The Museologist

Art + Industry

Posted in General by adevereux on February 11, 2010

The words “art” and “museum” today are virtually inseparable from two others – “market” and “industry”, respectively.  Two facets of what we consider our cultural environment are, in fact, unabashedly pervasive in socio-economic spheres.

Case(s) in point: The Economist recently published  a special report on the art market entitled “Suspended Animation,” providing an in-debth analysis of collections values, auction house sales, and the soundness of arts investments; the MoCA in LA recently appointed as its new director the highly successful New York gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, ostensibly in hopes that his success in the business of art sales will translate to a more lucrative museum business; the museum director (typically the top-most authority of any museum) at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles must answer to the CEO and President of the J. Paul Getty Trust (now Barry Munitz).

This all became even more glaringly obvious with the recent record-breaking sale at Sotheby’s of Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture L’Homme Qui Marche, selling for just over $104 million.

In light of these recent events in the art world that have made it into the news, I’ve started to think more about the marriage of these terms “industry” and “market” to cultural institutions.  In theory it doesn’t seem like they should fit, but they do, and quite successfully.  And in fact, I’m glad when news from the art world is deemed “newsworthy” by those “outside” of it.  As long as we can maintain educational and “cultural” benefits (for lack of more concrete terms), I hope the art world stays as fashionable as it has become.  But is that possible? Is the educational component sacrificed by the prevalence of the big-name-game?


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