money matter: paint by big $ numbers

Are people buying the work for its aesthetic qualities or are they buying the brand. The artist as brand. Although Artur Koestler said buying a reproduction is the same as owning the outright original. Its Cultural economics where the market attaches values that are extrinsic to the work of art; an ingenious attachment of pecuniary value to normative religious/cultural values and bourgeois morality. But, Koestler may have drawn inspiration from Thorstein Veblen in his critique on the conspicuous culture of authenticity. Veblen put forth the argument that useless objects served best in conferring status upon the owner. Art is a status good which act as symbols of class position. They have a purely expressive quality. After all, few objects have less functional utility than a painting or sculpture.

---Many years ago Meyer Schapiro argued that there was a radical difference between art's spiritual value and its commercial value. He warned against the nihilistic effect of collapsing their difference. I will argue that today, in the public mind, and perhaps in the unconscious of many artists, there is no difference. The commercial value of art has usurped its spiritual value, indeed, seems to determine it. Art's esthetic, cognitive, emotional and moral value -- its value for the dialectical varieties of critical consciousness -- has been subsumed by the value of money. --- Read More:

The argument that art has been subsumed by money, a vassal activity where the making of art and money follow the same motivation , and by extension, a Bill Gates is a “creator” like Lucian Freud, pushes the Warhol idea to an absurd conclusion where even high, supposed high art, is complicit in its own lynching: the complete esthetization of money. Still, A painting is in theory a singular physical product of an individual’s  hand and mind, even if that is questionable. The textures and color gradations usually make it impossible to trust the accuracy of any reproduction, because of the artist’s peculiar expressive power…

---Dutton:If a work of art remains the same visual object after we know its status as a forgery, why should it be repudiated? Arthur Koestler and Alfred Lessing have both insisted that only confusion and snobbery could underlie the rejection of forgery; it amounts to nothing more than hypocrisy and snobbery. If a viewer cannot tell the difference between two aesthetic objects, so this argument goes, there can be no aesthetic difference between them. As the aesthetic value of art is a function of immediate auditory or visual experience, it therefore can make no aesthetic difference if a work is a forgery. This stance, which has been termed “aesthetic empiricism,” applied to (1) forgery which exactly copies an existing art work, (2) forgery which presents new work in the style of another artist, but is directly attributed to that artist, and can be extended as well to (3) an legitimate copy of an existing work or a new work in another artist’s style which is honestly attributed. Read More:

Like the religious dynamic with deities, we pray to say Picasso or Koons and not with them. In any event, a given valuable  painting is a perfect, and irreplaceable record of an artistic achievement. Financially, whether  you regard a top shelf artist like Picasso or Pollock as great, is irrelevant:  it is a solid investment. The common argument is that the prices paid for prestigious works are somehow immoral. Yet, paying similar prices for weapons systems that rot in the silos or ugly real estate is considered par for the course. But, then with the Duchamp concept of conceptual art and the ready-mades, would you want 50,000 bicycle wheels screwed to a stool, 50,000 urinals,  one original or a small skyscraper in the mid-west? Its sublime, its beautiful to some, and it can be traded.

Kuspit:Why? Is it because their works are unique, making them prized possessions, or because they were avant-garde innovators, not to say geniuses? The answer has less to do with the artists’ achievement and more to do with the fact that people are buying the brand name and getting the work along with it….

---Renoir’s sole entry in the top 15 most expensive paintings is his work Bal au moulin de la Galette. This painting was sold in 1990 to Ryoei Saito, the chairman of a Japanese paper company and a collector of fine art. Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir Year: 1876 Year of Sale: 1990 Sale Price: $78.1 million Currency Adjusted: $128.8 million--- Read More:

…The name is the high-priced, desirable, one-of-a-kind commodity, not the work, which has a certain incidental relationship to it. This has to do with the celebrity culture: artists have been absorbed into its spectacle. Their creativity has been appropriated by it, making every celebrity seem like a great artist in the making, and every artist a celebrity in the making, aspiring to make spectacular art.

The cult of celebrities among artists has replaced that of heroes. As long ago as 1961, the historian Daniel Boorstin observed, “The hero was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his image or trademark.” Picasso and Giacometti are avant-garde heroes to art historians; to the market they are big names, amplified by money as well as the media. It is this that gives their art surplus value well beyond its aesthetic value.Read More:

---Once the world’s most expensive painting, Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer took three years to

ate in oil and gold. The painting was commissioned by a Swiss sugar magnate, a fan of Klimt and the husband of the painting’s subject. Artist: Gustav Klimt Year: 1907 Year of Sale: 2006 Sale Price: $135 million Currency Adjusted: $144.4 million--- Read More:


… one section in Act of Creation on the aesthetics of snobbery, that I had not recalled before. Koestler observes how in the act of great creation there is often some divine inspiration, a release of one plane in the conjunction of two to produce surprise novelty, whether in the sciences or the arts. He talks about how even life-time experts in the aesthetics of greatness of an artist cannot recognize a well-executed fake by one from the master. He says:

“Let me repeat: the principal mark of genius is not perfection, but originality, the opening of new frontiers; once this is done, the conquered territory becomes common property. .. Genius consists not in the perfect exercise of a technique, but in its invention.”

Koestler then speaks to the affectation of greatness and of great art. We feel that seeing these objects we may be magically imbued with the creators’ essences. “It is not the eye that guides the museum visitor, but the magic of the names.”  And so people view these works appraised as great and project their own likes and dislikes upon them.

It is then Koestler trigger me to an insight into my own concerns in this. He remarks how the snobbery of art appreciation, rather than its genuine effect through appreciation comes from the confusion of two value frames. The true judgment of value and the valuing of value-judgements. Koestler comments:

“Snobbery … is a hotchpotch of matrices, the application of the rules of one game to another game. It uses a clock to measure weight, and a thermometer to measure distance. The creative mind perceives things in a new light, the snob in a borrowed light; his pursuits are sterile and his satisfactions of a vicarious nature.”

I then asked why does this occur. In apithology the expression of pathology arises from the doubt of grace. When we feel we are not able to gain an appreciation for something, it being too intricate to know or to distant to discover, we fear we will lose the grace of its expression. Fearing this greatness might be unavailable to us, we grasp to its artifact, and look to others to affirm the value we cannot see for ourselves. Our fear of deficiency is confirmed and so compensated for, the art itself becoming invisible under the introjection of acclaim.

This is why greatness without pretence is the best judge of genius. Being respected by one’s peers, and ignored by all around, is a much greater respect than drawing queues of people around a block to glimpse something proximate that is forever distant. In moments like these I give great thanks for the many peers around me, without whom in their greatness, I would have no sure judgement for my own attempts at stumbled origination. To create takes courage and to appreciate takes devotion. Not all of us can feel into this path, to create value so as not to confuse value. Read More:
Koestler makes the point well. Originality value is often relic value. Such valuation has nothing to do with aesthetic judgment. Types of judgment are often confused in the mind of the viewer, particularly if viewer is owner with an economic interest in the work. We could debate whether we should call it snobbery to give new pride of place to a work after having learnt facts about its origin. Hoi polloi are not alone in taking this confused and inconsistent attitude. One writer on aesthetics quite deliberately admits, ‘Our belief in the creative power of the great artist has about it an aura of primitive magic. His work of art is a kind of talisman, a fetish

. . . . Once a work is known to be a forgery, the magic is gone.’. A psychological description of such a phenomenon (peoples’ valuing originality) does not constitute a philosophical defence of such evaluation. Sometimes the irrationality is patent: paying of inflated prices for (purported) originals; downgrading of non-original works of equal aesthetic value, often standard gallery practice. Read More:
…Intrinsically beautiful substances like gold became prized for public display as much as for personal appreciation. The result for human-produced goods was that “marks of superfluous costliness” were valued as highly efficient signs of excess wealth accrued through predation, while goods were “humilific, and therefore unattractive,” when demonstrating “too thrifty an adaptation to the mechanical end sought.” Thus the canon of waste not only turned intrinsically beautiful objects into symbols of exploitative prowess, but obscured the ancient correlation between beauty and efficiency. Judged by “the resulting standard of serviceability,” Veblen concluded, a beautiful but nonwasteful
article would “never pass muster.”

Veblen’s expose of “costliness masquerading under the guise of beauty” has fortified his reputation as a functionalist who exaggerated his contemporaries’ emulative wastefulness and ignored the non-invidious criteria by which many judged beauty. Veblen, however, thought aesthetic judgments were compromised not only by the patent desire to consume conspicuously, but also by the principles modern aesthetes devised to trump such crass philistinism. One such principle was “archaism” or “classicism,” which protested modern society’s elevation of economic over aesthetic pursuits by ignoring technological innovations that increased efficiency of production and use. The irony, in Veblen’s eyes, was that archaism established its own tyranny of economic over aesthetic values, enthroning the values of the canon of waste.

The Arts and Crafts Movement provided Veblen rich material on this score. The cultivated, he argued, often inferred the beauty of “handwrought” goods from their costly production and functional obsolescence. Conversely, many “machine-made goods,” admired by the untutored for their successful adaptation to use, were despised by the cultivated for their “ceremonial inferiority”—further evidence, for Veblen, that handwrought goods were valued primarily for wasting time and resources. Read More:

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