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to read more buy the book: Shop Translated by Ana Iwataki
With this article, I intended to talk about artists who, for various reasons had established emancipating mechanisms in the art world, at least during a period of their life. At first glance, the subject seemed delightful and, I must admit, easy to handle as it was a question of describing what in the end many consider as anecdotes and not the famous content of work.
Examples of artists having developed this kind of economic autonomy came to me effortlessly. I immediately thought of Jef Geys and his night bar; Hans-Peter Feldmann and his gift shop; Ernest T and his counterfeit contracts; Ben Kinmont, dealer of antique gastronomy books; Yona Friedman, director of information at UNESCO; NSK, label producers, theater group, publishers, and creators of a school; General Idea, publishers and founders of Art Metropole, etc.
After all, do artists create for the art world?
As currently there is no shortage of reasons to detach oneself from the artistic scene, at least the one that “works” too well with the market, this subject served my cause and that of Cneai, for most of the artists hosted on Ile de Chatou had a – let’s say autonomous – disposition vis à vis the institution that represents the coordinated landscape of the globalized art world, which can be assimilated to the luxury market.
A word on this landscape. I’m not harping on about the eternal opposition between private and public, sadly. Between those who are turned on by money and those who are stimulated by artistic experience, the boundary no longer requires this distinction. We find, in fact, and without looking too much, as many institutions and curators on one side as on the other, as many galleries or foundations, and almost as many artists, without mentioning art students. The founder and president of Artprice, Thierry Ehrmann, is an artist. The most honest curators admit that their work now consists of finding galleries who want to finance an exhibition of an artist that they choose. We know all this and, as Yann Moulier-Boutang says so well, we don’t have any intention of renouncing art as an exercise of life for all that. We’re just a little resistant to the idea that in the long run it will be necessary to invent another word, as Hans-Peter Feldmann suggested (for his own part, he refuses the mental imagery associated with the term art), proposing to me that we establish a manifesto to find another.
Even if the intersection is populated, does the coexistence of two ensembles characterized by two different behaviors signify (at least) two worlds in art, a bit like the two focus points in a pair of glasses, one in the middle of each pupil? Has the art world become binocular? We come back happily to questions linked to perception. What do(es) the art world(s) see(s)? It doesn’t seem that the image is the same for everyone. At least, it doesn’t seem that I see the same image as certain friends evolving in the global market. I must admit that among the 100 best-selling artists at the moment, there are several whose names I don’t even recognize, even in the first ten actually. Do you know John Currin or Mark Grotjahn? They’re both painters, they’re both with Gagosian. The analysis of their work is swallowed up in the cogs of the market. Many among the best-selling artists don’t interest me and the reverse is still truer. I realized glimmers of indifference in the eyes of collectors and gallerists to whom I spoke about Claude Rutault in 1995, Hans-Peter Feldmann in 2000, Yona Friedman in 2005, without mentioning hundreds of artists of ensuing generations who are just as important for me. Certain artists like Martin Kippenberger figure nevertheless in the top ten of sales in Europe. He’s dead, you’ll tell me, which left free rein to creators of value. However, he’s not indexed in the top American and Chinese lists. And yet these two countries represent close to 70 per cent of the global market; France around 3 per cent while the United Kingdom generates more than 20 per cent of the market. A matter of language?
Let us go back to strabismus. To remedy…