Tuesday, 9 September 2008


The value of Tracy Emin's Bed is said to have risen to more than £1m. And still, I wouldn’t swap it for my own. Which is how, this very morning, I came to
realize the truth of the fact that the value of money is measured not by what it will buy, but by the number of monetary units you can append to it.

Nor does it matter in which order the 000.000s are placed.

Buying “art” is a numbers game - a commercially inspired misnomer. And much more widely spread around the world than in the 1980's when it was largely dependent on American wealth and irresponsible Japanese speculation. Meanwhile,
the rulers of Qatar have paid tens of millions of pounds for works of British art. The al-Thani family are trying to build up their collections in the Gulf
state. Accordingly, Francis Bacon’s Study from Portrait of Pope Innocent X was
acquired for £26m and a Damien Hirst sculpture for just under £10m.

I wish I could feel this deeply about art!

Hirst the artist - as he is often mistakenly called - is compulsively common with his vocabulary. And with the bearing of a ravenous rent-boy plus the technical know-how of an
entrepreneur, he has reduced artistic creativity to a marketable formula: Gilded Trash!
A fascination with carcasses pervades his work, adding a commercial element of
horror to an otherwise conventionally manufactured production line. But in a
market that refuses to yield to the logic of an international recession, the
real horror is, of course, the ongoing serial production of artefacts for a
collector’s market almost hysterical with anticipation.

“I’ve definitely had the goal to make the primary market
more expensive”

Noticeably eager to please, he is putting up 223 new works for a series of auctions at Sotheby’s beginning Monday, Sept. 15th. Not - if I’ve got this right - his wisest executive decision. No Sir, at
the end of the day, they’re bound to smell a rat and the jig will be up.
Compulsive shopping, on the other hand, is not a specific mental disorder.
Indeed, some experts see it as an addiction associated with low self-esteem, and
it is significant, is it not, that that buyers are not expected to come from
either Europe or America, but such forthcoming places as Qatar and Brunei where,
fired, perhaps, by feelings of cultural inferiority, they’re willing to buy a
jackass’s take on British art complete with an enormous price tag. It will be
one of the things we'll remember them by.

But enough of jackasses and the rest of that garbage! I’m with Toulouse
Lautrec on this one. "The ones who say they don't give a damn, do give a
damn, because if they really didn't give a damn they wouldn't bother to say they
don't give a damn."

Elementary, my dear Toulouse! Elementary!



All Shook Up said...

Don't get me started... I just hope it's the rich with more money than brains buying the stuff - not 'us'. Although I can't believe there aren't hands in the public till as well.

As far as I can make out, Emin has reached such a position of ..err... eminence.. in the Art World that anything she does or produces is regarded as a profound artistic statement. Hirst too, I imagine. Their works seem to be no more than souvenirs collected by loony fans who believe they have a golden touch that somehow imbues the mundane with greatness.

Interesting that Hendrix's burnt-out guitar made a mere £280,000 last week. More than I'd have forked out, but a snip compared with Emin's manky old pit, I'd have thought.

Spine said...

I don't think it's that they care that much about art. It's more like they don't care that much about money.

You might want to check Don Thompson's excellent book on the subject.

You have an excellent blog. I'm now off to add it to my blogroll.

Richard Havers said...

Fandabbie double doozie! What a post!

I'm clearly a bloody philistine because I don't get any of that tosh. Tracey Emin was on the TV up here in Scotland urging us all to dip into our pockets to save the Titian's from being sold off. Now I wonder, will someone in 400 years be asking people to sip into their, whatever will pass for, pockets to save her bed?

'I wish I could feel this deeply about art."

I do Dreamy I do, it's just the wrong kind of art I guess.

All Shok Up...there is something strange about that guitar. It made a quarter of what Clapton's guitar made about four years ago. Even one of Stevie Ray Vaughan's went for $600,000 I wonder why?

Anonymous said...

I liked Tracies beach hut - as I used to rent one myself and once filled it with used condoms, empty bottles, knickers and fag buttss..

electro-kevin said...

It's not the artist that decides the value of the artwork.

It's all elitist manipulation of markets - taste being dictated by a clique.

Let them have it, I say. Leave the good stuff for the rest of us.

All Shook Up said...

Supply and demand, I guess, Richard. His 1965 Fender sold in 2005 for £100K. A 68 model for £90K in 2006 and then this one... neither of them having quite the iconic (in the eyes of some) status of Clapton's 'Blackie'.

No comments from Dreamy, so far. Big Bang went wrong, I expect... one or both of us gone to a parallel universe!

Richard Havers said...

Blimey! Dreamy involved in a big bang? Surely some mistake!

I found those other Hendrix guitars later after I had a quick trawl around the web. It still seems odd to me. There's not that greater supply of Jimi's guitars....I'm sure some of what goes on in pop memorabilia is much like the rest of the art sales scam.

Selena Dreamy said...

Obviously, gentlemen, no good deed goes unpunished!

But -
“...anything she does or produces is regarded as a profound artistic statement.”

- I am with Spine on this one, ASU. I don’t honestly think that is actually the case. Whatever she does is a commercial commodity, and, I think, people are shrewd enough to realise that. It’s the same with Creationism, no one really believes that crap, they just pretend they do for their own political purposes.

And thank you, Spine, for the courtesy. I shall come and visit you...


Selena Dreamy said...

“Now I wonder, will someone in 400 years be asking people to sip into their ...pockets to save her bed?”

...and that, essentially, is the heart of the matter!

"Fandabbie double doozie!"

Gosh, is there copyright on that, Richard, or can I use that too...?

Selena Dreamy said...

“It's all elitist manipulation of markets - taste being dictated by a clique.”

Elementary, Electro-Kevin, elementary - the market is actually being groomed (!!!), so far as that is concerned...

Richard Havers said...

"Fandabbie double doozie!"

Gosh, is there copyright on that, Richard, or can I use that too...?

Dreamy of course you can, but be careful not to be as dim as me and spell dozy correctly! It is of course originally credited to these twin pillars, or is that peaks, of Scottish light entertainment - The Crankies.

Bob said...

I wouldn't mind being a Jackass like Mr. Hirst.

Reminds me of the saying in Holland: Making art is no big deal, but knowing how to sell it is.

EmmaK said...

Surely what he's doing is admirable, selling his stuff direct to the public without giving a dealer a cut for essentially doing nothing.

EmmaK said...

I mean, I'm not saying Hirst's work isn't worthless shit but if someone's prepared to buy it why should a dealer get a cut?

Selena Dreamy said...

Point taken, Enmak - except the dealers will be out for his blood and, what's worse, his prices are going to dive-bomb!

There's a whiff of desperation about this auction - or my name isn't Dreamy...!!

Selena Dreamy said...

Making art is no big deal, but knowing how to sell it is.

Elementary, my dear Bob, elementary. And Saatchi and Hirst are past-masters at that.

I just wonder what the recession will do? Hirst is great in times of plenty, but when the money gets tight, I'd rather sit on a Toulouse Lautrec!

Richard Havers said...

Oh! sorry! Sit on, as in metaphorically. . .

Selena Dreamy said...

Erm... yes, though he would not have been the first gentlemen I’ve become acquainted with while sitting on his face...

(and don’t tell Mrs H. - she might conclude you’re keeping bad company)!

Selena Dreamy said...

The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art

Thank you for that Spine.

I checked it out on Amazon, certainly looks apt and interesting. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a synopsis on it. There's bound to be an entire industry of con, deceit and make-believe!

James Higham said...

Too true, Toulouse.