Commoditization, or something like it

Jenn and Emily raise an interesting point for the project, that is whether and how to include objects that resist monetization. These things are often meant to be art (though sometimes they are meant to be artistic), but they are equally meant to be impossible to package and monetize. Some whole art schools (Dadaism, for instance) were at least in part predicated on a critique of bourgeois society, art markets very much included.

In many ways, this is the inverse of someone like Damien Hirst,  Murakami, or Warhol, whose art is commentary on consumption culture by making it hyper-consumptive and hyper-marketable (and marketed). So if we are going to include art whose artistic value is that it is meant to be commodified, we should probably include its inverse.

Theoretically, I can see how this would work. IMHO, one of the main things that has to happen to art in order to achieve commoditization (I usually use that word interchangeably with commodification) is for it to be turned into something durable, alienable, singular, while still retaining its cultural value.

One piece of the 'formatting the market' puzzle

I have in mind how this works, in most cases it is simply that the object itself is both the art and the commodity. But these are really distinct things. In the case of a performance, the art is ephemeral and impossible to ‘sell’ (though we could of course sell tickets to the performance); so to make it salable, it has to be made into a video recording, and that could be bought and sold. Likewise street art – people chiseling Banksy murals off of concrete walls, for instance. It’s not that the art is not art when it’s performance, it just can’t be bought and sold in that form.

But someone like Bill Viola sells pieces for hundreds of thousands of dollars (that piece, Quintet of the Silent, came in at US$274,816). The description in the catalog read:

Video installation comprised of single-channel colour video on wall-mounted plasma display. 72.4 x 120.7 x 10.2 cm. (28 1/2 x 47 1/2 x 4 in).   This work is from an edition of five and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

So theoretically, I would say yes and yes, that we can and should study art that cannot be monetized. Because it means that the ‘other’ art can be monetized, and I want to know how that works.

But (and there is always a but), how to do this? Practically and empirically, how would we incorporate tribal art or performance art or video art into the project? It seems that we might interview avant-garde art gallerists? Can we do this without bumping into the primary market/secondary market division? I’ve become more practical nowadays to say that we can only study it if its possible, but not to let perfect be the enemy of the good. How can we include this kind of art?

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