Power in the Art World

December has seen records broken all across the art world. The two most well-known auctioneers in Manhattan saw figures topping $1.1 billion being spent on 20th century art in one week, including the record amount being spent on work by an artist who is not long deceased. Increasingly, critics claim the power to motivate the art world is possessed by those with the deepest pockets. If this is true, we look then at the people in the art world with the least power.

1. The Critics Themselves

As the industry staple ‘Art World’ publishes its Power 100 list of the most influential people in the business, many eyes are turned towards seeing which figures have had most sway this year. Not one single art critic was found on that list. Moreover, print media outlets like magazines and newspapers seem to be regularly firing their in-house critics, choosing freelancers or outsourcing the critical essays to other members of the team. Famously this year, critics have been omitting their names from published works – because they are so sure that no one is interested. A bad year for critics indeed, then, when previously support from a critic could make the difference to an aspiring artist’s career.

2. Celebrity ‘Artists’

Pop stars the world over seem to have turned their hand to the arts, with mixed results. Jay Z, Lady Gaga, James Franco and others have all this year used their celebrity status to promote projects in the arts. Jay Z filmed a music video featuring 34 well known artistic figures, including Marina Abramovic, in New York’s Pace Gallery. Lady Gaga created an art space for the public as part of her pop up shop installation for her album, ARTPOP. As it has in so many other fields, the ‘cult of celebrity’ is moving its spheres towards the art-world – yet with little actual impact on art today.

3. Students and Interns

Whilst art students are full of passion for their craft, they are unlikely to hit financial success until much later in life – if at all. The big academic institutions are often not geared towards the flexible education of art students, causing many to need to fight with administration just as with those at Cooper Union which was recently in the news. Likewise, interns are unpaid support team members with little influence but demanding authorities looming overhead. For those invested in the arts and their future, it would be better to click here, buy supplies from places like http://www.jacksonsart.com/ and create work which makes a statement, rather than wasting energy elsewhere.

4. The Gallery

The recent economic crisis has hit institutions like art galleries harder than most. Funded by beneficiaries and donation in the main, when times are tough the donors are less likely to reach into their pockets as they have investments to protect elsewhere. One key example of this is the case of the Detroit Institute of Arts. All the team, from the director down to floor level staff, are powerless in the face of other people’s financial ambitions. As the city goes bankrupt around them, the Institute can only wait and see what their fate will become.


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexlovesmiley/7801340042/

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