Sunday, February 5, 2012

Art and Money: Connecting the Dots

Art and Money--what a compelling topic. Why are some living artists setting and getting stratospheric prices for their work, while others, whose work is equally worthy, are languishing in poverty and obscurity? How has globalization revolutionized the art market, and how have prices been affected by the worldwide economic downturn? Who are the important dealers and collectors who generate and sustain the hype surrounding the the big international art fairs and the headline-making art auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s? And what's up with Damien Hirst and those dot paintings?

If you’re looking for insights into the inner workings of the contemporary art market, a must-read is Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market, an important new book by Noah Horowitz. He focuses on how today’s marquee-name artists not only make art, but how their dealers package, sell, and brand it, and how dealers and collectors trade in art for investment, prestige, and access to a rarefied social sphere of movers and shakers. The picture that emerges is somewhat repellent, but always fascinating.

The book is a challenging read, even scholarly, but worth an investment of your time if the topic intrigues you, as it did me. I was rewarded with a glimpse into a segment of the economy light years removed from my humble studio, as well as a better understanding of several categories of art that had long puzzled me—video art, installation art, and experiential art—including how such work is curated, preserved, and valued.

(Hint: don't be put off by the densely written introduction. Skim that section and plunge ahead into the more engaging main chapters. At the end of the book, go back and re-read the intro, which comes into sharper focus second time around.)

Horowitz is an art historian, an expert on the international art market, and was recently appointed managing director of The Armory Show, held March 8-11 this year in NYC at Piers 92 & 94.