Thursday, December 04, 2008

Less Money, More Civility?



In my earlier post on "Art Basel Miami Beach and the New Economy", I predicted one result of an economic downturn would be to increase horizontality at the expense of verticality, cooperation in place of ego tripping, and to effect a "new modesty of scale and purpose", a "major realignment of the zeitgeist, a 'kinder, gentler' art world."

Seems I'm not the only one to think so. In his recent ABMB coverage on Artinfo.com, Judd Tully notes this spirit, recognizing "a new friendly approach from dealers who, in the art market’s boom days, became used to tough bouts of one-upmanship". One gallerist rather transparently reveals that now he cannot be as rude to clients.

Even more expressive of the new zeitgeist is Richard Polsky in his latest installment on Artnet. It's worth a full read. He discusses the sudden civility of puffed-up art martinets brought back to a common humanity by the last art crash of the early 1990s. I excerpt some choice morsels below:

During the market’s fallow years, a funny thing happened -- everyone became more collegial. Dealers who wouldn’t give you the time of day (let alone let you use their bathroom) suddenly greeted you like an old friend when you walked into their space. Some even humbled themselves by doing the ultimate penance -- they looked at artists’ slides!

Trying times produced a spirit of community and cooperation. And that’s precisely what’s starting to happen now. I can already sense a return to civility...As is true of every turn of the boom-and-bust cycle, the talk is once again about returning to basics.

Polsky goes on to predict particular corrections in several recently overextended market segments - the emerging artist receiving a show just out of school, and the spate of Chinese realist painters - and heralds both thinner art magazines with fewer ads and more galleries dealing with consigned work rather than outright purchases.

He also cites a growing tendency for galleries to send their announcements via email rather than snail mail, thereby saving on postage and printing. I have myself received a fair number of recent requests from galleries, informing me of their conversion to all internet notification and asking for my cooperation, which is always cheerfully given. Interestingly, these galleries invariably cite an environmentally friendly reason for the conversion. They want to go "more green". No one has yet admitted that the true impetus might be because they have "less green".

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