The Value of Artwork
Professional artists have to inflate their prices in order to make a living. While materials are/can be expensive - in anything from painting to large public sculpture - time is the real premium. Most artists have a two-faced relationship with our age of plurality. On the one had, they benefit from the themes, energy, and new territory that pluralism bring. Multicultural thought, conceptualism, and the unquestioned ability to "fuse" new styles from existing old styles are among the ammunition of today's artists. On the other hand, artists benefit from the personal and professional legacy of the Romantic "cult of the artist," a mode of thinking which privileges the established artist and everything that they touch, sometimes in a wholly uncritical and illogical manner. A perfect example comes from some of the more hurried works of Pablo Picasso. The man worked in a broad range of styles, over a long period of time, and his pedigree now means more to an inert art object than actual content. His scribbles on a napkin are far from scribbles...they are big business.
There is a boom in the international art market. Records are being broken with reckless abandon. Two days ago, this Lucien Freud
painting broke the world record for price paid for a work by a living artist. The very next day, this cabinet of curiosities
by art superstar Damien Hirst broke that very record. Neither work is earth-shattering, though Hirst's comes closest through conceptual breadth and re-appropriation of past idiom. I take these two parables as things past and things to come.
One failure of international Marxism was its overvaluation of heroes in the face of actual collective success. The people, it was thought, needed figureheads to please, aspire to, and fear. True Marxism would have collectivized and/or rendered anonymous our rampantly contradictory "cult of the artist." While Marxism did not hold the answers, its high time for a new paradigm for the plastic arts that helps render original expression in a more humble vein.