We now treat Le Crisis as an old bad-mannered acquaintance; we rely on it for explanations of fallacies in the present and can rightfully curb our optimism and striving for a better future because of it. As I wrote in January the artworld is by and large avoiding addressing the crisis both since the artwolrd reacts with a certain time gap toward economic and political change and because individual artistic prosperity is never dependant on the larger turnings of the economy. We know Christes and Sothebys have done bad lately, but that does not affect artists and curators as much as it affects collectors and art advisers. Artistic value is at most times created as a reaction to an outside world which one cannot protect, change or revolutionize (Although, these three sets of values seem to be the most sought after by artists during the last decade).
The great economist Amartya Sen writes the most affecting of all the analyses of the present economic turmoil in the New York Book review. He has focused much of his economic outlook in from the writings of economist Adam Smith, who also happened to be Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University. Sen has written about this part of economic history in the brilliant On Ethics and Economics from 1991 (Read it!).
In his article he goes back to the moral philosopher once more:
While he [Adam Smith] wrote that ”prudence” was ”of all the virtues that which is most useful to the individual,” Adam Smith went on to argue that ”humanity, justice, generosity, and public spirit, are the qualities most useful to others.” Smith viewed markets and capital as doing good work within their own sphere, but first, they required support from other institutions—including public services such as schools—and values other than pure profit seeking, and second, they needed restraint and correction by still other institutions—e.g., well-devised financial regulations and state assistance to the poor—for preventing instability, inequity, and injustice.
Some pretty interesting points made during the 1700!
We can now observe that historically, capitalism did not emerge until new systems of law and economic practice started to protect property rights and created an economy based on ownership. We can now outline a capitalism that is built of institutional values, as long as these value do not deviate too much from the Real World (The Pirate Bay convictions yesterday is a good example of institutional property right far behind existing technologies and desires of the industrialized world.)
An interesting point of observation is made in the latest issue of KRO’s Konstnären Magazine by journalist Anders Mildner about the production of art in times of crisis. Stockholm gallery owner Magnus Karlsson asserts that the recession brings out more focus on the creative process instead of large-scale glossy art. Lars Vilks agrees when he states that commercially viable art by default is put of the meat wagon and the focus changes from the status of the object to the introspection of structures within the (art)world. Somehow this is commonplace knowledge but still important to explicate in order to tear down the wall of artistic autonomy being built up by the art market, and the fact that Magnus Karlsson comment on this is a good sign.
It is still really bad though, that Mildner finishes the article by muttering over the many answers he got from artists thet wanted to stay anonymous. This lack of openness and lucidity over the means and ends of art production makes me really sick and we should start campaining to get these issues more present in today’s art education all over the world. Because despite all leaps of faith that thousands of art students make each year before entering the market, Damien Hirsts f***** up proclamation during his 2 billion dollars auction in September 2008 says it all about the lack of history and transparency of the artworld: “The future looks great for everyone”.