As the weather has cooled here in central Mississippi, I’ve been catching up on documentary films that I can download or stream as Jackson’s movie theaters mostly offer commercial/mainstream fare. Sniff sniff, sigh. Anyhow, one documentary I like very much is The Price of Everything by Nathaniel Kahn. This 2018 film parses where contemporary art and commerce collide. Or are manufactured–figuratively and literally. It’s sometimes uneasy stuff if you appreciate art, make art for a living, or know artists.
The uneasy part–there are many, actually. Some works fetch ridiculous amounts of money. (Gerhard Richter’s ABSTRAKTES BILD recently commanded a $32,000,000 purchase price at Sotheby’s.) Dealers who sell artists’ original works may collect up to 50% in commission. There are “financial interests of certain parties” that may influence the outcome of an auction sale, which seems a polite way of saying that some sales are gamed. Some art buyers purchase works not to appreciate them but on a speculative basis–to store and sell for a profit at a later point.
Kahn interviews artists, dealers, collectors, historians. There are interview moments I prefer to skip. There are others that cause pause. Stefan Edlis remarks of some art collectors:
There are a lot of people that know the price of everything and the value of nothing.