What terrible art is generally considered good
The art and the marketToo expensive to be good?
The purity law, that art and mammon must be kept apart, demanded by editorialists as well as after-work experts. Is the visual arts corrupted?
Are we at the beginning of a feudal age when only very few pictures and sculptures can afford? Or should we simply refrain from speaking of "the" art and simply differentiate better: in collector's art, exhibition art and art that does not fit into any scheme?
The manuscript for the broadcast:
The art is fine. The museums record visitor records year after year, new houses are still being opened and collectors are handing over millions to the public sector.
Art is doing badly. The bubble on the art market is no longer a bubble, but hubris, the artists degenerate into brands that deliver what is asked, collectors have long since determined what museums can show, and criticism is absent, as in the car hum and fashion chi -Chi-journalism so as not to scare off advertisers.
How exactly art is doing is difficult to say. There are good reasons for calling out Kassandras such as cheering choirs. Two things are certain: never before has so much money been made in art. And never before have so many people been able to watch this spectacle. Auction records regularly make it into the news, super-rich collectors like Eli Broad in Los Angeles or François Pinault in Venice make their collections accessible in mega-chic private museums. The visual arts have certainly not arrived in the middle of society, their acquisition is too expensive for that, but it is the hottest talk of the town, it is the art form that is the most talked about. So everything is fine after all?
Criticism of art is as old as art itself
How the art is doing can be said very precisely - and even if the appearance is different - it is not doing well. For icon architecture, for these not only grandiose but also solipsistic architectural visions, on which the client hardly imposes any restrictions such as utility value, for these knockout buildings the last centrally located plots are cleared so that everyone can see what is being given as a gift to the cities is offered - with prominent mention of the noble donor. The new temples of the bourgeoisie are no longer the church buildings, as the critics Georg Seeßlen and Markus Metz bitterly note, but the private museums. Here freedom and entrepreneurship are honored. The art that we see in noble interiors is art for the super-rich. So works by Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami or Andreas Gursky, large and expensive. The art historian Wolfgang Ullrich speaks of "winning art", which likes to come across as garish, loudmouthed and large:
"Victorious art is (...) art from winners for winners. It has become an important ingredient in an exclusive living environment for the most successful (...)."
So and now some will wonder what is new about it. Criticism of art is presumably as old as art itself. There is evidence of religious zealots such as the Byzantine destroyers of images, the Florentine monk Savonarola or the Calvinist iconoclasts, who saw vain and blasphemous trinkets in them. Then later came the countless manifestos of the avant-garde against philistine arts and crafts, and most recently the hectic leaflets in the 1970s, when communist-Maoist youth groups raised the accusation that they were dealing with class art, which a better, because redder society would no longer need .
What distinguishes Wolfgang Ullrich from this: He is a connoisseur and friend of contemporary art and until his polemic Siegerkunst - Neuer Adel, expensive lust he was more of a relaxed viewer who observed the art market in his magazine articles but did not play the judge. But now he fears a refeudalization of art - pictures for the happy few who can shell out millions for art. And only such art that is specially created to meet the exquisite demands of collectors.
"He was so popular in his lifetime, so celebrated, and so quickly persuaded to take part in turning his own work into kitsch."
Money has always played a major role in the fine arts
This is not about the winning artists, here the American art historian Rosalind Krauss joins the late work of a certain Auguste Rodin. A sculpting genius who only delivered copies of himself towards the end. Money and fame are not only adept seducers in the 21st century. So why the fuss? More than in any other genre, money has always played an important role in the fine arts. Before the large gallery owners and super collectors, there were popes, kings and steel magnates who promoted art and bought it on a large scale.
Much has changed. Art is more expensive than ever. And money has never been cheaper. Sheikha Al-Mayasa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani is said to have a billion dollars a year available to buy art for the emirate of Qatar, according to the business agency Bloomberg. While there used to be a Picasso who produced around 50,000 works in 70 years of unbroken productivity and thus brought it to veritable wealth, today there are at least a dozen artists who are probably among the richest people on the planet. Gerhard Richter, who denied owning over 450 million, as "Bild" had claimed, but did not want to tell the weekly newspaper "Die Zeit" how much it was in truth, or Damien Hirst, who almost sold his works in a single auction Took $ 200 million.
Although I don't know what is morally more vulnerable, the massing of wealth on a few artists or the condemnation of artists just because their work sells well?
Critics like Wolfgang Ullrich, Georg Seeßlen or Dave Hickey are not interested in personal wealth. They suspect that this money has an influence on the art itself. So it is not the individual corruptibility that is being negotiated, but how money has made the art market a fair for vanity, posers and the nouveau riche. Pictures, sculptures or videos become decorations, insignia of power, proof of taste certainty and, above all, of the potency of having outdone other bidders. My Murakami, my Hirst, my judge, my Andreas Gursky, my Jeff Koons, my Matthew Barney, my Neo Rauch, my Doug Aitken, my Paul McCarthy. My my. Of course, the super-potent collector can earn his money with football clubs or with 130-meter-long yachts, but while nobody praises collecting as collecting, this is different with art. Wolfgang Ullrich does not believe that, like patrons, it is about giving something back to society. The special psychological attraction, the fascination with winning art, lies in the fact that this is the only place where you can measure yourself against an inexhaustible resource: Nobody can buy all art. And that doesn't frustrate you, no, that only inflames:
"He exaggerates as doubly powerful and thus ultimately as absolutely sovereign: more successful than others in making money, more powerful than others in spending money."
The purchase budget of some museums is downright ridiculous
So what? Everyone should waste their money as they like. And when it comes to fine arts, the collector doesn't harm anyone, but at least benefits a few artists and galleries.
It is not about a particularly bizarre form of capital destruction, in which many zeros transform into color on canvas. Cheap money has long since undermined a central pillar of art education. Art history is no longer written by museums and curators, art history is written by money. Galleries no longer promote, they just want to make a quick buck - according to US critic and ex-gallery owner Dave Hickey in Monopol magazine.
"I have withdrawn from the art world. When four galleries distribute the big money among themselves and sell 30 artists indiscriminately around the world, (...) then it's investment banks."
Megasellers like gallery mogul Larry Gagosian now have branches around the world so that they can show the same thing everywhere. Then the winning collectors buy it. Because expensive has to be equally good or at least important, the super collectors dominate the museums that have long since had to say goodbye to this bidding contest. No public museum can pay 100 million for a Klimt, not 300 million for a Gauguin, or even a meager few million for an important judge. The purchase budget of some houses is downright ridiculous, at the Hanoverian Sprengel Museum it is currently 50,000 euros, after having been at zero for years. The Munich gallery owner Bernd Klüser once remarked bitterly that if he wanted to sell a work to a museum today, he would have to bring the collector with him to pay for it. But when the public houses are so clammy, then others decide what the museums can show.
This is what makes the visual arts really unique. Of course, there is also a bestseller in the book market, but nobody who is taken seriously declares easy reading to be an art.
There has always been a connection between money and art
Why is that different in art? Because a manageable group of curators, critics and important collectors decide on the importance of an artist, very few, only a handful of the super-rich, decide on the success of winning artists, because this is all about a lot of zeros. Because if expensive is the central, all-decisive feature, then the museum is no longer an important entity, but only a temporary storage place until the cash register can be made. The duration cast in stone, as promised by the museum, no longer matters, what counts is the third blow with the auction hammer. And all of that defines how art is talked about. The review or the catalog entry is no longer important, only the anecdotes of the collectors are important, as art historian Walter Grasskamp notes: artist gossip as provenance, anecdotes instead of analysis, insider knowledge instead of outside perspective.
Art, that is new, is losing its lovers. Ullrich, Seeßlen or Hickey are just examples, long-time observers turn their gaze away. The texts formulate experiences of loss. Disappointment shapes the tone: a gray, bitter, hard one.
Of course. This art destroys art. The art they cherish is taken away from them by people they don't want to associate with. Disappointment opens your eyes. For something we'd like to close our eyes before.
Disappointment is a powerful state of energy, of course - more painful than being unhappily in love. And as the disappointed like to do, those who have fallen away from art paint today too gray and yesterday too colorful. What they overlook: the connection between money and art has always existed. The stately villas of Franz Lenbach or Franz Stuck in Munich were not inherited, but painted with a brush. Back then, winning artists were still called painter princes. They were already famous during their lifetime and their works were very, very expensive, although they were by no means rare, but instead constantly painted portraits for well-heeled customers. But her star sank relatively quickly. Today they are only considered evidence of Munich historicism. They are footnotes in the history of art, outside the city limits only subjects for specialists and enthusiasts. The Impressionists emerged as the undisputed rulers of the 19th century - interestingly, just as much with the public as they did in art history. Pictures that the great museum man Hugo von Tschudi was one of the first to buy for Berlin and later Munich, against great opposition. In short, being a collector's favorite doesn't automatically mean becoming a hero of art historiography, or even the public. The zeros at the end of a sales price do not automatically transform into relevance. So there is no attack of the present on the future - today does not destroy tomorrow. That still has all the possibilities of art in it.
For winning artists, only the price counts
Okay, there has always been hypes. And yes, the house of Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp is splendid and the auction of his estate alone resulted in over a million guilders. And that wasn't a bad artist. And Gerhard Richter is not a banal artist, at most someone who sometimes produces slightly fuzzy kitsch, as in his portraits of his 37-year-old wife and their child. It looks completely different with Murakami, Koons or Hirst, i.e. with a manga male with meter-long ejaculate, a porcelain, larger-than-life sex sculpture with the wife and porn actress Cicciolina or a skull completely covered with diamonds, which is the showcase for every Swarovski rhinestone jewel steals. It is completely indifferent to these winning artists whether they make good art, where they are in the ranking of any art magazines or whether important museums present their works prominently - no, the only thing that matters here is how much they sell at what price.
There is more demand than supply. So the high prices are justified. That is logical, but does not explain much. After all, why don't the prices of Dutch flower still lifes from the 17th century rise immeasurably? Their number is definitely limited, the art-historical significance has been clarified. Is it really the small formats? The subject? Why doesn't the ECB's volatile helicopter money make prices go through the roof here too? Why does the super collector absolutely need winning art from the last 50 years?
Because it's not about art and not about individual preferences. As in fashion, it's about the must-have of the season, the Danh Vo, Anselm Reyle or whoever is considered the upcoming star.
Caution, we have to be careful, we have to separate the clutter, the chichi of the art market from what art could be, what it still is. And even if it does not necessarily correspond to the moral sense, it has by no means been proven that money and closeness to the powerful corrupt the artist. The independent and therefore misunderstood, but imperturbably creative artist, is a myth of the 19th century. Very catchy, larger than life, larger than life, but not proven by facts. The art historian Martin Warnke pointed out 30 years ago in his standard work "Der Hofkünstler" that the artist type could only emerge at the courts. There he was released from the guild constraints, there he was granted tax exemption, there he was allowed to violate conventions and traditions. So what is wrong with the refeudalization of art - it has survived the proximity to power passably for centuries?
The social environment shapes people
"It is not people's consciousness that determines their being, but, conversely, their social being that determines their consciousness."
Did Karl Marx say and he is quoted more again in view of an ailing and occasionally corrupt capitalism. As if art history weren't full of heroic rulers in ornate interiors who were, in truth, butchers, despots and blatant spendthrifts. Jacques-Louis David's equestrian portrait of Napoleon, a hero who shows the direction, who tames animal society, a warlord who is happy to answer the deaths of three million people. A little more awareness would do the being of art quite good.
Of course, Marx was right in his assertion. The social environment shapes people. Yet it is vulgar Marxism to claim that a single element can dominate everything. The relationship between painter and portrayed was certainly shaped by the power of the person who pays. But when we see Velasquez's pictures, we notice the glorification of the clothes, the lace collars, the shimmering fabrics, but not those of the people portrayed. Unless we reinterpret their courage to be ugly as an expression of greatness.
But isn't that more of a nonetheless than a because of it? Does not apply here what Theodor W. Adorno said, whose aesthetic theory we devoutly tried to decipher in a working group, as only easily inflammable 20-year-olds can:
"The inhumanity of art must surpass that of the world for the sake of what is human."
No bargaining with anyone. Do not record a world. No courting winners. Top the inhumanity of the world.
Oh, the Adorno phase. I remember. Difficult, but therefore tempting texts. Circuit training for neurons. Complicated, but - and this is very important for 20-year-old convicts - clear. Cold and cold and yet enthusiastic. Enthusiasm on the rocks, on ice from abstraction. Seductive because there was so much evil - delusion, cultural industry, barbarism - and we were desperate not to be on the side of the victors, but at least - according to our novice child belief - we were among the good guys.
The Adorno Purity Law was very effective
And now, I suppose, is that phase over? Now in the not enlightened, but in the clarified age, in which cynicism is sold as a laxative because then what comes out smells like knowledge.
The Adorno Purity Law was very effective. This was a wonderful way to explain Beckett's radicalism - even if he hadn't asked for it. The arts were never as important as they were under Adorno. It was inhospitable in his realm, but the few rays of the sun shone all the brighter.
Because Adorno sifted out a lot. He channeled his disappointment into a stream of verdicts, even bans. The philosopher did not allow Walt Disney, Chaplin, Jazz, Debussy, Stravinsky to follow his art ark, with which he wanted to save something for the world to come, for tomorrow. He made them all jump over the plank and shouted malicious words after them.
Yes. A maximum of nothing, that should be art, everything else would be watered down. Hermit art - barren, desperate and bitter.
And sometimes just a litany about a sunken, popular culture, the so-called culture industry, which reached this level, which did not reach its level. Or fraternized with the evil world by criticizing it, i.e. coming into contact with it in some way. That is why Adorno dismissed the committed art:
"Art does not mean: emphasizing alternatives, but, through nothing other than their shape, resisting the course of the world, which is always putting the pistol on people's chests."
Expensive isn't bad, not even morally depraved
The Weltlauf puts the pistol on the chest of people ... Adorno liked to put the pistol on the chest for metaphors, because he considered himself a better stylist than he was. And today I nod when I read how the sober and admittedly not benevolent colleague Karl Popper Adorno reproached for always using the same rhetorical figures: a jargon of resistance, a fetishization of the antithesis. And that's why I dare to contradict the philosopher Adorno here. Art quite often means presenting alternatives, making them tangible through the senses. But if it was a great liberation for abstract and non-representational art not to have to represent anymore, then that also means that after the triumphant advance of the abstract, art can represent again, be decor, be pretty, colorful, playful. Because in this freedom of expression the other has its place to be political and direct, yes, of course, and of course also non-representational and worldless. Art is not a model student who can tell or even set an example of how this rather imperfect world can become a better one. But that's why art has to have the right to just be art sometimes. And, sorry, expensive too. Expensive isn't bad, not even morally depraved. Or as Marguerite Duras put it wonderfully laconic:
"The price of a dress has nothing to do with the dress. The price of a painting has nothing to do with the painting."
Aha. And where does this knowledge come from, not to take an effect as a cause? But out of disappointment with Adorno. Would you have made your plea for plurality without him? "The Aesthetic Theory" is perhaps a disappointment in its purest form - but it is also the salvation of the last remaining positions. A distillate, distilled twice out of disappointment that art is no longer capable.
Art arouses libidinal confusion. Not with everyone, but certainly with more people than just a few collectors who can hang not just pretty, but breathtaking pictures over the fireplace. It's about someone who fascinates us. About beauty, which, as in the case of conceptual art, can also lie in the mind. We learn from art. Unlike in school, in confirmation classes or in anti-capitalist - we are 99 percent - basic groups. Different. And that's why we sometimes have to learn painfully that she is cheating, that she has completely different things on her mind, that she no longer wants to teach us anything, but simply says: I am what I am. Different, not like us. Another. What makes it interesting, what makes it art.
Blinding art creates facts
But what if the other is just colorful or big? "The work of art in the age of total capitalism" is what Georg Seeßlen and Markus Metz call this decline in art. Perhaps disappointment is the right tone to confront her when she throws herself at the neck of a few super-rich. Maybe not to save art, but what it did to us. I love you for what you could have been: great art. And not a few zeros.
There is no such thing as art. There is no distillate, no clean area for art priests and an impure area for the rich pariah. No, there is an art for super collectors, one for art associations, biennials and the documenta, one for ambitious enthusiasts and one for representation purposes. Money does not play the same role in all areas, but sometimes more, sometimes less.
But precisely this openness destroys an art that has stopped asking about the society in which it lives and only supplies the interests of very, very few. The cultural politicians and sovereigns are so blinded that they would rather put a private museum in front of a collector than finally provide their own public houses with a sufficient purchase budget. Blinder art creates facts, which is logical, because the photo ops at the groundbreaking make more than adding to a budget item as item 27 of the submission in the third meeting of the finance committee.
The term art is a fuzzy label, not a lens that highlights something. The documenta has very little to do with, say the Buchheim Collection, although both are dealt with under art. One should trade under tourism promotion - among other things because the former marine painter Lothar-Günther Buchheim distributed popular inflammatory pamphlets against contemporary art in his publishing house, with which he financed the development of both his expressionists and his paperweight collection.
Art is not a moral category
We have to stop talking about the fact that art has something to do with the good, the true and the beautiful, in more modern terms: art is not a moral category. That's what we make them for first. Art is just art. That is their freedom. This is their cornucopia. Some artists are nice guys, some aren't. Art can be wonderful decoration - like Mark Rothko's cycle in the Tate Gallery, which was originally planned for the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York. Or the trendy design of the café at the Venice Biennale, for which Frankfurt artist Tobias Rehberger received the Golden Lion in 2010.
And these are selected good examples. But what about art that at least obscures the view of other art? It's not all about the Trumm, the gaudy block of winning art, just to see what's behind it. The blockbuster exhibition by superlative photographer Andreas Gursky attracts a lot more visitors than Marcel Broodthaer's playful installations about the mechanisms of the art world, through which I literally walked all by myself in Kassel.
Well, there have always been artistically interesting and less interesting epochs. Nobody can say today where the 21st century will end up. However, experienced collectors will tell you about the 80s, when the art market was shattered and many works were suddenly to be had cheaply. As is customary in capitalism, even if it is not a pleasure to hear, there is no inevitable increase in value. The market is subject to fashions - and not all artists, like the phoenix Jeff Koons, succeed in turning the destruction of his reputation - I scold - to ashes. But even if this cycle were to last for 60 years, which the Soviet economic theorist Nikolaj Kondratjev saw as the longest possible phase of prosperity, even then that does not mean that expensive art is better.
When the air has escaped from a bubble, almost nothing remains
Incidentally, periodic fluctuations in the supply are called pig cycles. If we were to call the winning art pig cycle art, then the debate would presumably be more relaxed. Here a sow is driven through the village.
Niklas Luhmann's realization that systems function autopoetically is true of art. You create your own rules. The rules work within the system, outside they seem absurd. Seen in this way, the winning artists are a bizarre and hypertrophic variant of the painter princes, an extreme form, a saber-toothed tiger whose huge incisors have not proven to be an evolutionary advantage after all - size does not protect against extinction. Let's just see whether art for the super-rich can survive the next stock market crash or just five to seven decades. Whether Germany‘s next top artist is not already forgotten in the next season ...
And meanwhile visit those exhibitions that offer an art that does not come to us with rather clumsy overpowering strategies. This blister is a rash, an ulcer, a boil. Towards the end of the 4th century, whores, pugilists and painters, according to the Apostolic Constitutions, an important ecclesiastical manual, had to give up their profession before they could be baptized. The artist profession is no longer so dishonorable today. Sometimes I think it's a shame, especially with the winning artists. Let's call them mega-sellers, that's closer to the truth. A market phenomenon created to satisfy very potent customers, and art is just a vehicle for that.
Maybe. Or hopefully. Because when the air has escaped from a bubble, almost nothing remains. No scar, just a sagging outer skin. And, yes, disappointment.
Disappointment opens your eyes. But it also distorts the view. Anyone who only sees fully capitalized winning art in art overlooks some things. Also that he no longer looks at art without prejudice. Which is a big loss. Especially for those who think they have been betrayed. There is a little Adorno in many of us. Who taught us a lot. But as with all teachers, the good ones have taught us to see for ourselves. And there is enough out there to be considered.
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