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<nettime> What if a work of net.art sold for $34 million?
Edward Shanken on Tue, 14 May 2013 13:38:31 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> What if a work of net.art sold for $34 million?


What would the world be like if Roy Ascott's "La Plissure du Texte" (1983)
sold at auction for $34.2 million instead of Gerhard RIchter's ?Abstraktes
Bild?? In what sort of world (and artworld) would that be possible?

I asked this question a couple days ago on Facebook and it has generated
some interesting responses, which I'd like to share in order to get more
feedback on this little mind experiment from Nettime readers.  Here are a
few responses, anonymized but in order, so far:

1. And that money would be distributed, like the artwork.

2. It would be a world in which people would be much more aware of the
importance of play, just imagine 'playtime' at work, crawling around,
turning over your desk, pretending it is a spaceship in which your
colleagues begin a journey! A moment to delve into the inner narratives of
the symbolic. It would be a world in which creativity was valued more than
it is feared.

3. Good call. I really like this "what the world would be if" starting from
an art auction, you are suggesting a way out the decadence in the art world
and the impotence of art production. Thanks for this uplifting imagination
exercise.

4. Well, the Richter they can carry home. What would they be carrying home
with 'La Plissure ..."?

5.  I'm not sure it would mean a darn thing. Art sales in the tens of
millions are so far out on the thin tail of the bell curve that they say
very little about the mean. I do wish folks would stop picking on Richter
though. He's a great artist, and it's not his fault the wealthy have
decided to use his work as the coin of the realm.

ES: For "La Plissure..." to have an exchange value of $30+ million would
demand a complete retooling of not only the commercial artworld but a major
overhaul of cultural values. I'm not picking on Richter, merely using him
as an example of the commercial artworld's infatuation with retrograde
forms of practice that are out of touch with aesthetic developments (to say
nothing of techno-cultural developments) since the 1960s. Over four decades
ago Kosuth wrote that "Being an artist now means to question the nature of
art. If one is questioning the nature of painting, one cannot be
questioning the nature of art. If an artist accepts painting (or sculpture)
he is accepting the tradition that goes with it. That's because the word
art is general and the word painting is specific. Painting is a kind of
art. If you make paintings you are already accepting (not questioning) the
nature of art." By this logic, Richter might be a great painter, but he is
not a great artist. On the other hand, "La Plissure du Texte" is a far
superior work of art than any painting since 1969, when Kosuth called the
bluff and the jig was over.

5.2  So a quote over four decades old is authoritative for art today? I
think we've gotten beyond end-of-art thinking where the only legitimate art
is art about art. Kosuth's way treats art like a star collapsing in on
itself and becoming a black hole. All gravity and no light.

6. So a quote over four decades old is authoritative for art today? I think
we've gotten beyond end-of-art thinking where the only legitimate art is
art about art. Kosuth's way treats art like a star collapsing in on itself
and becoming a black hole. All gravity and no light.

3.2 I believe time will tell. The sword is double edged, investments in art
aren't good just because they move market value *today*. Actually, they
might be epic fails as well - and that's what is happening all over - as we
speak - to several big capitals. So that is pretty consequent with the
times we are living isn't it? 'nuff said, lemme order that copy of PdT now
to get it signed by Roy ... oh gosh I'm so materialistically OT tonight.
Must be the visit to the Van Gogh last sunday.

ES: In terms of use value, defined as the cultural capital accrued by a
collector today within the contemporary commercial art world, Richter has a
great deal to offer, hence the high price tag, i.e. its exchange value.
However, an artwork potentially has value outside of classical economic
theory: what it contributes to a continuously unfurling history of art
(that is perpetually retold from ever changing future perspectives). Let's
call that its posterity value. The history of western art from contrapposto
to conceptual art celebrates innovation and embraces work that challenges
the status quo. In this regard, Kosuth's perspective is as insightful today
as it was 40 years ago. I suspect that a Richter painting has little
posterity value, whereas I suspect that Ascott's "Plissure" has potentially
great posterity value. In other words, at some point in the future, Ascott
will be generally recognized as having made a more valuable contribution to
the history of art than Richter. The disparity between use value and
posterity value, and between posterity value and exchange value, is at
issue. Over time, as posterity value is more firmly established and
renegotiated from various present perspectives, it becomes closely aligned
with exchange value. The previous entry is insightful here, because I think
$33 million for  a Richter is destined to be an epic fail when the
correction between posterity value and exchange value takes place - not
because the art market is overvalued but because it has valued the wrong
things.

Ed Shanken

www.artexetra.com


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