The Market for Language
While stumbling through the internet and Twitter looking for any art related podcasts, I found Art Tactic.com. As far as I can tell (because I don’t and have no reason to subscribe to any of their services), Art Tactic is a website that addresses art solely as a market commodity. This is the focus of their podcast, but occasionally extra-market (i.e. aesthetic) judgments sneak in, and they can be interesting for what they reveal about a large audience for art that is either disparaged outright or otherwise ignored in most discourse.
Richard Polsky, author of I Bought Andy Warhol and the follow up I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon), had an interesting recent turn. While addressing Damien Hirst’s market he also noted that many collectors value artists who can make their own work. This was actually nice to hear, even if he allowed for Koons and Murakami as caveats. He also commented on Richard Prince’s reputation, who was seen as “a second tier artist” to Salle, Schnable, and Fiscl, and as an artist who was “clever, not good” and is still “not a great artist.” The more current assessment seems to be shared by the New York Times’ Ken Johnson, but I would still always rather see his work than that of his Neo-Expressionist compatriots.
Mr. Polsky’s most interesting stand comes when he declares that collectors should buy with their eyes, not their ears. He makes many of his market judgments (writing on Artnet.com and his own blog) based on what he sees in the work, and on Art Tactic he states that one of my own favorite artists, Christopher Wool, will be “the new hype.” He compares Wool to Edward Ruscha, who “used language before Wool and used it better”, noting that if Wool got five million dollars at auction, what must Ruscha be worth?
It feels like a silly comparison and strawman; Polsky states elsewhere that his dealing interests remain the pop artists, who I envision as crossing the street so as not to get mugged by Wool. Both artists do much more than just work with language (I’m a big Ruscha fan as well), and as a artist who is slowly working text and language into his paintings I shudder to see a first/ best dictum applied to any particular subject matter. It doesn’t seem accurate to the art market and it ignores issues of both context and concept that are germane to the discussion. More importantly it raises the issue of how connoisseurship can easily be confused with personal taste. Asking people to look more, even at representations of the language they see every day, is asking them to bring their own personal interpretations and interpretations to bear on the art they see, and those of us who make, look at, and think about art should probably allow for different interpretations than we might expect.