Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Price of Everything

At one point in the Nathaniel Kahn’s The Price of Everything, the 93 year art collector and former plastics manufacturer Stefan Edlis (who donated $500 million worth of art to The Art Institute of Chicago) quotes Oscar Wilde to the effect that "there are a lot of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing." Brecht would have had a feast with the cast of Kahn’s documentary about the art world to the extent that you have what’s essentially value free economics applied to judgments relating to the beauty and value of artistic creation. Imagine Jeff Koons as a character in Mahagonny whose famous line “so gross war die achtung fur gelt in dieser zeit,” could easily appy here. Koons is the person every purist loves to hate, along with Damien Hirst, but the beauty of his work is that it’s so much about both the manufacturing and rape of art. A cut from The Wolf of Wall Street appears in the film and Koons is definitely a creature whose esthetic was formed at the trading desk. It’s really not hyperbole to compare his works to derivatives both literally and metaphorically. Nor is it being critical of the filmmaker to say that all the emotion that characterized Kahn’s previous film about his father, the elusive Louis Kahn, My Architect,” is absent from this documentary about the sterile way money and art have become inextricably tied together like as one of Kahn’s subjects says, “siamese twins.” You have neuro-economics. Is "economic esthetics" the term for this latest evolution of art history? Clement Greenberg  was the ideologist for abstract expressionism which he looked at as a necessary by-product of history much the way the withering away of the state would be for Marx in the dialectical materialism paradigm. Perhaps the art critic Barbara Rose, who appears Cassandra-like in the film, can be relied on as his alter ego. But here's a question that the film doesn’t pose. What would you prefer, a non-existent art market, in which artists had patrons like the Medicis (during the Renaissance) or the  present situation where conglomerates run galleries in a $56 billion dollar a year business that has little interest in or appreciation of the work of artists confronting demons in the solitude of their studios?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.