Art as commerce is taken for granted these days, it is the product of a self-fulfilling prophecy encouraged even by artists, the very people who are meant to uphold its integrity. What is great about Robert Hughes perspective on it all is that he took into account the history of over 30 years of the relationship between money and art.
The 70’s budget filming which caught the frisson between Robert Scull and Rauschenberg was a magic moment. Delirious with rage at the mark up of his work auctioned off by the unscrupulous collector, R said something like “You should at least send me some flowers,”. This Sotheby’s auction in 1973 was marked as an unequivocal turning point shaping our art world today.
The thing is with Hughes, is like all 70 year old men, he has come to an age were things are ’not like it they used to be’ generally. Yet, his final words of warning, that art constantly has to justify its’ own purpose, and if the soul purpose is to respond to the commercial market, it will die, are telling words from a wise man. One day Hirst, Warhol, Koons could be out of fashion. You never know. It might happen. And then what will the collectors be left with? Sand in their hand. If you buy for pleasure at least you will always have something.
Compare this to the collapse of investment banking companies who have debased the financial market, and a clear analogy can be made.
But it is not all gloom and doom. Who knows about the New York art scene, but the London one is still banging with up and coming artists that create subtle work with multi-layered meanings, skilful and inspirational. Take Hackney Wicked, and Hackney in general as an exciting area of budding culture. The fact that the council are compulsory buying, rent has increased, and office blocks are making their way there in the event of 2012 is another matter.
Words of comfort are this. If you assume that art is good because it is put in a swanky gallery with a large price tag. You are wrong. And you are also an ar**hole anyway, with the personality of cardboard. Yes it is unfortunate that money can distort or dictate what is put on display and revered. But the one thing you have is your own judgement; your own response to art and that is what you can be true to. If you set out to look for worthwhile art (in your own opinion) you will find it. There is enough of it out there in London to be satisfied.