Art withoutMarket, ArtwithoutEducation:PoliticalEconomy of Art
ÒPerhaps contemporary art is an art tosurvive our contemporaneity as an artist.ÓÐ Boris GroysSince the early days of modernism, artists havefaced a peculiar dilemma with regard to theeconomy surrounding their work. By breakingfrom older artistic formations such as medievalartisan guilds, bohemian artists of thenineteenth century distanced themselves fromthe vulgar sphere of day-to-day commerce infavor of an idealized conception of art andauthorship. While on the one hand this allowedfor a certain rejection of normative bourgeoislife, it also required that artists entrust theirlivelihoods to middlemen Ð to private agents orstate organizations. One result was that some ofthe most influential modernist artists, from PaulGauguin to Mondrian and Rodchenko, died inabject poverty, not because their work wasunpopular but because the economy producedby the circulation and distribution of their workwas entirely controlled by others, whether undercapitalist or communist regimes.
While aconcern with labor and fair compensation in thearts, exemplified by such recent initiatives asW.A.G.E. or earlier efforts such as the ArtWorkers Coalition, has been an important part ofartistic discourse, so far it has focused primarilyon public critique as a means to shame andreform institutions into developing a more fairsystem of compensation for Òcontent providers.Ó
It seems to me that we need to move beyond thecritique of art institutions if we want to improvethe relationship between artists and theeconomy surrounding their work.ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊHere I am not particularly interested in thepower relations between artists and the artmarket, a cyclical conversation that seems todominate much of art writing today. Historically,
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03.14.13 / 16:13:56 EDT