“Despite the flatlined economy, the art market has been roaring. In the first half of this year, total worldwide art sales hit a record of €4.3 billion ($5.8 billion), up 34 percent from 2010, according to the French Web site Artprice.com” (Blake Gopnick 2011 Newsweek). People like to talk about the “culture value of money” these days. What does that mean? On its surface, it’s almost a paradox. Are 1% capitalists and Wall Street billionaires - you know those CEOs who fly into Manhattan every morning in helicopters, and fly across continental U.S every weekend to go to their weekend home in Malibu to dine and wine with the Hollywood and Silicon Valley stars? - destroying the true value of art by throwing money at it? Remember the $100 million Picasso from a couple years ago? What about the million plus Warhol pieces? As suggested by the article, there is an increasing interest from new “artigarchs” from the BRIC countries who are experiencing the post-capitalist pleasure of collecting art works, perhaps due to a heightened appreciation for a piece of humanity? It always intrigues me how much people are willing to “invest” heavily in art works. How does one even acquire the taste of putting that much money in one art work? (If it is not practiced in the family already #newaristorcracy) It strikes me as if at one point in a person’s life, one has to feel connected to humanity in one way or another, given that their material needs have been met. A discussion with a friend earlier today prompts me to think about whether economics is the basis of society or association/community? (perhaps this is a false dichotomy…) Are we more concerned about a sense of belonging and association with others than economic needs? Or is it the other way around? I have no answer to that; but I think how we answer this question can provide a partial answer to the mentality of “artigarch.” It appears that these folks have made so much money in their life that they are now investing in the “culture value of money,” looking past the traditional role of money as a medium of exchange, store of value, and unit of account (Econ 101) for something bigger than themselves - and their wealth. Perhaps if we approach capitalism and market with similar “cultural” considerations, then the whole debate/dichotomy between money and humanity may collapse, and the so-called “social responsibility” component of capitalism or capitalism 2.0 vis-a-vis Bill Gates may then serve to mediate the tensions between the two philosophical camps. One can hope that one day, just maybe, “investing” in art - $20 at a local art work fair, $50 at an antique store, $19 from eBay and Amazon - will become a societal norm of using earned money to appreciate culture and humanity, promote creativity, and even bring together communities. Art appreciation does not need to be a 1% hobby; it can be integrated into the 99% lifestyle because what is art but a piece of human expression created by a fellow human being?
Edward Munch’s iconic “The Scream” sells for $119.9 million: We’re with you, freaked-out screaming guy.