In this month’s Adbusters, artist Andrea Fraser has an article called “1% Art,” which offers a clear-eyed look at the role of the increasingly wealthy in funding the expansion of the art market over the past decade. “It is now painfully obvious,” Ms. Fraser writes, “that what has been extraordinarily good for the art world over the past decades has been disastrous for the rest of the world.”
During a remarkable lecture at MoMA last month, Ms. Fraser told the audience that she participates in the art world “with profound ambivalence.” In her article, which is a revised version of a recent piece from Texte zur Kunst, she offers a detailed look at her reasoning:
“Progressive artists, critics and curators face an existential crisis: how can we continue to justify our involvement in this art economy? … Any claim that we represent a progressive social force while our activities are directly subsidized by, and benefit from, the engines of inequality can only contribute to the justification of that inequality.”
There are no easy answers here, but Ms. Fraser begins sketching a picture of a way forward:
“A broad-based shift in art discourse may help precipitate a long overdue splitting off of the market-dominated subfield of galleries, auction houses, and art fairs. If a turn away from the art market means that public museums contract and ultra-wealthy collectors create their own privately controlled institutions, so be it. Let these private institutions be the treasure vaults, theme-park spectacles and economic freak shows that many already are. Let the market-dominated art world become the luxury goods business it already basically is, with what circulates there having as little to do with true art as yachts, jets, and watches.”
She’s also compiled a helpful guide to how some of today’s wealthiest art collectors made their billions. Read the whole piece for that.