Editorial – Auctions and General Art Horoscope for 2015 / Editor-in-chief Johny ML
Happy New Year from Team Artehelka!
Auctions are such platforms where the rich and ambitious, and also the elegant and refined test the depth of their pockets. Not only do auction houses provide occasions for measuring one’s ability to spend but also they establish the spender’s ability to spend on the right things. Buying luxurious items from a showroom (here in the case of art, a gallery) is different from bidding for the same on the basis of finesse and rarity at an auction session. While the former increases self confidence as a consumer, the latter imparts a special identity to the consumer. You not only consume the different but also become different in the process. Most of the advertisements work on the same principle. You buy this product and become different because people with difference use this. But in the case of art the end user is unique the way the product itself is unique. Hence auction houses establish the distinction of the buyer through the process of bidding and seen in a different perspective, even the loser in the race is distinguished for giving a competition to the final bidder and the achiever.
All auctions are adrenaline driven affairs. There is a level of anxiety and curiosity. And most of the bidders do not look like bidders at all. They represent some people who do not want to be present in person. There are phone bidders and online bidders. Ghosts of wealth speak from the other ends of the phones and computers outwitting the people who bid in real. Something however has gone amiss in these auction affairs. Like in the 20-20 cricket matches, the first half of the game is interesting. By the second half, if you have seen a few matches in a row, you could tell which over would yield runs and which ball could go for a four and which would become a six. They are fixed games; fixed games are not always bad games. They are choreographed games for fun and there are a lot of people who do business out of these choreographed events. Like in a Jackie Chan movie, by the end of the movie you could see how dance forms become action by adding fast cutting and background score. We, as general viewers are not privy to witness the backstage dramas in an auction house. But as regular consumers of culture and the analysts of cultural strategies we know for sure who is bidding for what and why so? Jackie Chan’s movies deconstruct the very idea of action by showing the oops moments of shooting at the end of the movie. In a post auction scenario no one talks about the oops moments. They show us money made in Rupees, Dollars and Pounds.
Last year was very bad for contemporary art and also for contemporary artists. Artists who are dead and gone, or artists who are less productive but ensured some kind of quality in their works, made all the money in auctions. This year too, the story is also going to be the same. Donning the mantle of a horoscope reader here I predict that most of the contemporary artists will suffer throughout the year and many wheeler dealers will make money out of them in future by getting their works for throw away prices. You would not be able to resist their pressures of devaluing you at present because you also need money to run the establishments that you have already built during the boom years. Most of the contemporary artists will now look for cheap camps, commission works, public and private support and provide them with decorative works as per demand. Youngsters who have not tasted the sweetness of money will write more and more projects for funds and in the process stop doing works of art. They will also do performance art thinking that they would become great artists by doing performance pieces. School jobs, once despised by artists will become once again a lucrative option. Artists who have made money during the boom years will feel that 2015 is a long holiday. Cynicism will be the reigning mood of the year and in the auctions the moderns will reap money and those who invested in modern art will also make money.
There is a general view that art critics are the lost lot in the art scene all over the world. But it is predicted that in 2015 art critics will be sought after by all the agencies that are involved in art dealing because there would be pressing demands for creating proper provenance for the future market for the works that have been collected and safe deposited for the last few years. However it is also predicted that there will not be too much of an increase in the payment that the critics receive as the galleries and other agencies would keep their bargaining mode on. Top art critics and historians will find it difficult to survive by doing one job; either they will have to depend on their family fortune or will have to handle multiple projects at a time. Gallerists will disown many artists whom they have hailed as their prize catches. In the desperate attempt to get noticed even the established artists will commit errors by doing ambitious projects or turning to abstract art. Name, fame and fortune will be lost in the process. Political artists will turn either apolitical or too political to be inclusive of all political denominations. Complaining mode will be on for many political artists. Feminist artists will have a tough time justifying their deeds. Abstract artists will remain the same. Ceramists will make money as usual. And the auction houses will bring more and more modernists to the market adding to the woes of the contemporaries. It is not a good year for the artist-couples also; one of them only will get benefit this year. 2016 will be good for all as it is 365 days away.
On a serious note, wish you a very bright 2015.