Monday, 22 September 2008


Brilliant exposé on Channel 4 last night: The Mona Lisa Curse. Veteran art critic Robert Hughes said it all. Contrary to the rumours I have been trying to spread for some time, nobody is going to smell a rat. Nor will the jig be up. I'm bound to say the problem absolutely baffled me. But I can see my mistake and understand what I totally failed to grasp: Art is a commodity admired only for its pricetag.

As Jeffrey Archer blithely observed: “There are dealers holding Hirst works in their galleries that they can't afford to see drop to record lows, and therefore decide to join the bidding.”

Ultimately responsible for these encroachments, then, and prepared to justify them at all cost, is that dark, hidden bureaucracy of profit, which comprises the art establishment. Here is the dissemination, through myriad
channels of information based on very specific deception themes, some of which
are colluded in by the artist himself. In the biggest unregulated market in the
world this scam is pursued with precision and bureaucratic thoroughness. It
comes in high places and extreme forms. The dealer’s s' approach to profit
mirrors Cecil B. de Mille’s entertaining spectacle of the Hollywood blockbuster,
where the cost of the production becomes part of its commercial attraction. But
whereas the art establishment’s great skill has been to convince the buyers they
are being done an enormous service by being allowed to acquire the work, this
does not mean the introduction to humanity of great works of art, but the
diminution of the artistic faculties, the forfeiture of judgement, the loss of
aesthetic reflection, of genuine artistic genius and imaginative appreciation.

The hypocrisy is so perfect it's almost delinquent.

No moral principle guides the actions of an industry which is
anatomically separated from the rest of our economic culture. In contrast with
the elaborate rituals of the international banking system, the art business is a
relatively simple financial instrument of the sort used by Nick Leeson, the
rogue trader who brought down Barings bank in 1995. You actually bet on a
profitable future, rather than on derivatives, which are so called precisely
because their value is derived from that of an underlying asset.

I am at a loss what to say.

It is almost as if the sheer effrontery has drained my capacity for
reflection. While there is no accountability because there is no criterion,
artists, in our time, are nevertheless the bastard offspring of Arts Councils
founded by chunks of public money. Indeed, no other profession has been so
copiously blessed. And yet, its very principle is negative. Stop all art
subsidies, is what I would suggest. And I am very clear on this. I have a vivid and
I think certainly no false grievance: Give art back her innocence, I say...



Crushed said...

When did art have her innocence???

During one of the finest periods of art, the rennaisance, most of the great artists were heavily funded by Italian warlords, such as the Sforza, the Della Scala and the Medici who operated much like the Mafia in their day. Violent, corrupt, amoral people who eased their consiences by funding the higher arts.

And perhaps we should be grateful they did. Though wheher the people of Italy thought the Guelph/Ghibelline conflict something they had to endure to make possible, I couldn't comment.

Selena Dreamy said...

Thank you, Crushed.

I note your Renaissance sponsors of modern western culture appear to have an eminently risible reputation. But they also inhabited a rich spiritual world in which skill and craftsmanship rather than sham and pop mysticism was at the heart of the matter. In Renaissance courts, the creation of works of art, as much as the singing of songs and madrigals, was considered a highly qualified occupation.

Skill, in my own opinion, adds a dimension of depth without sacrificing the essential qualify of innocence.

Bob said...

Don't worry about it. Money alone doesn't make you happy.

I think.

I wouldn't know though.

Jonathan said...

But what do you mean by skill? Surely successful modern artists are skillful according to the rules of the game that they play. Presumably Hirst and other names can wield skills of a certain type better than those who also seek accomplishment in modern art but who are less renowned?

To me the problem is the lack of a noble, transfiguring, transcendent vision - that kind of a sense of the innate majesty of existence which we are supposed to be vigilantly suspicious of in our oh so deperately 'liberated' and unsuperstitious times.

So I agree: 'they also inhabited a rich spiritual world', not one of 'sham and pop mysticism'.

Like the modern age itself, of which it claims to be its expression, modern art suffers from nihilism; because, like the modern age, it does not see how Meaning and Substance, the epic qualities manifest in the productions of traditional artists, can any longer not be laughed to scorn in an intellectual environment that finds it impossible any longer to take seriously the grand narratives of history, in which our noblest sentiments had always found their anchor and voice.

The bath water, I agree, had turned muddy. It needed changing. But did we have to lose the baby? Hopefully he's just sitting on his mother's knee, talking a break, and will get back in again soon.

Strange idom that baby and the bathwater thing, but you get my point.

Selena Dreamy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Selena Dreamy said...

Point taken, Jonathan - indeed, I am aware of someone trembling with a profound melancholy!

And frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn about Hirst, who, obviously, has been selected as the "artist manufacturer" to match the prevailing materialistic Zeitgeist - what gets me is the pretentious escalating superlatives that apparently stir the market so effectively.

It’s a scam, dammit and bound to crash - or my name isn’t Selena....Ooooops!

Selena Dreamy said...

Don't worry about it. Money alone doesn't make you happy.

No, but it helps...

David B said...

Great artists were funded by powerful patrons but they were first and foremost artists. Today, we have 'artists' that are primarily businessmen.

Well, that's not totally true. There are artists out there but they don't get the same attention. They lack media savvy and good publicists promoting their next excess.

Jonathan said...

Who is the person trembling with melancholy?

Selena Dreamy said...

That person is the very person who wrote the following:

"Like the modern age itself, of which it claims to be its expression, modern art ....finds it impossible any longer to take seriously the grand narratives of history, in which our noblest sentiments had always found their anchor and voice."

Selena Dreamy said...

“There are artists out there but they don't get the same attention. They lack media savvy and good publicists promoting their next excess.”

Point taken, David. But a word of warning on that subject:

If you think the New Tate is teeming with genius and aptitude, they are hard to spot. Fact is, Tate Modern has a terrible backlog of unaccomplished, frankly obsolete, little cretins. It is a show with no redeeming artistic value whatsoever. Art played no part in its formation. It is un-epic, it has no aura. Tate Modern is bogus. A vast open-plan, minimalist coffin. It exists solely to accommodate. It has no other function. Unfortunately, the public are also allowed in. They demand to be let in! They’re gagging for it.

And that’s where promiscuity in art begins!

All Shook Up said...

I suppose Hirst's sort of garbage has a value in showing how corrupted modern sensibilities have become. You're right about a lack of skill - unless managing to keep formaldehyde from leaking from a tank is skillful, though I expect my local plumber could do as good a job.

I ran over a rabbit on the way home tonight. If I was one of these Tate tossers, I could have made another £million with it.

Helen said...

Ah, but without subsidizing the arts, they cannot be an effective tool in the oligarchy's arsenal. Fatten the artists and encourage individualism for individualism's sake.

At least tulips gave a plebian aesthetic pleasure.

Jonathan said...

Really...? While it's true that melancholy and I have hung out a lot together and shot the breeze in various ways, when I wrote this I felt fairly chipper!:)...if a little mesmerised by the Chinese humidity.

In any case, I've never found meditating on the deficiencies of modern culture a depressing activity. Possibly this is because I anticipate something better if only our illusions can be faced, and the dead skin of our sclerotic enervation be shed - ? For similar reasons, perhaps, I never found Morrissey depressing, but rather uplifting because of his frankness.