Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Art World Loses Its Mind

The National Basketball Association has gotten the message: go woke and go broke. Its teams and players decided to turn their sport into a propaganda mill-- a place where they could hector their fans about social justice and racism. 

The result, as you know, is that television ratings for the NBA finals have collapsed. With ratings come advertising revenue. With advertising revenue comes salaries, and so on.

The NBA got the message, so next year we will not have overpaid athletes lecturing us about social justice.

And yet, the art world has not caught on to the idea, yet. Museums have taken to sell some of their great paintings in order to make room for less great work by people whose greatest distinction is belonging to a group of people who have been oppressed by white males.

As opposed to the NBA and certain other institutions, the art market and the museum world is elitist and anti-democratic. So, a few people can make a decision and, lo and behold, they are flooding the market with great works. For all I know they are going to replace said great works with mediocrities-- thereby compromising their status as arbiters of artistic greatness.

The other side of the issue is more banal. Having been shuttered by lockdown orders and social distancing criteria, the museums are losing money. So, they are trying to raise cash.

In the long run, however, offending your customers is never a good way to survive.

Bloomberg has the story:

This past April, after museums from San Francisco to Maine shut their doors due to the pandemic, the Association of Art Museum Directors announced that for two years, works could be sold and the proceeds used for “direct care,” with each institution defining what that means.

The impact has been profound. Museums are not only selling works long off the market but acquiring pieces by female, Black and Latino artists, and -- they hope -- gaining new visitors who will see themselves reflected in the hushed halls. In other words, they’re expanding the canon and hoping to turn this crisis into an opportunity.

Masterpieces are pouring into the market. This week at Christie’s, Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, sold its sole Jackson Pollock painting for $13 million and Springfield Museums in Massachusetts offloaded a Picasso for $4.4 million. Brooklyn Museum’s only Lucas Cranach is heading to the auction block next week while the Baltimore Museum of Art is shopping around its signature, monumental Last Supper by Andy Warhol for about $40 million.

In fairness, an art market that swoons when a chrome-plated blow-up toy bunny rabbit sells for around $90,000,000 has long since taken leave of its aesthetic sensibility. 

And yet, this woke madness will surely lead fewer and fewer people to go to museums. You do not go to a museum to be lectured about social justice or about culture warfare. Or, at least I hope you do not. 

The curators and collectors who are prostrating themselves before the gods and goddesses of wokeness will wake up one morning and discover that they have made complete fools of themselves. 

For those of us who know more about literature than about art, if it happens one day that a bunch of overeducation buffoons declare that Homer and Virgil and Shakespeare are just dead white males, whose works have no more intrinsic value than do the works of a woke poetess, I will immediately know that I can safely ignore them. 

Unfortunately, in a world where the less enlightened among us seem to believe that there is no such thing as intrinsic value, art is a natural target. And yet, if you believe that aesthetic value is real, these curators are making a defining error.

At the same time, a market is a market is a market. And the stupidity of some is an opportunity for others. Now, if you have too much cash on hand you can pick up a Lucas Cranach or a great Warhol at bargain prices.


Sam L. said...

I was thinking about buying something from the museums, but I returned to my senses. Not gonna do that. I will say that The STUPID is STRONG in these ones, and I do NOT wish to encourage them in their endeavors. Of course, being on the far side of this country makes is easy for me to disregard them.

Scarlett_156 said...

Art is always the first thing "they" go after. Artists are most likely to need cash, so it always seems like a great deal for everyone at first.

Mimi said...

Re literature: It has already happened.