The commercial art market is valued at $64.1 billion. However, with it being unregulated, the art market as a whole is impossible to pin down. It is infinite.
There are many components of the art market, yet when looking at art collectors, dealers, and auction houses, there is one prominent theme – the promotion of consumerism within the arts. The significance of auction houses such as the likes of Sotheby’s and Christie’s, who dominate the art world, not only facilitates buyers and collectors to obtain sought after works but solidifies the idea that art is a luxury good.
Nathan Kahn, who produced the documentary ‘The Price of Everything’ (one to watch), claims art has become like real estate; reflecting how the trading of art has morphed. Increasingly, art is being judged by its monetary value rather than it’s symbolic influence; causing it to be seen as an asset that benefits owners as a financial investment or as a reflection of social importance. This, in turn, creates an elitist illusion that limits the trading of artwork exclusively to the wealthy.
There is no doubt that comercial pressure impacts artists’ practices. The artworld is mapped around consumerism, which is something near impossible to avoid as a practicing artist who needs to earn a living. Artists have frequently explored their frustration on the topic, having to contribute to the capitalist and consumeristic nature of the commercial artworld, trying to avoid having to market work to sell, yet at the same time needing to survive. Many have developed their practice against these values, but when looking at the super giants of artists, there are also many who attempt to play it at its own game.
At a first glance the art market may seem like an elitist environment in which the wealthy indulge in buying and selling art to prove their social status. Whilst to some extent this is a notable part of the art market, there are many alternative ecosystems and practices which go against these values. Through understanding the vast composition of the art market we can understand how to access it, question it and bargain for a healthier system.
Gatekeeper magazine aims to investigate the art market in all entities, gaining insight into some of the ways in which artists explore this as a theme within their practice. The range of approaches to this immeasurable topic shows how artists can focus their future work, either tailoring it to be a financially beneficial business venture or by going against the art markets commercial bubble, through alternative economies .
Our first issue will analyse the use of ‘transaction’ within the art market. This theme will unravel emerging artists personal experiences trading and selling work to an unpredictable and unregulated industry.
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