On Faso’s Brushbuzz, a kind of Reddit for the art market, I discovered a seedling of bothersome art theory: one bsherwrin contemplates whether or not “ad sales play a role in shaping art history in the sense that art publications– both online and in print — tend to end up reviewing exhibits at galleries that also happen to pay for ads in the publication?” Leaping from the question to an assumed ethical issue, the post asks us to discuss the question: “Should art magazines– and art blogs that feature an art-focused ad network for that matter– avoid a conflict of interest by not reviewing exhibits at galleries that also purchase ad space in the publication?”
Now people, we LIVE in a well-documented network of “conflicts of interest.” Conflicts of interest are de rigeur in every field. And conflicts of interest have been a part of the playing field in the arts for decades now, and are more and more the norm.
We have artists who are curators, advisors, arts writers and bloggers (just check out the bios on Facebook!). We have museums who have collectors who are artists who are guest curators who place their own works in the show. We have curators and art consultants who collect art themselves (a quickie browse through Linked In should show many of these). We have museum directors who are ex-gallery owners who have a vested art historical interest in the artists they supported in their earlier career. Hell, we’ve even had large corporations put up a pop-up gallery on public property in order to display artists who’s work echoed and celebrated the company’s designs — artwork that the company then had contracted to hold first rights to purchase.
Reading an article about a show at a museum? Well, I suggest grain of salt, my friends. No one’s even trying to be “objective” any more and, honestly, it’s time to move on.
Everyone from gallery owners and museum curators to foundations conferring awards scheme sometimes to promote an artist so that the work they collect of theirs will rise in monetary value.
The art world is flopping. Good journalism that sheds light on the corruption of art by money is key to bringing substance back to our field. Without it the art world will continue to lose respect and dry up.
I think the art market has a lot to answer for, but I doubt, in most cases, that conflicts of interest have as much effect as flat out conspiracies to manipulate the market.