A Stratified Market

The art market has a few peculiarities. For one it’s stratified, meaning that there are top level galleries, various kinds of middle level galleries and bottom level galleries. This division corresponds to the fact that collectors are also dividable into different groups. Unlike in any other market, one dollar is not worth the same as another – meaning that François Pinault’s dollar is worth more than yours or mine – assuming we had the means or the desire to buy a Laura Owens or an Anselm Reyle. But then the objective difference between art in the bottom level galleries and at Basel is price. At least it’s starting to become that way. Jacob Kassay and Lucien Smith, two youngish art stars, prove the point. I’ve seen lots of comparable work in the hundred dollar range. High production costs don’t mean a thing, and a picture made of silver has no special status. Outrage at the high prices these guys get is very naive, because really the prices are comparatively low. Smith or Kassay are the poor man’s Richter or Agnes Martin or Christopher Wool, or whoever else sets the standard. A critic should have something to say about gridded allover compositions, or any of the other academic conventions of American art, instead of moralizing about money and social ambition. Looks like there’s a lot of scope for an aristocracy of taste. We need another Baudelaire, but our critics all believe in money above all. The requisite savior-faire is lacking.

picture by Jacob Kassay

picture by Jacob Kassay

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