misconduct. During a performance to open her January solo exhibition at 303 Gallery, Meyohas bought and sold a collection of extremely small-cap stocks for three straight hours. Whenever her trades affected the value of one of her equities, she mimicked its chart fluctuations on a corresponding canvas using oil stick, ultimately creating a full series of paintings. Earlier this month, though, Charles Schwab abruptly terminated the account Meyohas used to make some of those trades. While the brokerage offered no explanation, one anonymous source guessed that Schwab interpreted Meyohas's explicit attempts to move the stocks' value as illegal market manipulation. The grand irony here is that, over the past several years, the financial sector has been all too happy to try turning art into their business––see the art-focused financial services offered by Morgan Stanley's Blue Rider Group and others. But apparently some on Wall Street are far less enthusiastic when an artist manages to turn the tables, no matter how briefly. [Fusion]
That's all for this edition. Til next time, good luck keeping everything in its right place.