Event: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts: Art collections, art markets and the balance of power

25 Nov 2014

Art collections, art markets and the balance of power: how do the exchanges between them work for contemporary art and how do artists adjust to the mechanisms that marketise the art world now?

Tuesday 25 Nov, 6.30–8pm at the White Building. Booking required – tickets available here.

Kate MacGarryAnna Mosynska and Karsten Schubert will share their ideas in an open discussion with the audience chaired by Andrew Bick.

How art gets collected, and how artists’ reputations are established through the collections they are part of, has long been a key point of discussion in considering the development of their careers. The role of the museum or public collection in this process is an increasingly fraught one, where private patronage and cuts to public funding, along with the pressure to generate “new audiences”, (since New Labour started putting “new” in front of everything) means that shiny markets are possibly disguising the shrinkage of substance in both public and private collections.

We have just experienced the full spectacle of Frieze and Frieze Masters in London, how should we understand and relate to what this unapologetic manifestation of the market represents? How do we connect in this world? And how is this world to be connected to public art and its audiences in a sustainable manner?

This panel, comprising of art dealers, commentators, public collections managers and consultants both illustrates the mobility of those roles, sometimes in the same person, and the fluid, even unstable state of the forces with which they and we negotiate, including ideas of markets, money and value.

The Exceptional Economy of the Arts¹:
a series of discussion panels.

Following on from a successful evening discussing the international art market with a group of contemporary gallerists during Frieze Week 2013, New Creative Markets has organised a series of panel discussions where a range of ways in which artists can engage with the art world now will be examined through a range of different opinions and experiences. New fields of activity available since the advent of the web, traditional forms of practice in the current context, research as a source for art making and new and developing means of distribution, will be considered along with the way these have also been modified by the pressures to address contemporary social and market forces.

Hans Abbing’s 2002 book, which the title of this series is borrowed from, took case studies from his native Holland to make a socioeconomic analysis of what motivates artists and art consumers. It provides an interesting, if limited model, for analyzing what he correctly calls the “exceptional” way the art world operates. Based on the way that most individuals working in the art world accept poorer conditions and lower pay than in their equivalent work environments elsewhere in developed economies, Abbing suggested that it is the “otherness” of art, its abstract and quasi religious values, that reinforce a limited economic status quo in which most of its operatives work for less than they are worth…
Elsewhere, the auction houses and über galleries of London and New York are creating hyper prices for a narrow group of artists. Short-term collectors have began the process of “flipping” high value art early in an artists’ career, without considering the longer term stability of the market for that artist… This discussion series will pose questions to a broader section of those working in the contemporary art world in the UK and beyond in order to generate wide-ranging discussion and throw up some new ideas as to how we might address the rapidly changing cultural landscape.

¹ Title taken from the book by Hans Abbing “Why are artists poor?: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts”, 2002, Amsterdam University Press