Occupy Museums Discussion–Value: Who Decides?

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Date/Time
Date(s) - 10/19/2012
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Category(ies) No Categories

Occupy Museums invites you to to a discussion on value. It is said that art represents our cultural heritage, our common legacy. Does it? What value is shared when art objects become markers of class hierarchy and easily manipulated commodities, screened by auction-house connoisseurs and turned into “tangible assets” as they enter the secondary market? But how can we value art apart from this model? How might this value system work?

Art represents our cultural heritage, our common legacy. But the objects circulating in the global art market today have been stripped of this shared value and have become something sinister: markers of class hierarchy and easily manipulated comodities. Art objects are screened by auction-house connoisseurs and turned into “tangible assets” as they enter the secondary market, traded from vault to vault for huge sums. These commodities essentially become weapons of the 1%. Use of tax loopholes and sub-legal behavior lets the wealthiest acquire art to drastically reduce their taxes while hoarding these cultural spoils in the private sphere. The value of art has therefore tracked with the tastes, and under the command of the 1%- much like the infamous derivatives and credit default swaps; and such ‘products’ can also lose their value like those unloaded by Goldman Sachs. Museums, with missions to serve the public, have become tangled with the private financial interests of their board members who sometimes also sit on the boards of speculative auction houses, corrupting the notion of shared cultural value. Art fairs, auction houses, and higher art education also contribute to this financialization of culture, which does nothing to benefit the vast majority of us. But how can we best value art apart from this model? Is the so-called free market always right or never right? Is it naive to think that art has value beyond money? How might this value system work?

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