brand name incidental relationships

The transformation of beauty into claims of prestige? What if there was no super-wealthy class to cultivate and consume art and hence be able to draw invidious comparisons with their peers? Veblen asserted that wealth display and the splurging of money on pointless possessions, non functional objects such as art, was intrinsic to human nature. Yet, art needs this type of vanity of conspicuous consumption to emancipate the industry of art trade to make it a viable activity.  Veblen had much to say about  art and why they are supported;basically the idea of beauty and its relationship  to rarity and expense. Like a diamond, rare art, blue chip artists invoked resources and wealth display, but are completely useless. A stab at Darwin’s natural selection: should the man at arriving at the girl’s house present her with a steak, a potato and carry a tool box? .  While a Pollock painting can exceed $100 million,  it is also the high cost that makes a Pollock so valuable. Veblen’s central thesis is that frivolities- conspicuous waste- and the pretense of values, arise to to some inexplicable human component  that is driven to demonstrate wealth and to establish status….

“Number 5, 1948″, 1948
$140 million
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: Unknown (rumoured to be Mexican businessman David Martinez)

Right now, this stunning “drip” by Jackson Pollock is the most expensive painting ever sold, though the exact price was never confirmed (but the price displayed here is generally accepted to be true). The exorbitant sum demonstrates not only the strenght of the Art market, but also the increasing interest for the contemporary works of Art.

---One can get some idea by comparing the gestural paintings of Jackson Pollock and Gerhard Richter, the geometrical paintings of Piet Mondrian and Agnes Martin, and the sculptural constructions of Naum Gabo and Richard Serra. In every case the movement from the earlier to the later artist involves diminution of complexity, standardization of means, loss of exaltation (Gabo's word) -- even a kind of expressive sterility or coldness -- and, perhaps most crucially, the replacement of spiritual suffering and aspiration by intellectualized boredom. ...For its pioneers, abstract art was maladaptive and nonconformist -- a perilous zone of transition from the material to the spiritual world, where the mystery of being was revealed through creative suffering. Its epigone have turned it into a peculiarly boring -- if often grandiose -- spectacle, suggesting that it has adapted to the materialistic world it once repudiated. Art that once seemed incomprehensible has become sophisticated design. ---Read More:

“Woman III”, 1952-53
$137.5 million
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: Steven Cohen

Pollock first. De Kooning second. The immediate conclusion is that American abstract expressionism has displaced Impressionism as the most sought-after Art period. This painting is the only “Woman” by Willem de Kooning still in private hands. One of this women -described by T. Hess as “black goddesses”- has been chosen by as one of the 50 masterworks of the history of painting. Read More:

---Like Picasso, De Kooning was a kind of minotaur, and like the minotaur both sacrificed human victims -- as ideally beautiful as he was monstrously ugly, and so whom he had to hate and defile -- on the altar of their art, feeding on them to keep it alive, until it lost its way in a labyrinth of its own making, and became a dull brutality feeding on itself. De Kooning’s figure loses its boundaries and form, and we are left in the gestural haze of the abstract landscapes, finally dissipating into fastidious patches of color, a sort of petrified painterliness -- an outward show of energy with no inner dynamic and necessity, a barren, sterile landscape of forced gestures each pretending to be an oasis -- showing that de Kooning has become heavy-handed, not to say lost his touch, suggesting that modernist painterliness has played its last strong hand. Why is woman the target of de Kooning’s hatred? Why does he have to destroy her?--- Read More:

…The abundance of blue-chip artworks available this season sparked global demand. Experts tell me that when rare works like the Picasso, which was from a private collection and had been off the market for 50 years, or the $28.6 million Jasper Johns Flag (from the collection of the late Michael Crichton) come on the block, they will find buyers no matter what the economic backdrop since they are so rare.

The reasoning is that the quality of the work will make the buyer confident in his acquisition, no matter what is going on elsewhere in the art market or in the broader economy. Buying right now seems to be concentrated at the high end of the market where, as one dealer told me, “a relatively small number of international buyers are willing to spend lots of money on a very small number of objects.” Read More:



Kuspit:The huge sum of money conferred on a Picasso painting and a Giacometti sculpture accords them great significance — not because they’re major works of modern art, but because they’re very good investments.

The brand name is the high-priced, desirable, one-of-a-kind commodity, not the work.

Long before the economy almost collapsed a year ago, art-savvy people argued that works of art are the new equities: one can make more money in the art market than in the stock market. The value of Picasso and Giacometti kept increasing while the value of General Motors and General Electric decreased. Stock prices go up and down, but the stock of certain artists keeps going up.

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.

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. Read More:
Should we mourn for abstraction — while congratulating ourselves on assimilating it into the world of conventional appearances — and turn our attention to figuration, of which there is more than enough? Not entirely, for I think abstraction’s key idea — sublimation (Kandinsky’s as well as Freud’s term) — remains a basic necessity of art, if it is art rather than entertainment that we want. So much figurative art is a scatalogical attack on sublimation these days, as George Frankl has suggested. One only has to think of Kiki Smith’s ironically titled Tale (1992), an anal enactment that gets by on its obscenity rather than esthetic quality.

And that’s just the point of abstraction: without sublimation, there’s no possibility of quality, more precisely, esthetic experience of quality, which in a sense is the ultimate reality. Quality is the mystery of being — ontologically fundamental — and revealed only through that peculiar kind of suffering called sublimation — the strange suffering implicit in becoming abstract, pure. Without the excruciating suffering involved in the renunciation of the world — the first ascetic step in abstraction, as Kandinsky said — there is no possibility of perceiving pure sensuous quality. The renunciation of representation was a painful cleansing of the temple of art, which prepared it for the worship of pure vision. Read More:

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