2 Jun 2009

Is the recession affecting art?

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Now that the recession has become a hard reality and has hit the art market also significantly, one wonders if this will change the way we look at art. One reads of efforts where cadavers stripped of skin and coated with resin to preserve them are displayed as art, or when butterflies pinned on a canvas and dead animals preserved in formaldehyde solution are presented as art or when an unmade dirty bed is paraded as a work of art, one wonders what next? And, in fact, some very bizarre and sensational artworks have sold for millions of dollars at auctions. Art that generates controversy has become a surefire way to make a name.

What is amazing is that people have come up with these ideas and have managed to market it so well that they have persuaded others that it is art. And, what is more surprising is that people have not only been convinced about its credibility as a form of art, but have also spent good money on it. The fact remains that till just a few months ago practically anything and everything could be paraded as art and it would succeed in finding a gullible buyer.

Well, art happens to be one area where hype seems to play a major role. It is noticed that most people are drawn to the name of the artist rather than the artwork itself. It appears that the trend seems to be reversing, one finds that there are hardly any takers for artists such as Damien Hirst now. Prior to the recession the contemporary art market seemed to have gone completely haywire. Speculation, manipulation and hype were some of the causes that inflated the market substantially. At the moment, whether it is good judgment that is affecting the sale of such works, or whether it is a genuine lack of funds that is affecting the market - to know that one will have to wait and watch.

One hopes that in the current phase as most artists and buyers have become quality conscious there will be a change in trend for the better. However, as long as there are vested interests and a hyperactive media, hype will never go away, but surely with time buyers will become more evolved and will be able to separate art from the chaff.

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