USA: rising museum admission prices

This video from the USA says about itself:

Arts: The Recession-Proof Artist | The New York Times

Alexander Conner is a interdisciplinary artist continuing to make his art despite living on $12,000 a year.

Related article: here.

A video from the USA, no longer on the Internet, used to say about itself:

Buying the blue chip works of art history has been the domain of the ultra-rich. The art sales that you hear about – the occasional Picasso, Van Gogh, Degas or a work from the older masters generally gets high-profile press coverage before, during and after its visit to Christie’s or Sotheby’s. It appears that only works of art that are at least 40 years old and that are appraised at over a million dollars are desireable for the ultrarich. Maybe that’s the only buys we hear about.

No small time purchases get the kind of attention that the mega-auctions generate. So is this about art, or is it about that grandiose sort of connoisseurship that begs history, or is it just the dollars. I have a feeling that the big auction houses, news agencies and billionaire collectors would like for us to believe it as all three. It’s not hard to get your fifteen minutes of fame passing around a Van Gogh. For a billionaire it’s possibly the easiest way to be remembered for more than fifteen minutes. Not all billionaires with art buying habits are equal in their connoisseurship. The collections of many of them have been spectacular while others have acquired a second-level collection.

Having recently visited the Getty Museum near Los Angeles again, I found myself with a lot of questions about Getty’s buying habits and his taste. Of course what is shown may not be a true reflection of his tastes or his buying habits. Many collections suffer adulteration at the hands of heirs and foundations. Getty has one fair-sized gallery for each century, each gallery with the 10-12 necessary period canvases to fill the room. But I wasn’t bowled over buy his picks. I have seen many more coherent and more impressive collections by men and women of lesser wealth. So much for his connoisseurship. It is true that the holdings of some of the world’s greatest museums were began with the donation of a single private collection – often from a deceased royal.

This is also true of some of the least interesting museums. Collectors of note, like publisher S.I. Newhouse and hedge fund magnate Steven A. Cohen, have different buying habits and entertain personal goals that we may only guess at in retrospect. Cosmetics moneyed Ronald Lauder bought his first drawing by Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele with money from his bar mitzvah and went on to fund and found the Neue Galerie New York for showcasing German and Austrian art. Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, can buy what ever he wants – he bought Leonardo da Vinci‘s “Codex Leicester” for more than $30 million. Does Bill Gates buy contemporary art?It seems to me that if a billionaire was truly concerned with connoisseurship he or she would look at contemporary art. That is where the real test is. Can he choose the future, as opposed to the very, very established past.

Buying a da Vinci or a Renoir takes little sense but a lot of dollars. I wonder if Getty and Gates somehow just couldn’t pass up a cheap deal on a blue chip. If a billionaire, or anybody for that matter, steps up to the plate and chooses works by somebody who is not yet a blue chip, then that buyer could be seen financially as a “speculator”, but if he chooses correctly he could be seen in the art world as a true connoisseur. Someone who had the savvy and feeling for the future of art.Nobody gets any prizes for loading the Elgin marbles on a ship and taking them home to London. But what about a buyer who collects 600 works by 100 artists who eventually become the da Vincis and Degas of the future. That takes eyeballs, brains and heart. The saying that the second million is easy gets some play here if you consider that the easier those millions get, the lazier the buyer can afford to be.

I cannot be enthusiastic about someone who sends his attorney’s assistant to Christie’s to outbid some other billionaire for a work at three times the rational price – as is happening with the over-inflated Warhols. Of course there is a lot of quick hype and media showbiz, but what about the embarassing aftermath. Warhol is unquestionably good, but his quick pop photo sketches of various media darlings is not the end-all to art by any means. It’s kind of like buying the Yankees, then buying every overpriced player you can find to add to the Yankees roster. Then you lose the series to the Cards. Billionaries look a lot better when they have more than fifteen minutes of fame and show some eyeball, brains and heart. Buy contemporary artists!

From Art for a change blog in the USA:

On Sunday, October 1st, 2006, twenty museums across Los Angeles will participate in the second annual Museums Free-For-All, by opening their doors to the public absolutely free of charge.

The Free-For-All concept is a refreshing change from the worrying drift towards rising admission prices for national art museums, and while the day provides relief – it is clearly not enough.

Since the inception of this web log, I’ve been writing about museum ticket prices and their impact upon America’s cultural life.

US Bush administration wants to use art for propaganda.

1 thought on “USA: rising museum admission prices

  1. Pingback: Art, money, and resistance | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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