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Art Trends: Artists Are Corporations Too

What explains our modern move towards market-minded makers?

This article appears in the April issue of VICE Magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

The problem with writing about art-world trends is that almost as soon as they’re indexed, they’re art history. But one trend it’s impossible not to observe is that many of today’s most successful contemporary artworks play at art buyers’ desires—Jeff Koons, anyone?—or place themselves in the shoes of the moneyed patrons themselves.

The current crop of measured, forward-thinking artists—Simon Denny, Claudia Maté, Sarah Meyohas, Darren Bader—are making works that address notions of liquidity: Denny’s mid-2015 show The Innovator’s Dilemma lampooned the market; Maté’s summer 2014 Sweet Finances! displayed it; and Meyohas directly penetrated it with BitchCoin, a digital currency set at “a fixed exchange rate of 1 BitchCoin to 25 square inches of photographic print.” The gallery Carroll/Fletcher’s ongoing Neoliberal Lulz show features objects like Constant Dullaart’s DullTech™ Media Player, designed to work “on all screens and syncs without problems or cables.” The device cures the low-tech collector’s dilemma and serves as a prime example of the artist’s tendency to either accommodate or comment on the idea that the affluent customer is always right.

The artist Jennifer Lyn Morone has gone so far as to register herself as a corporation, Jennifer Lyn Morone™ Inc. Posing as a company, the collaborative artists Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion have created Les Nouveaux chercheurs d’or (The New Gold Diggers), a “series of samples of artificial gold products obtained for free online” that plays directly into the idea that art is now simply big business. It all has a sickly stock market–like glow. Collections are discussed like funds, and as art prices continue to climb, the only difference between artists and stocks is that you can’t watch an artist’s value rise and fall with a live ticker. Well, not yet: Jennifer Lyn Morone™ Inc looks promising.

This is why it’s so significant that today’s rising stars are getting crash courses in business—via collector’s courtship—from their buyers: It’s in the best interest of an arms dealer, a real estate mogul, a studio executive, a startup hawk, and an energy guy alike to educate market-minded creatives— whether for the betterment of their personal art collections, or at the very least, to get to know their future competition. 

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