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Art and “commodification” Titian. Venus of Urbino. 1538 To “commodify”: to turn into or treat as a mere commodity.

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Presentation on theme: "Art and “commodification” Titian. Venus of Urbino. 1538 To “commodify”: to turn into or treat as a mere commodity."— Presentation transcript:

1 Art and “commodification” Titian. Venus of Urbino. 1538 To “commodify”: to turn into or treat as a mere commodity

2 Good art? Friedrich Schiller. On the Aesthetic Education of Man. 1793 George Friedrich Hegel. Elements of the Philosophy of Right. 1822 Grant H Kester. Learning from Aesthetics: Old Masters and New Lessons. Art Journal Vol 56 pp20-25 Spring 97

3 Good art? Grant Kester ‘it is precisely the role of the artist to ask difficult questions, to prick the viewers conscience and to call our attention to uncomfortable truths’ Activist art Francis Alys When faith moves mountains 11.4.02. Ventanilla Peru.

4 yBas – Hirst, Whiteread, Hume, Lucas, Emin, Wallinger, Landy, Hume…1990s “Good” art or good publicity and business? Is Hirst’s work valuable as “art” or does it function more as a well branded commodity? Who has more control over what is judged as “good art” in the current commercial climate – an economic and powerful elite or the arbiters of “cultural capital” in the art world? If it is the rich and powerful economic elite, is the inevitable result a “dumbing down” of culture such as that feared by Adorno and the Frankfurt School. Is art now more “culture industry” and “commodity” than intellectual life? Does this threaten the existence of “art”?

5 yBas Blatantly reject ‘academicisation’ and theory Aim to communicate with a wide audience Use the visual language of mass culture – newspapers, film, advertising, pornography Use the strategies of the ‘culture industries’ – spectacle, shock, exposure in newspapers, the advent of celebrity Are successful, if success means earning a living Successful, if the aim is to integrate art into everyday life

6 anti-theory and anti intellectual “the personal is political?” I sew simply because I sew and I am actually quite good at it. It’s not like I’m trying to come up with some kind of grand female statement Everyone I have ever slept with. 1963-95. Tracey Emin

7 “I think I’m getting basically more yobbish. Yobbish is visceral” Damien Hirst ‘hackneyed expressions of vulgarity’ Au naturel. Sarah Lucas. 1994

8 Jake and Dinos Chapman. 1995 Zygotic acceleration, biogenetic, de-subliminated libidinal model (enlarged x1000) Sarah Lucas. 1991. Seven Up

9 If you go up to anybody in the street in the North of England and give them Flash Art and you say ‘Go on have a look at that’ they would just say ‘ What a pile of fucking total bollocks, it’s shit, I’ve never seen anything like it…….Art has got to be able to stand up to everything else and if it can’t then it doesn’t work….if you have an idea of an audience then it has to be to communicate with everybody Damien Hirst, quoted in Stallabrass, High Art Lite

10 I want the viewer to do a lot of the work and feel uncomfortable. They should be made to feel responsible for their own view of the world rather than look at the artist’s view and be critical of it… Sarah Lucas, quoted in Stallabrass, High Art Lite

11 “To refuse to offer neatly packaged solutions, to recognise complexity and ambiguity, does not have to entail refusing to say anything at all” Meaningful or simply ‘exemplifying’? Gavin Turk. 1998. Bum Sarah Lucas

12 “Why does critical theory bounce off this work? …It fastens on the concerns of theory but gives them no play”

13 Art Incorporated Stallabrass. 2004

14 “As the feature articles build up, they take the place of empirical evidence, the hype becomes the substance” Simon Ford. The Myth of the Young British Artist. In, Occupational Hazard. Critical Writing on Recent British Art. 1998 Hirst’s greatest creation of his career so far has been a walking, talking installation that goes by the name of Damien Hirst Cosmo Landesman, quoted in Ford, ibid.

15 ‘vicarious enjoyment of prestige’ Adorno ‘artists simply reflect and examine the new scene in which there is no distinction between art and commodity culture and they do so without critique or desire for change’ Stallabrass on Buchloh

16 A culture of fear Art is more commodity than culture, more exchange value than critique Art is merely a ‘sign’, exploited for its cultural capital Art is increasingly banal, ambivalent, refuses critique. Art is increasingly debased and vulgar Art is losing its autonomy and position of critique Collapsed within popular culture it is ‘dumbed down’, a lesser art With no higher purpose, it is morally compromised and mortally threatened

17 The argument and the players Artists Patrons – the powerful and the wealthy The ‘Academy’ – the ‘intellectual’, the theorists and critic – the cultural elite – a “petite bourgeoisie” – the arbiters of ‘taste’ The populist “masses” - alienated, ignorant and lacking in “taste”

18 “Wealth is the result of commerce, luxury the consequence of wealth and the perfection of the arts that of luxury” Baron de Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat. The Spirit of the Laws. 1748

19 “In our society workmen and mercenaries decide the fate of music….they set themselves up as arbiters of taste…music will never rise again after its fall” Jean Jacques Barthelemy. 1788 “ (it is luxury) that degrades great talents, by subjecting them to small works….that degrades great subjects by reducing them to scenes of revelry” Diderot. 1767 “commerce corrupts pure morals” Baron de Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat. The Spirit of the Laws. 1748

20 Luxury encourages indolence……Brilliant reviews are organised to provide a spectacle for the ladies…… Mercier, 1782 the dissolution of morals, a necessary consequence of luxury, leads in turn to the corruption of taste……Rousseau, 1751 It is clear to Rousseau that under such circumstances such as those that characterise modern commercial society, an artist has no choice but to “lower his genius to the level of his time”……Mattick on Rousseau, 2003 Julian Stallabrass. 1999

21 ‘An essential question – and it is an old one,………..that should be asked of an art that deals with mass and popular culture, that hails the non-elite audience, is whether it takes as its task to stir “hearts and to prevent them falling asleep in that false and wholly material happiness which is given by monarchies” The majority of artists purveying high art lite have been content to play the well-remunerated role of court dwarf ’ Julian Stallabrass, High Art Lite, 1999 Quotation from Stendhal, 1839

22 Pierre Bourdieu A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste 1979 “nothing more rigorously distinguishes the different classes (than)..the aptitude for taking a specifically aesthetic point of view on objects” “art and cultural consumption are predisposed… fulfil a social function of legitimating social differences”

23 Mike Featherstone Lifestyle and Consumer Culture. 1991 “Intellectuals have been able to establish a monopoly in defining legitimate taste within the cultural realm, to distinguish…what is tasteful and tasteless, between pure gaze and vulgar, between aesthetic distancing and direct sensory enjoyment…. They share an interest in maintaining the existing state of material class relations in which economic capital enjoys….. a high exchange rate when converted into cultural capital They will therefore always seek to increase the autonomy of the cultural field and enhance the scarcity of cultural capital by resisting moves towards the democratisation of culture”

24 “a single and unified national intellectual life which could be drawn upon and appealed. At least since the 18 th century that realm has been in crisis and conflict, divided by material interests and the demands of commerce” “The shift from seeing art as an integral part of an intellectual culture which also involved politics, philosophy, music, literature and the sciences, to one that sees it as a lifestyle issue, a complement to an interest in furnishings” Julian Stallabrass is a writer and critic. He teaches history of art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Univ of London

25 ‘ The truth is, playing dumb and shouting “ARSE” and taking your knickers down has become an attractive move in the face of the professional institutionalisation of critical theory in art in the 1980s’ …….a position from which the new generation were seen to have ‘fought to renew the conditions of art’s passage into the everyday and away from ‘art’s academicisation’ Observations on John Robert’s defence of the yBaS in Neil Mulholland, The Cultural Devolution (Art after Britain?), p141

26 A paradox: Modern art and money “The majority of artists purveying high art lite have been content to play the well-remunerated role of court dwarf “ Julian Stallabrass. High Art Lite.

27 “Master Pietro is to paint a history similar to that in the design which is on this sheet. This drawing is taken from a design which now belongs to Master Francesco Squarcione and was done by the hand of Niccolo Pizzolo. He is to make it similar to this but to make more things than are in the said design” 1466 Contract for the Lazzara Alterpiece in Padua Art, money and the “everyday”

28 ‘linked to the ruling classes by an umbilical cord of gold’ Greenberg

29 The ‘delightful illusion’ of art’s separateness from commercial culture – Mattick Art is likewise to be distinguished from craft. The first is also called free art, the second could be called mercenary art. We regard free art (as an art) that could only turn out purposive i.e. succeed, if it is play, in other words, an occupation that is agreeable on its own account; mercenary art we regard as labour Kant. The Critique of Judgement. 1790 (It is the task of art) to reconstitute the fragmented human person, “to restore by means of a higher art the totality of our nature.. Let him (the artist) direct his gaze upwards to the dignity of his calling and the Universal Law, not downwards towards Fortune and the needs of daily life Schiller. On the aesthetic education of man. 1794

30 “a conflict at the heart of the modern practice of art…..the idea that art’s production differs from all other production in its freedom from the market” this conceals “the umbilical cord of gold” “art’s separateness from commercial culture…in its modern form… has proved impossible to sustain Paul Mattick. Art in its Time. 2003

31 ‘ “Thatcher’s children” ’ – though like all children they had no choice in the matter of their parents. They have had to make their way in a world which believes it owes them nothing” McCorquodale, Siderfin and Stallabrass There has to be some way of being an artist and making a living Angela McRobbie Ensconced inside consumer culture, less lonely and cut off, the new art simply becomes less important…..The Sensation exhibition did not require the usual quantities of cultural capital to enjoy it……In this respect art has come down from it’s pedestal Angela McRobbie

32 A “re-branding of art” in consumer culture: …….Art has got to be able to stand up to everything else and if it can’t then it doesn’t work…. if you have an idea of an audience then it has to be to communicate with everybody if I was painting something, I’d always do the blood first, the best bit, then leave the boring bits until later I decided that the layer of paint on the surface is just the same as an object in the room. You know – the deliciousness of it, the thing that makes you love the painting, it is a physical thing……..You want to eat it as if it were ice cream or something Damien Hirst

33 Art and commodification Is art more commodity than culture, more exchange value than critique? Is it merely a ‘sign’, exploited for its cultural capital? Increasingly banal and incapable of critique? Increasingly debased and vulgar? Losing its autonomy to capitalist masters? Collapsed within popular culture and ‘dumbed down’, as a lesser art? Morally and mortally threatened?

34 Or is there negotiation of a new position? Which resolves the paradox of modern art and money Acknowledges the need to earn a living Democratises art and restores it to the everyday Negotiates recognition for art in an image saturated and aestheticised society Restores the intuitive and rejects the dominance of the Academy

35 The pale of history Artists, patrons, intellectuals

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