I was having so much fun reading about art “roadies” and the heavy, often disgusting work they do when, out of nowhere, accessibility, pay, diversity, sustainability, and CO2 emissions appeared. Does absolutely everything have to do this hand-wringing obeisance? All industries and pursuits have their difficulties, but it would be so nice if faddish “social justice” mea culpas weren’t shoehorned into every little story.
I was frozen in mid-cynicism by Accessibility, equitable pay, diversity, sustainability; these are just a few of the areas in which the art world lags behind.
I really didn’t expect to find such scolding on Unherd. Must be some of that diversity.
Well, G, there is no escaping it, apparently. I’ve been a fervent Unherd reader/subscriber for almost a year. No shortage of scolding, but soon you recognize a byline and know to skip straight to the comments, which are usually worth the money.
I do like the comments. Unherd readers are folks I’d hang with in the flesh, and they can turn a good phrase.
Excellent essay. I do wonder, though, how long these spontaneous art exhibits, that value creativity over commercialism, will last when some of the artists become famous and their works command high prices, and when the people who organized these events become recognized impresarios. Money has a way of tainting everything.
It already has. It’s a facile game in the arts. Just like any other business. The elites manage and own it all and those at the bottom, wanting a way in, will play, and pay. The question I consider a lot nowadays is, how much do we need art? Most people have some sort of visual art in their house, usually a print, or something printed on canvas. Not the real thing. But what’s the real thing? They want something to break up space. They have their likes. The “real thing”, well we’ll be told about that, informed about its worth, it’s relevance, and the artist will be treated like some performing pet. Nasty work if you can get it.
“but what is novel is the energy and thoughtfulness of these up-and-coming facilitators, who shy away from explicit commercialisation by focussing on creativity and collaboration.”
Why is it novel? Its always been this way. And then they succumb to success.
“Pecunia non olet.”
Funny though. I keep smelling it.
As did Titus!
You shame me with my ignorance of classical languages. Thank goodness for Google translator. 🙂
Very nice piece. Thanks for the contribution.
After the notorious Joseph Duveen – Bernard Berenson scandal, who would seriously believe any ‘art expert’?
This would apply to any field: after the Iraq war, why would anybody believe any ‘political expert’? One choose which expert one relies on and hopes for the best just like one’s lawyer, doctor etc.
Yes indeed, back to square one, sadly.
Funny how the artist gets a tiny mention in the last paragraph, almost forgotten.
Do the big auction houses employ posh, well-connected youngsters because those connections are likely to bring in the big country house sales? Just asking. It might make commercial sense.
That’s what’s so obnoxious about it all: making commercial sense. The art itself, created by the individual, that’s the act of creation. It’s human, vital to our existence, even if it means pretending to be someone you’re not, it’s a creative act. I know artists want to make a living, fine. But for a long time, and maybe not in all countries, they did not get a part, a percentage, of the ongoing sales of their work from one investor to the other as it increased in value. I know it’s business, but they pretend it’s more than that, that it’s of value to society, our well-being and who we are. But in fact what they are is a really bad painting.
I was hoping for a mention of art forgers and those who fall for them and/or go along with their antics in this story. The toffs who go to Florence to art schools and then end up in Sotheby’s and Christie’s are one thing given they do bring in the goods via their other toff friends’ grandparents, but the murky world of the likes of art’s answer to Ponzi scheming like Inigo Philbrick is quite another. Having encountered such, I was hoping for an account of this here and maybe the author could look at such next.
When I saw the title of this piece before I had read it, it made me think of a painting which was in the National Gallery in London of Judith Beheading Holofernes. She’s cutting off his head with a knife and blood is spurting. Her face full of concentration and effort. My young daughters were with me at the time and they were fascinated by the painting.
And so they should be. I believe the work in the National Gallery is by the lesser-known artist Jonathon Liss. There are more famous versions by Caravaggio and most notably by Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the very few female artists to gain any sort of traction before the modern era. (She knew what she was doing too, after being raped by her art teacher, who was acquitted at trial whilst Artemisia had thumb screws applied to try to “prove” she wasn’t lying!!)
A more general point to make is that the “art world” and art itself are, of course, two different issues and shouldn’t be conflated, except where an artist might be pandering to the gallery as it were, which defeats the object of art. What is the object, then? Well, art is as old as recorded human history and is simply a means of communication, which naturally changes through different eras. It’s great that parents should take their offspring to experience the real thing, and i hope your daughters gained something which will encourage them to do the same with their offspring.
This article simply raises the profile of what happens behind the scenes, and is welcome. One interesting point is how the art handlers quickly become somewhat indifferent to the works they’re handling, however famous they might be. As an artist, i’d encourage people to stop treating artworks with undue reverence and simply interact with them with the purpose they were intended – to cut through the barriers that stand between us.
“to cut through the barriers that stand between us.”
Has that always been its “purpose” and is the purpose always the same?
Really interesting! Thanks
Did the headline writer read the article?