Tag Archives: commercial


9 Jan


Note: Updated 10/01/2012 with a fine example of a morally dubious rich lady playing galleries!

Some of my fellow artists from Market Project and I were talking about Britain’s commercial art galleries this weekend. I’m not represented by a commercial gallery and I’m not really in that world, but I know artists who are. And since one of the aims of Market Project is researching the realpolitik of the art world, we pay particular attention to developments such as the closure of Sorcha Dallas’ gallery in Glasgow, which was announced last September. Her stated reason for the closure was that Creative Scotland had withdrawn their public funding from her private gallery. As I suggested in the original report, in my view there’s some severe cognitive dissonance going on if anybody thinks that their organisation was ever a viable business when it has to immediately fold without subsidy from state funds. Mind you, judging by her press releases she can’t even spell cognitive dissonance.

This discussion provoked the thoughts set out below, but since this is more of a polemic than actual research I decided to publish it here instead of at the Market Project site. Because I’m all about the polemic here.

We all know very well that truly public galleries (and libraries, and social services, and so on, ad nauseum) are having to downsize or close because of budget cuts, but those places were never pretending to be businesses. In the UK anyway, nobody was creaming off profits from them for their own private gain. A public art gallery or a library is not a failed business on life support, it’s a completely different type of entity, one that can’t be and should not be subjected to market forces and market logic. Of course these places have to close if their funds are cut off.

Long story short: our subsequent research and private, off-the-record quizzing of various people who are involved in the commercial art sector has revealed that in Britain there are very few (conceivably even no) private galleries that are actually viable businesses in any meaningful sense. Usually they’re more or less just vanity façades disguising money pits that are fed with somebody’s private money; Potemkin businesses, the Wendy House of a rich woman who in many cases is spending her husband’s or father’s wealth, not even her own because she works in the arts and doesn’t make any money, duh.

Sometimes (and much more scandalously, in my view) we dig and we find a Sorcha Dallas, relying on grants from public money that should therefore be contributing to something with public benefit, not as leverage for a gallerist’s private profits… if they ever make any. Some of these supposed galleries and art foundations are- as my colleague Annabelle Shelton pointed out- simply tax dodges, a means of laundering and sequestering wealth.

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30 Sep

In the last post I mentioned Takashi Murakami. Here’s a great quote from him (after a question on mixing art with commercialism) that I agree with wholeheartedly and describes quite accurately how I feel about my own work:

“I don’t think of it as straddling. I think of it as changing the line. What I’ve been talking about for years is how in Japan, that line is less defined. Both by the culture and by the past-War economic situation. Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended; and in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of “high art.” In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that’s okay— I’m ready with my hard hat.”

For me the key phrase here is “the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of high art”, more than the art and commerce stuff.  Murakami nails it with this observation; the primary concern always seems to be this is art or this is not art. A concern for whether the ideas or the execution are any good comes later, if it comes at all. Modernist floor installations of metal chunks are “good” because they have Fine Art imprimatur, not because they’re necessarily interesting or relevant to anything or anyone outside of the art world itself.

I still think Murakami’s kawaii breast milk and wanking sculptures are dodgy, though.


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