ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Art as Commodity

Perhaps it is more accurate to define elite art in today’s world market as currency instead of commodity, and to describe galleries and auctions as the new stockmarket.

A while back, I attended an art salon in Kuwait. The event,“Art in the Age of Digital Networks” was advertised on a national radio station famous for its Western hits and top 40 lists. When my friend and I walked into the salon, we realised we were late. My friend was a fashion and makeup blogger. I was a writer. We thought the salon organisers applied the modern conception of art as inclusive, encompassing everything from dance to music. We hoped that the gathering would elevate our own views about our vocations. We were wrong.

My friend and I walked in awkwardly and looked around for a vacant spot. Ten people were sitting in an oval talking about social networks, in general, and Instagram, in particular, and the way in which online platforms had been devaluing “real” art. Every so often, a speaker would complain, “Anyone can be an artist now,” as though the democratisation of art was a horrendous affront. They would follow their complaint with a laudatory account of the modernists — Picasso, Duchamp, etc. They praised art that dismantled the shackles of classical or traditional ways of thinking and defied commodification.

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