What value does an art critic bring

The value of artHow does the global art market work?

"How do prices arise in the art market? That is something that turns out to be absolutely non-transparent for normal art lovers."

"For me it is often a book with seven seals of what should and shouldn't be rated as high quality in today's art."

"You have no such thing as clear quality criteria with the help of which you can say that this work of art will be respected in ten years and will achieve high prices".

"700,000. Nobody left? 700,000. For the first, for the second ... I can strike, for the third".

700,000 euros for a 'Gerhard Richter' are of course 'peanuts'. His most expensive pictures are in the tens of millions. The highlight so far: his photo-realistic blurred "Cathedral Square Milan" for $ 37.1 million.

In the meantime, however, Gerhard Richter has been replaced as the most expensive artist still alive: the "Balloon Dog" by the American Jeff Koons, an enlargement of balloons knotted in the shape of dogs, fetched 58.4 million dollars. And the British artist Damien Hirst held an auction at Sotheby’s in London in 2008. He had 56 of his works auctioned there. Proceeds: around $ 140 million. His "Golden Calf" alone, a young bull in formaldehyde, horns and hooves made of 18-carat gold, and a shining disk on his head, also made of solid gold, reached 10.3 million. Ulli Seegers, Professor of Art History at the University of Düsseldorf:

"When I look at what is currently being highly traded in the market, I realize that this is not the art that is critical, that is resistant, that encourages new thinking, but rather that of affirmation with a certain glossy aesthetic and light digestible comes along. "

It is frowned upon to see art as a commodity. This is why pictures are usually not given price tags in galleries. Art counts, not money, so the message. Art is an end in itself, is a calling, without ulterior motives for business or benefit. Even if Salvador Dali once confessed: "Everything that interests me is money". And Andy Warhol put dollar signs on paper, which you could then hang as objects on the wall.

"Today I just read a very nice anecdote about Hans Thoma, the Karlsruhe painter, who overheard the reactions of visitors in an exhibition behind a curtain."

Dr. Johannes Nathan from the forum "Art and Market" at the TU Berlin.

It is a myth that art and money do not go together

"And then a couple said: What was the artist thinking about this picture? That was a landscape picture. And at that moment Thomas storms out from behind the curtain and says, well, the artist wanted to sell the picture, he wanted to sell it. This is actually something that one easily forgets when looking at art, that a lot of this activity is aimed at economic proceeds, at considerable profit. And that has been for centuries. "

It is a myth that art and money do not go together. As early as 1675, the French noblewoman Marquise de Sévigné wrote that paintings were like gold bars and could be sold at any time for twice their purchase price. The first art boom took place in the Dutch Golden Age. In the 17th century the Netherlands had not only become a trading nation and world power, but also a gigantic art workshop. Because the consumerism of citizens who had become rich was awakened and demanded visible materialization.

"In the 17th century this Dutch society prospered so incredibly, there was a shortage of cash and gold where you could invest what you had earned and many who then became wealthy wondered how else can I do it ? And art was a very popular area for investment. "

Hardly any other market, however, is characterized by such inequalities as the art market. There are the few painter princes with their millions in income, while 95% of the artists, according to estimates, cannot make a living from their art. There is an oversupply of art. It often only adorns the walls of cafés, old people's homes or factory canteens, where it is waiting to be bought for little money. Not infrequently, however, even that fails.

"There are discussions when a work by Jeff Koons is so expensive, why does mine have no market value? And that is very brutal supply and demand. And that has always existed in the art market",

says Professor Kasper König, director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne until the end of 2012. There are vile market laws that determine the - financial - value of a work of art. What is in demand is expensive. Is that also the certificate for quality?

"I find it difficult to deal with the concept of quality. It is possible that a young artist with lots of ideas might even start a production that… doesn't meet the highest quality criteria, but has some crisp or interesting ideas bring it to a good point. "

Dr. Johannes Nathan, art historian at TU Berlin, is also director of the Nathan Fine Art gallery in Zurich and Berlin.

"Then it can be an incentive for a gallery to continue to stand up for this person. Then it will go hand in hand with the activation of a large network, then you will try to activate journalism, you will also try to win over institutions that might be Artists are already exhibiting. And then it can succeed in winning a circle of potent collectors who start buying these works. And the whole thing, if it exceeds a critical mass, can develop such a force that such an artist can reach the highest level Heights is coming. But I would hesitate to say that this is solely due to the quality of these works. "

Unlike other goods, art has no "functional value"

Since the quality of works of art is in principle difficult to determine, according to the two sociology professors Jens Beckert and Jörg Rössel in their essay "Art and Prices", the potential buyer of art is faced with the problem of "fundamental uncertainty". Unlike other goods, art has no "functional value" that is reflected in its immediate use. Nor can their value be determined by the production costs. And that it is not the technical and artistic effort that turns a work into a work of art has been clear at the latest since Marcel Duchamp exhibited a commercially available urinal with a signature in 1917. Its replicas are now in numerous well-known museums. Professor Jörg Rössel, sociologist at the University of Zurich:

"Very early on, sociology turned against the idea of ​​solitary artists who create works of art in their individuality, so to speak. It also takes people who evaluate works of art, for example art critics, art historians, curators, gallery owners, in order to get out of a certain object in general To make a work of art. That is to say, the idea is that a work of art does not become a work of art through its material properties, but through the ascribed properties that certain actors in the field of art ascribe to an object. "

An object is considered a work of art when artists, critics, gallery owners, museum directors, curators and collectors agree that it is art. Regardless of whether this, as the Munich art historian Piroschka Dossi ironically notes in her book "Hype. Art and Money", is an animal carcass, a nose operation or a pink poodle painted with acrylic paint. The judgment about the aesthetic value of a work becomes the basis for determining the economic value. Sociologically speaking: the value of the work of art is a "construction". And for Rössel there is something absolutely arbitrary in this construction. Philosophically speaking: a contingency.

"There is a lot of contingency in there. There are many studies in the field of art that show what is now becoming a success or what is considered to be aesthetically high-quality, is fraught with relatively high coincidences Would you choose an art college and then say which of them will really get famous in the end? So there are very nice experimental studies that both laypeople and art experts go to a relatively great deal of trouble when they are supposed to distinguish the scribble of children and contemporary art . "

The Düsseldorf art historian Ulli Seegers sees an increasing narrowing of the field of actors who judge the artistic and thus also the pecuniary value of a work. Marketing success is becoming a network phenomenon more than ever. Galleries combine with others, dealers combine to form large companies. The global networking of the art trade is not without consequences for competition. It leads to a concentration of demand on artists who are sponsored by these globally operating companies. Meanwhile, so again Piroschka Dossi, there are only 30-40 artists "who serve the taste preferences of a global money elite with their works."

"How do prices arise in the 21st century in the art market? These are large galleries that have come together internationally, that have a business relationship and that discover certain as yet unknown artists and then show and market each other on different continents in influential art venues. And this interplay is for a relatively unknown artist in a short period of time given something like market power. So I will go from noname to bigname, ideally. "

"We are all corrupted by money"

But the better known an artist becomes, wrote the New York gallery owner Leo Castelli at the end of the 1960s, "the more he is viewed from the perspective of investment." And at the same time admitted: "We are all corrupted by money". Today artist rankings and art indexes try to make the success of an artist measurable and to present it in numbers and prices. The principle of the stock exchange applies increasingly: buy - hold - sell. So: Buy - Hold - Sell.

"The aim is by no means to build up an individual private collection that is significant in terms of art history, but the aim is clearly formulated, the aim is return of investment, art as an investment object. And of course these works are not hung up somewhere, they are stored in rented warehouses, duty-free, which are sprouting up explosively from the ground. "

Does this also change the character of art? Are the intellectual depth and complexity of a work of art no longer desirable? Ulli Seegers, who published a book "Ethics in the Art Market" in December, sees art increasingly shaped by a superficial "consumer aesthetic":

"It's about using a certain form of aesthetic that is no longer risky, but depicts our time and is therefore socially acceptable. I don't want to say that there is no more art-historically significant art today, but the question according to isms, according to new styles, according to interesting positions, as they may still remain interesting from an art-historical point of view for the next 100 years, that has very much regressed against viewing art as an investment.

"500 five hundred ... for the first, no 520, 540, 600, thank you very much, 620, six hundred"

Every art needs a market. And market success and artistic credibility are mutually dependent. Inside all works of art that are made big by the art market glitters - money. Just the money? Or is there another value beyond the commodity value of art? For the writer Walter Benjamin, the work of art had an "aura", as he defined in an essay in 1935: Art shows the "unique appearance of a distance, as close as it may be". Something transcendent appears in it, something that goes beyond what is seen. Art, according to the painter Paul Klee, does not reproduce the visible, but makes it visible.

"I would say that art can shape and change our perception in a very decisive way."

Dr. Johannes Nathan, art historian and gallery owner:

"But that's something you hardly see at the moment because it's so shocking. If you think, for example, of Munch's famous scream, which repelled most of the art critics in his day, including the art critics, when you might look back on the train of terrible events of the 20th century even better understands how well the artist has succeeded in bringing primal human fears into a clear picture. "

Only time will decide

It is traditionally the museum that turns the profane commodity art into an aesthetic object. However, the museums themselves are coming under increasing financial pressure and can hardly bid in the competition for art when market prices rise. And yet: when the work of art comes into the museum, it leaves the world of the market. The museum gives the goods on display its seal of approval as a "state-tested cultural asset". It gives it a duration beyond the commercial hype. Prof. Kasper König, long-time director of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne:

"If we show it in a museum, then it is not a sales room, then the economic value is secondary. There are many things that do not represent extraordinary value in the market, but which are extremely important in the history of ideas. A certain generation is aware of them that's part of this aesthetic. But we don't know how it will be in ten years "

"We don't know how it will be in 10 years". It is only time that decides whether a million-dollar hype will turn into a work of art-historical significance that is imprinted on the cultural memory of a society. Or whether it is something like the emperor's new clothes that no one dares to expose, for fear of being stupid. Only time will decide whether, for example, Jeff Koons Balloon Dog, that 56 million dollar tin poodle, will be named the epoch-forming Neo-Dada or just a footnote in cultural history.

"I would say that this is an award that will be viewed with different eyes in 20 or 30 years. It is something that has happened again and again in art history, that there were artists who had incredible success in their lifetime, theirs Works were sold for large sums of money, the works of which are almost forgotten, the works of which perhaps languish in storage in museums and which only fetch low prices on the market.