The image below is included not because anyone paid for it, but because it is directly relevant to the Story. And, okay, the colors match!
The other day The New York Times speculated that “hundreds of visitors in expensive suits will rush in a stampede elbowing each other like soccer fans to get in ahead of the competition” in the Netherlands this weekend at the 26th European Art Fair.
Ummm…is that a bad thing?
Business models are always needing to change and adapt. The business model of the big art auction houses – the main source of Old Master paintings in past decades – has been disrupted. And so, now in comes the “Art Fair” as the trending replacement model.
It is interesting to note that part of the value proposition of the auction houses was their function as imprimatur. In most other sectors of the broader culture, the role of “Tastemaker” has waned as the crowd wants direct access to participatory experience, not spectacle. The traditional art auction is indeed just that: Spectacle with a capital “SP – ECTACLE.”
The very word “fair,” on the other hand, albeit in English, connotes a sense of egalitarian access, a flattening of hierarchies. The opportunity to leap over the gatekeeper and directly sense what is appealing is, in effect, a powerful chance to curate one’s own gaze. The opportunity for a more considered negotiation process helps would-be collectors gather intelligence to match up with and learn about their own instincts. This process of developing embodied knowledge on an individual basis is part and parcel of participatory experience.
Do we want hordes of art collectors honing their own sense of what is worthwhile to look at and purchase, irrespective of those topheavy auction houses that used to control the art market?
Ummm…what do you think?!