Todayâ€™s global art market is reminiscent of a roller coaster - even as it rotates and retrenches - the ride continues to propel, excite and surprise. With a tenfold increase in buyers over the last decade, unprecedented numbers of influencers are playing a part in work being made, seen and sold. Art has inextricably become dominated by the market. Private collectors on museum boards have become the new curators, driving acquisitions and dictating exhibition content. Advisors and dealers are conditioning the next â€œhotâ€ artists, who in turn, capitulate to the feeding frenzy, churning out works only to be dropped when the next fad takes hold. Galleries prioritise and promote sales of commercial-friendly paintings, setting their sights on short-term gains while overlooking more genuine forms of artistic production.
Or is this just a cynicâ€™s view, swayed by nostalgia for a time when artists, curators and critics were the only intellectual taste-makers? Record numbers are being measured not just in sales but in museum attendance, fair appearances, column inches and public programmes. The truth is, art has never been so honest, and so popular. The market is part of the solution, not the problem; there are more places than ever to showcase new talents and more philanthropists eager to nurture the kind of art - video, installation, performance - that canâ€™t be hung at home. Surely, global demand means that art has never enjoyed such buoyant circumstances in which to flourish.
So has â€˜realâ€™ art been sold out to the market in favour of trophies for billionaires? Or are we in fact enjoying an artistic renaissance where art is more accessible and exciting than ever?
Arguing for the motion in this debate in Hong Kong were The Art Newspaper editor-at-large and FT art market columnist Georgina Adam and Founder and director of Carlos/Ishikawa, London, Vanessa Carlos. Facing them were Award-winning Pakistani-American artist Shahzia Sikander and London-based art dealer, curator, lecturer and prolific writer Kenny Schachter. The debate was chaired by Tim Marlow, Artistic Director at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.
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