Art Here and Now
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Conceptual Art – Not a Good Investment

Conceptual Art relies on ideas (concepts) and audience participation for it’s effectiveness, where many other kinds of art rely more on the object, and the skill the artist used to create it.

The New York Times asks Has Conceptual Art Jumped the Shark?

…conceptual art after Duchamp reminds me of paging through old New Yorker cartoons. Jokes about Cadillac tailfins and early fax machines were once amusing, and the same can be said of conceptual works like Piero Manzoni’s 1962 declaration that Earth was his art work, Joseph Kosuth’s 1965 “One and Three Chairs” (a chair, a photo of the chair and a definition of “chair”) or Mr. Hirst’s medicine cabinets. Future generations, no longer engaged by our art “concepts” and unable to divine any special skill or emotional expression in the work, may lose interest in it as a medium for financial speculation and relegate it to the realm of historical curiosity.

I think the premise of the story – that conceptual art doesn’t have good resale value – is sound. It’s hard to determine a piece’s monetary value when the object itself isn’t where the value lies. Because the artistic merit of something as etheral as an idea is very subjective and changes through time, how will you have any idea what it’s worth? This is in contrast to an object, good idea or not, that is created with a great deal of skill and effort. Even if the idea is a bad one, or whose merit fades over time, the high level of craft will likely still be appreciated.

This really raises the question – how should conceptual artists make a living? Those New Yorker cartoonists still get paid to create cartoons, even though the cartoons might not have the same impact 20 years from now. I’m sure some are understood to have a cultural lifespan. Yet their current value is still understood, and artists are paid. If this is true, that some conceptual art has concepts which have a lifespan, how can artists pay for their livelihood and efforts just like those cartoonists?

I have some ideas, but what do you think?

Books on conceptual art.

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posted by Trout Monfalco