Art & Design

200,000 Reasons to Hate the Contemporary Art Bubble

Art & Design

200,000 Reasons to Hate the Contemporary Art Bubble

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Are you tired of your friends telling you about some lame new young artist selling $40,000 semen paintings? Are you sick of going to an extremely loud and incredibly overcrowded gallery opening? Are you annoyed that every  “influencer” went up to see Dan Colen plant two trucks on the lawn of a Greenwhich, CT, estate? Well, now is your chance to step out of the art bubble and start hating its very existence.

A story appeared in today’s New York Times with the headline, “For Ultra Rich, Art is Alternative Currency.” Art sales reached an all-time high at the auctions in New York this spring, and London last week for a total of $2 billion. These collectors are the actual 0.1% of the 0.1%:

At Christie’s…the evening’s buying had been dominated by established collectors, 190 clients from 28 countries had bid at the sale. That’s still just a tiny fraction of the world’s 199,235 individuals who each were estimated byUBS and the consultancy Wealth-X to have more than $30 million cash to spend in 2013.

Unlike the last boom in the mid-2000s, new collectors are not coming to the fairs and popping into the galleries. Of all the billions spent, 70% of sales go to the top ten selling artists—your Warhols and Bacons.

The entire class of people who can afford this art could live in a city half the size of Cleveland (where many of them they will be in summer 2016 at the Republican National Convention, which was announced yesterday). After all, the people propping up this art boom are many of the same crony capitalists who ruined the global economy. They are not thinking of a healthy art culture, they are looking for a healthy investment. They don’t care about you, young artist. Art is no longer art. It is an “alternative currency.”

The Art World is richer than ever, but there is little trickle down that isn’t coming in the form of patronage or institutional programs. In fact, grant programs for artists are shrinking nationwide. Artists used to be much more socially engaged, activists even. Where can we find, say, the Dadaists or Guerilla Girls of today? Even on a community level, artists certainly haven’t done a good job fighting landlords in places like Bushwick and Long Island City to keep studio and loft spaces affordable like they did in ’70s SoHo. So few people are making the big money in art, that it might be time Occupy Art Basel.