How do we value art? Arts journalism has been quick to respond to the recession with talk of an art market boom turned bust. These responses, though, have mostly told two tales.
In one version, recessions are good for art. The art world of the last few years had become increasingly conservative and corporate; now without the pressure of selling their work, artists are free to experiment and without inflated real estate prices, non-commercial spaces can thrive. In the other version, a booming art market wasn’t just about hedge-fund collectors and cash-flush auction houses, it also allowed artists to make a living off of their work and provided an unprecedented amount of entry level jobs in the arts. Artists with day jobs are not so free and scaling back the infrastructure surrounding art means less jobs for artists who are not making a living off of their work.
Both of these responses acknowledge a relationship between how we value art economically, as something to be bought and sold, and how we value art culturally, as something we deem meaningful and around which we structure our lives, even if neither response assumes that these two forms of value are concurrent. The question remains, however, what relationship do these very different forms of value have to one and other? Ad Hoc Vox has brought together members from the fields of anthropology, art history, economics, and philosophy to respond to this question. Colleen Asper moderates the panel, followed by a Q&A with the audience.
Featuring Lynn Catterson, Elizabeth Currid, David Graeber, Paul Mattick, and Don Thompson.
LYNN CATTERSON received her Ph.D. in Art History at Columbia in 2002, where she currently teaches. Her research stems from an interest in Italian Renaissance sculpture with a recent focus on consumer demand for antiquities in the fifteenth century and ways in which sculptors of the period, namely Donatello and Michelangelo, responded to this type of art market by producing counterfeit antiques. "Michelangelo's Laocoön?" was published in 2005 and she is currently working on a book dealing with the simulation of antiquity in the Renaissance .
ELIZABETH CURRID is assistant professor at the University of Southern California and author of The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art and Music Drive New York City (Princeton University Press 2007). Her work has been reviewed in The Economist, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Financial Times, and the Village Voice, among others. She is currently writing a book on celebrity, forthcoming with Faber & Faber.
DAVID GRAEBER is an anthropologist and activist, who currently teaches at the University of London and has been active in direct-actiongroups, such as the Direct Action Network and People's Global Action. He has written for Harper's Magazine and New Left Review, and his books include Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value; Lost Value: Magic and the Legacy of Slavery in Madagascar; and Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigation, Collective Theorization.
PAUL MATTICK is the author of Art in Its Time and (with Katy Siegel) Art Works: Money. He has written criticism for Arts, Art in America, and Artforum, and was editor of the International Journal of Political Economy.
DON THOMPSON is an economist and professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. He has taught at Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics. His book, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art, was written in London and New York. To the surprise of the author, the topic turned out to be of interest beyond Kensington and Chelsea, and the upper east side of Manhattan. The book is being published in ten languages, with over 100,000 copies in print in hardcover.