Introduction: Art and finance

Nestler, Gerald and Malik, Suhail. 2016. Introduction: Art and finance. Finance and Society, 2(2), pp. 94-95. ISSN 2059-5999 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The editorial premise of this special issue is that the adage ‘art and money do not mix’ is now wholly untenable. As detailed in our extended interview with Clare McAndrew, the art market has grown rapidly over the last twenty years, leading to systemic and structural changes in the art field. For some, this growth of the market and its significance for art is an institutional misfortune that, for all of its effects, is nonetheless inconsequential to the normative claim that art and money shouldn’t mix. This commonplace premise looks to keep the sanctity or romance of art from the business machinations of market mechanisms, as eloquently summarised by Oscar Wilde’s definition of cynicism (‘knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing’). This issue repudiates that normative moral code, and precisely for the reasons just stated: by now, the interests of the art market permeate all the way through the art system. The interests of the art market shape what is exhibited and where; what kinds of discourse circulate around which art (or even as art) and in what languages; and what, in general, is understood to count as art. In short, the art market – comprising mainly of collectors, galleries and auction houses – is now the primary driver in what is valuable in art.

And it is not just value and valuation that are transformed by the recent expansion of the art market. Together with increased interest in art by both financial firms and individuals from that sector as private collectors-investors, the expansion of financial markets in a period also characterised by rapid growth in the art market and increased power within the art field for its highly commercialised operators may, combined, suggest a common endorsement of speculation and risk across these sectors. Contemporary art’s speculations and unmooring of stable meanings or coordinates are met by risk-based, speculative accumulation strategies on the side of finance itself.

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Art, contemporary art, finance, financialisation, risk, art market, demystification

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Date Deposited:

22 Sep 2017 09:29

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:35


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