Everyone wants to help people. We got this.
On paper, most of the professionals involved in the art field have been for a long time more than eager to claim a heart-breaking and genuine interest in whatever social cause was currently trendy on the Instagram Feed – with particular attention to contemporary art since the secondary market is populated by sharks who are at least not hypocrites. It’s a real deal that the US is done with racism for good, really, so now we can file #blacklivesmatter in the archives forever. Oh no, wait.
“There’s no sublime or sobbing story linked to the canvas of the
moment able to make a gallery manager burst into tears
more than a $40.000 check.”
To get this straight and be fair towards the afore-mentioned professionals though, it might be useful to make some important specifications which understandably won’t be popular but are long-term due. First, an art gallery is primarily a shop, and we should all start thinking about it accordingly. Art galleries are shops, gallery assistants are salespeople (not even that, most of the time) and gallery directors and founders are businessmen. There’s no sublime or sobbing story linked to the canvas of the moment able to make a gallery manager burst into tears more than a $40.000 check. It’s different, you’ll think. Artists oversee the sobbing and broken charade while dealers must invoice. Yeah, but this is only partially true (Damien Hirst is most likely wiping away his tears with a $500 bill while I am writing) as per our art history we know exactly how many dealers had been broken apart either from the public or the critics for following and supporting some artists they believed in. Forgetting that we have a choice, or unapologetically not recognising that we are making one for the own good of our wallet, won’t hide the truth much longer. Secondly, the shows that are set within the wall of an art gallery are an alleged compromise between the real Artist Practice (if there’s any) and a powerful mix of what I call living-room-art and marketing strategist. I mean, everybody in the field knows that. It’s universally renowned, to quote Jane Austen. And I’ll tell ya, go for it. It is okay. You’re a businessperson, you manage a shop, you need revenues to keep the business going and you want to place your items in the market. What’s wrong with it? Nothing is wrong with it.
What drives people crazy, in my humble opinion, is the hypocrisy behind it. The pretentiousness. The arrogance. That whole allure has eventually led people to feel scared and judged while approaching an art gallery because, oh no, God forbids you’re accessing the holy sanctuary of blue-chip art without being a buyer or a so-called “interesting person” – which I am SURE is a cover story invented during Middle-Ages by a gallery assistant who simply wanted to have a chat with a nice person, and passed down from art professional to art professional until today.
“The real problem, generated and nurtured by
this increasingly superficial market,
is that we are more and more accustomed to speaking
about incredibly important and delicate matters
and using them for the marketing of the moment.”
And the real issue related to this circus is not even greedy dealers, overrated artists, or arrogant personnel. The real problem, generated and nurtured by this increasingly superficial market, is that we are more and more accustomed to speaking about incredibly important and delicate matters and using them for the marketing of the moment. On one hand anaesthetizing the collectors who reasonably became impermeable to any input, on the other mortifying important causes which require political artists to get involved in, citizens to get involved in, curators to be involved in, and do not deserve to become the last nudge which came into your mind to close that sale. Now, what is the problem of rethinking art collecting, you’ll say. What is the problem with engaging with politics and standing up for human rights while cashing in $80.000?
Greenwashing. This is the problem.
It’s such a large and spread phenomenon that has a proper name. Greenwashing, it’s the problem, and it’s not limited only to ecological issues.
I will make this long story short because I am not meant to further point out the obvious. But let me say one last thing. I do believe in political art. I’ll be damned, I do still believe in the art market. But something must change, and a different approach must be pursued, if we want to insist on the “charity” nudge. The artists must be more in charge of the causes they support. The recipients who benefit from those causes must be involved in the whole process, and not be downsized to poor colonized entities, slammed on the front page of the current newsletter, and then forgotten. The dealers must understand that, despite what our politicians have made us believe, you can’t get rich from politics, and activism. Politics is the last bastion for romantics. Activism is the last bastion for believers. And more than with the old-fashioned charity, we should rethink the way to engage with struggling people whose countries have been long time oppressed and exploited by reinvesting in arts and culture in those nations. Buying school supplies for their teachers to be able to work decently. Taking a stand for once in our life, for important matters, without caring to ruffle some client’s feathers. At the end of the story, we want to surround ourselves with decent people. We want to be decent people. And I know that Activism doesn’t sell. But maybe Artivism does. Try it. the