Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Fine Art of Looking

Artists can all breathe a sigh of relief now that Sotherby's head of contemporary art has announced a 'return to seeing the real object and what kind of presence it has, what's great and what is not so good. And what's great will nowadays sell.'

A return to the art market seeing the work will hopefully mean that collectors will practise discernment and trust their own judgement rather than jumping into frenzied buying of the latest must have piece that is recommended by a dealer or consultant. The art market trend for placing pieces of work to build a collection that grows in monetary value robbed collectors of the real pleasures in buying art: looking and enjoying what you see.

As Laura Cumming comments in the Observer: 'More art was constantly required. It hardly mattered whether the work had any meaning, let alone quality. Practically the only rule was that it must be advanced art - progressive, serious, high-minded, what used to be called avant-garde; all this meant was that if second-rate, then knowingly so, and if kitsch, then in an ironic rather than innocent fashion.'

Personally I welcome the recession; it will put a stop to the rapid over-consumption of art that we have seen in the heated market of the last decade. The number and size of art fairs that promoted the buying to invest mentality prevented any considered looking and only promoted speed viewing of attention grabbing eye candy. As one dealer representing my photorealistic charcoal drawings at an art fair recently commented: 'you need a slower audience for your drawings, art fair collectors assume they are photographs because they are too busy to stop and look properly'.

If artists continue to make well crafted and intelligent work, hopefully the art industry that we depend on for showing and selling it will start looking at the art object for what it really is.

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