Etikettarkiv: Economics

Artists on Cultural Policy and Anti-Economics

In the latest issue of KRO Konstnären I moderate a talk between some of the most interesting younger artists of Sweden. They seak openly on the lack of funding, terrible finansial conditions in museums and how to produce cutting-edge cultre and still make it sell. Follow the link to get inside.

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Deirdre McCloskey Turns Economics Upside Down – Now in Stockholm

The rogue economist Deirdre McCloskey will be in Stockholm during 18-19 May. She has just published a new book that might be soothing to all the social contructivists, marxists and non-economists out there: Why Economics can’t explain the modern world. There is a Beta draft version of it on her web page, read it and weep all you rational choicers! Oh and did I mention she is one of the worlds leading economics historians?

Here is the book

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Organically Grown Capitalism

When foreign affairs columnist Thomas L. Friedman’s first bestseller The World is Flat came out a few years ago, he hailed himself as the Man with The Answer. hot-flat-and-crowdedNow, he proclaimed, he would solve all major obstacles in society and redirect world politics using his neologism ”Flat”. He was speaking about a world where the ”middle” of everything was growing fast, thus leveling the playing field on the global scene. This thrice pulitzerized columnist for The New York Times has since been both rhetorically destroyed by a few writers but also compared to the likes of Walter Lippmann, who had a similar job back in the days.

Lippmann was as bright as a lighthouse but also a fierce critic of the concepts of politics and journalism themselves. Friedman here, sounds more like a PR-agent for the global crisis as well as haters of current disaster capitalism when he writes. In his latest book Hot, Flat and Crowded he develops his arguments for a greener economy by literary scaring us to complience. In my review of it I am both impressed and scared. Jump the link for the review in Tidningen Kulturen.

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Interview with Art Market Analyst Nicholas Forrest

Art Market Analyst Nick Forrest

Art Market Analyst Nick Forrest

I recently got a chance for a session of Q & A with art market blogger Nicholas Forrest, from the land down under. He updates his webpage Art Market Blog almost daily with eassay-like reports on contemporary art market fluctuations. Forrest is an art market analyst, journalist, art consultant based in Sydney, Australia and thus I wanted to ask hiom about how hw analyzes the Big Crisis, art money and the role of the market for contemporary artists. Here is an excerpt:

Robert Stasinski: How has the current economic crisis affected the art market? Thomas Crow wrote in the Artforum Art and Its Markets issue one year ago that our modern notions of artists and their relation to the market came from a way out of guild restrictions in order to market their freedom and individual quality. How does the contemporary artwork’s status as commodity or experience developed according to you?

Nicholas Forrest: The current economic crisis has, for starters, caused many of the speculators and opportunists who took advantage of the hype generated during the art market boom to make fast money to exit the art market.  Other opportunists in the form “trophy hunters”, who treated fine art as a mere status symbol, have also dropped in number as the contemporary art market that provided many of these status symbols takes a major dive.  Serious collectors and connoisseurs, who were priced out of the market as a result of the wealthy speculators and socialites, have now re-entered the market. As a consequence, the art market is now being driven by buyers who are much more discerning and are seeking to justify their purchases from both a financial and connoisseurial perspective. The economic crisis has also affected the supply of top quality works of art as buyers who can afford not to sell their valuable works of art are holding out for better times.

Read the rest of the interview

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Interview Section Updated: Economist and Blogger Niclas Berggren

Sweden’s economists have risen from their econometrics charts and regression tables during last few years to start getting involved in the public debate. Niclas1Great, since most economics blogs in Sweden are still preoccupied with earning mo money mo money mo money, which is sad. But now more and more academic and intellectually infused blogs have come to the fore and are closing the gap between academic research and public policy debates.

I sat down for an interview with Niclas Berggren (runs the blog Nonicocololasos), one of the most tenacious and well-informed bloggers around with his main background within economic reserach. He is also associate professor of economics (Stockholm School of Economics, 2005) and vice president of the research institute Ratio in Stockholm.

I asked him about  blogging, female economists and experimental research. Go to the Interview section for the entire text (In Swedish).

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An Art Critic Outs the Art Market, Damien Hirst is flabbergasted

sothebysFresh from the editing lab comes the documentary The Great Contemporary Art Bubble by the British filmmaker, critic and writer Ben Lewis. It has been shown on BBC4 in May 2009 and on SVT in June, watch it here. It starts off a bit tardy but Lewis’s indie style is brilliantly intermixed with interviews with hedge fund managers, economists and art market journalists. The result reveals a market that is unprotected from wild speculations, monopolistic conglomeration and a rampaging rhetorical structure hard to decompress. The end of the bubble is in the film supposed to marked by the Damien Hirst fuck-the-galleries-action at Sotheby’s last year, but it end gloomy with Jay Jopling and Larry Gagosian themselves bidding and raising the prices of Hirsts supposedly easy-to-sell works. I would like to see more of this criticism in the Nordic region, although the scarcity of major dealers and collectors in this region often blow such statements into oblivion.

The recent issue of Art Monthly contains an interesting article on the Art Economy by artist and art writer Michael Corris, where he among many things reiterates and discusses the statement by Hirst and critic Jerry Saltz that in hard economic times, more good art is produced. Sure, Saltz is a theory hater to begin with, but his poor reasoning for it goes like this: When prices for art are high, mediocre artists rise to the top, but when prices fall all the artists that do it for ‘love’ or other good reasons remain through hard times. Corris continues with theories of art economists Hans Abbing and Don Thompson, a few years old I must say, but still engaging. shark_1475cAbbings notion that a democratisation or normalisation of the art economy would devalue art’s social status globally is rebutted by Corris with the argument: art’s status is not based on any one values, such as money, instead art has an epistemic structure, being debated over time. Corris has a point, but too poor a knowledge of the mechanisms of the art market; Abbings reasoning is by and large economic, sure, but not merely monetary. He argues that the rhetorical structure of art and art education increases the peculiarity of the art market and keep artists in a spiral words like ‘creativity’, ‘talent’, ‘masterpieces’, ‘pricelessness’ and ‘genious’. What is needed is a thorough walktrough of what the market means for artists regardless if they benefit from it directly or not. According the Thompson only 6% of artists in the New York City area earn any money from selling art-works. Whether the other 94% can just relax and forget about Mary Boone’s parties is left unsaid, but I bet you that the research being conducted in the wake of The Crisis will point to a substantial effect of markets of artists, education and museums.

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Interview with Me, Me, Me

Robert-passfotoPhD candidate and critic Rikard Ekholm have just posted his critical interview with yours truly for Sweden’s longest running online art magazine Konsten. Slick Rick also writes the witty blog Sarts, check it (In Swedish)! The interview is mostly about my work as an art critic and such self introspection calls for a quote that fits my current sentiment:

I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity
Diana Vreeland, American writer and editor.

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More knowledge, More NeuroPsychoEconomics

Impatiently awaiting the new Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics (JNPE) produced by The Association for NeuroPsychoEconomics. It will further foster the merge of the life sciences with the dismal science economics.

Also have a look at the latest issue of E-Flux Journal. Look especially close at Sean Snyder’s article ”Disobedience in Byelorussia” which attempts to reconstruct a series of interrogations he once experienced at the hands of an Israeli immigration official. In it he interestingly tries to justify and comment his artistic practice through the questions he received at that time.
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The Notion of The Professional Artist – Emptiness Reloaded

What is our (the artwold’s) notion of what an artist is today and what is an artist percieved to be for the rest of the world? That is the question we all should ask ourselves while reading the Swedish Inquiry on Cultural Policy (Kulturutredningen) that celebrates a month in the coming week. Or for just the sake of humbling ourselves toward and cultural world, apparently more under siege than ever, if one refers to the most earsplitting cultural theorists of latter days. The considering of an artist’s ‘professionalism’ is a topic for the latest issue of Frieze. In a great essay Frieze editor Dan Fox delineates an image of a cultural sphere where professionalism rather than being ‘academised’ has turned into an emptiness reloaded, underpinned by a term he borrows from the philosopher Nina Power – ‘Nu-language’ (a play on Tony Blair’s New Labour and pop genres such as Nu-rave). The Nu-language of art or business and politics, for that matter is descibed as:

a non-grammatical set of abstractions that have the surface appearance of discussion and the exchange of ideas, but which in fact serve only in order to maintain the illusion of communication and creative dialogue.

Truly one of the most subversive sentences I have read in a commercial art magazine, latley. Fox goes on to discuss the point in which ‘revolution’, ’subversion’ or ‘critical research’ turn from major tropes of once-in-a-blue-moon exposiures that artworks can generate through their physical and conceptual form to becoming stale and commonplace ‘radical’. Now these terms used to infuse artistic value are mundane, gallery-assistant-formulated-post-guy-debord-frankfurt-school-critiqued commodities often found in large scale biennial text material as well as small in-house shows at the local artist-run space. Unfortunately Fox only opens the doors of critical thining half-way through, but leaves us with great stuff of thought. I am certain that artists, curators and critics who all aspire to delve deep into the question of What is to be done (in the arts)? have too often imagined themselves as system critics by default, thus eluding the conventions of the White Cube, the galleries’ economic system or the artists studio as workplace. The artist, curator or critic that subsequently wishes to gaze into his own pre-conceptions of art, life and politics will be described as a paradigm-shift-seeking brutalist that will stand before two choices: 1. get back in line and downplay your critique, or better yet move on to a more convenient field or 2. get out of the business, cause it will not emulate distortions that run too deep.

Sure, I am exaggerating a tad, but the fact of the matter is that the social evolution of the art world follows a simple rule: learn the social rules of the economy and be rewarded. The basic tenets of this evolutionary current will be made more and more visible as the current crisis echoes within the expanded white cube. My guess is that we will see a generation of fresh critical artists, knowledgeable on the economy and thus infusing a bit more nomenclature from macroeconomics, game theory and business models.
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Lars Vilks, the Swedish rascal, has a somewhat interesting text about the rhetoric of the artworld in latest issue of 00tal. Other interesting art projects that pinpoint this economy of emptiness is Alessandra Di Pisa’s Tomhetes Triumf (a book of texts made out of existing catalogue essays of other artists, sampled as to come out about Di Pisa instead) and Maurizio Cattelans The Sixth International Carribean Biennale in 2002. This non-exhibition was a mocking with the mechanisms of critical writing and the signified by the elaborate press releases and press material: the biennial would offer a a space for dialogue and building relationships between the international art world and local communities – of course a load of bull. There was no exhibition and barely any party or other signalling of an event. Just emptiness, twisting and turning its way through the big-eyed critics reviews into a contemporary piece of art history.

Stay tuned fo mo on the notion of emptiness economy.

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(New) Institutional Theory and The Swedish Report on Culture

The theory of new institutionalism as first formulated in 1984 by political scientists James March and Johan Olsen largely as a reaction to a stale function of ‘old’ institutionalism, they proposed a rethinking of the slumbering discussion of how and why institutions shape human behavior and thoughts and political governance. They envisioned a deviation from the ongoing political analysis that focused more on values and collective choice and desire, thus likely to shake the ground of rational choice theorists who believed that institution merely are the accumulation of individual choices based on utility-maximizing preferences. New Institutionalism was formulated from within the field of political science but have had ramifications in all social sciences since, and could well be repeated whilst browsing through the report on culture, that I commented on previously. March and Olsen write:

The bureaucratic agency, the legislative committee, the appellate court are arenas for contending social forces, but they are also collections of standard operating procedures and structures that define and defend interests. They are political actors in their own right. (1984, The New Institutionalism, James March and Johan Olsen)

Reading trough the report on culture I stop to think at page 30, in the 2nd part of the report The Reneawal Program (Förnyelseprogram), where the investigation develops ideas on why it has envisioned the massive reorganisation of Swedish governmental cultural institutions; the organisations that are to be formed will be ”more stable” and easier facilitate contact with ”other organisations” and ”interests”.

Now I agree that the first real report on culture back in ’74 did envision a new cluster of state organisations for cultural policy which today have come stale and old and thus are in a need of certain transformation and radicalisation. What scares me most about the vision presented in the new report is the view of the modulence of institutions to fit and adapt to the consumer of culture (or rather the pro-sumer), in such a blunt way that we tend to forget the aspects of production modes which shape what kind of culture we cultural workers are instigating. No contrast this to the interesting vision of critic Nina Möntmann in her essay The Rise and Fall of New Institutionalism – Perspectives on a Possible Future in Trasversal, where she uses some case studies to look at how western styled art institutions can radicalize and shape an interesting structure for producers and consumers alike. Her recommendations are contrary to that of the report on culture, namely to shrink and facilitate devolution of current institutions:  

”…reduce the number of structures and standards, and disengage spaces from too many codes and contexts. Here, where we have an institutionalized art field – and consequently the opportunities to participate in semi-public spaces, but also the difficulties caused by the control mechanisms of these spaces – the options are somewhat different. Here there are inherently many categories and conventions for all kinds of art spaces, and alternatives are always measured against the official system that already exists and is increasingly defined by the politics of city marketing and sponsorship.”

Möntmanns starting point is the artworld integration of New Institutionalism, seen during the first part of 2000 in Rooseum nad Kunst-Werke in Berlin, breaking down barriers between the audience and the institutions. The project displayed there was exercising critique from within the institution, as a consequence of the strong curator that internalised the institutions critique of the 60’s into a structure for production and consumption = prosumption.

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Nina Möntmann begs to disagree with the Swedish cultural report's take on institutions of the future

OCA in Oslo published the booklet New Institutionalism in 2003 and brought the term into an art context, of course without much of the observations of James March and Johan Olsen, but through the concept of ”the institution of critique”, stemming from the seminal article on instutitional critique in the by artist Andrea Fraser. Many observers including Nina Möntmann, Tone Hansen, Trude Iversen (The new administration of aesthetics, 2006) and others view this period as lost to a fast and brutal neoliberal economy exploding in our face.  Well, new times cause for new solutions and I believe that the new institutions must make use of mechanisms of the economy rather than just fighting against it. not to be compared to just following the economy, but rather opposing it through its own mechanisms of destruction and change.

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