The Price of …

Blog 3

As in my last blog, being a film student, you get to see a common trope in a lot of movies that show something is priceless, whether it be physical or emotional, and throughout the movie it is either found or the person moves on from said conflict. The conflict of ”The Price of Everything” is of course easy to see the comical side and how stupid easy it is to just buy something that you don’t want but find pride in because it is considered valuable art. Some might say that art is invaluable because if the artist’s work is so rare and how much it is going for. Berger’s work show’s how much influence the rich have over art.

There seems to be so much greed in the world to have something that someone else doesn’t just for the flex. Like George Condo who works with the illustrious/egomaniac Kanye West. Both work symbiotically to get each-other’s art to the point where many singers would want Condo’s work as their cover art. Now with new ergonomics in art, like NFT’s, Commission art, and even live art, all pose a change to the world around us. The more we adapt, the more the art that is distributed out into the world. It not only affects our economy, but the physical environment because of how much technology is taking over.

From my standpoint I would like to say that there is a commonality in the film and in the text that Berger indicates how the art world is and its major influence. Do I feel like people shouldn’t be able to take art for them to just keep it in their houses for them to hoard, no. Does my opinion matter in this situation, no. Would I like for art to be treasured by everyone for the sake of knowledge and inspiration? Absolutely!


Art Repertoire

Beauty in Film Blog 2

Something to keep in mind as a film major is the amount of cinema that is available to the eye and one film in particular. Although I do not really care for the overly satirized and commercialized holiday that Christmas has become, there is one commerical advertisement that I have become most fond of. It created a deep sense of want and the filmmaker who created it is a popular English film producer and film maker.

Mickalene Thomas, Portrait of Mnonja2010, rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel on wood panel, Smithsonian American Art Museum

This piece of art is considered one of many pieces that were collaborated by over 400 self taught artists. They are considering these pieces and this piece overall to be an excellent work of art that move those, and demonstrate the ability of African American artists. It then goes to show the influential artists who come up with different pieces to add to the collection.

To put this in the eyes of Kant, sweet, sweet Kant. We will have to discuss the analysis of the beautiful. To that we can go more into depth and say that “Taste is Aesthetical” To that I quote him from the textbook on Kant. ”In order to distinguish whether anything is beautiful or not, we refer to the representation, not by the understanding to the object for cognition but imagination to the subject and its feeling of pleasure or pain.” (Kant, 280-281). Would he think this art piece is beautiful? I would have to say no.

Reason being that I would argue that Kant would find this piece moving is because of who the artist is, because they are self taught, also because he believes that we cannot just see art by simply stating that it is beautiful.

In terms of aesthetical taste, I would like to say that this art piece to me, and not thinking like a Kantist, my emotions run like a faucet whose handle has broken and can no longer close. There is a multitude of patterns and the way that the woman is sitting is very alluring. Her hot pink pumps rest on the arm of the sofa she sits in and her manicured hand rests on the tip of her knees almost seductively. It is to me, obviously pleasing to the eye and while Kant might argue that the way I look at this piece is the incorrect way- “If a determination of the feeling of pleasure or pain is called sensation, this expression signifies something quite different from what I mean when I call the representation of a thing – sensation.” (Kant, 283)

I believe one counter arguement that could be said that the classical artist will forever be more “elegant” , ”fine” , and ”endearing”. Simply because of the Techniques used, the amount of time spent to be classically trained, and where the artist studied in order to become an expert and said art. Well this art piece to me speaks to me, those who do not value the skills and talents of many who have practiced their entire lives, those opinions to me do not matter. Why? Simply due to it being part of a collection for thousands to see, and continue to appreciate it’s value. There is technique, there is an eye for the subject, and a depth in the story that it is telling me, it does not change simply because Kant wants me to. IT IS ART FOR THE SOUL! The vibrancy, and would rather see something new and creative constructed out of other materials to stimulate my sense of touch as I look at this piece.

The Price of [Art]

The art of the past no longer exists as it once did. Its authority is lost. In its place there is a language of images. What matters now is who uses that language and for what purpose.

Ways of Seeing, John Berger, page 33
Jeff Koons’ “Gazing Ball (Manet Luncheon on the Grass)”

In Ways of Seeing, Berger talks about how the invention of the camera led to the mystification of works of art. I think The Price of Everything documentary showcases Berger’s theory in a thought-provoking way. While I thought I might get bored watching a documentary about the contemporary art market, the lavish lifestyles of the characters kept my interest the entire time. I was particularly drawn to a specific painter – Jeff Koons. One of his art styles is the practice of copying a famous painting and adding a reflective half-sphere in the center, looking back at you as you gaze at the painting. The documentary showed that Koons acts as the director, never physically touching paintbrush to canvas, yet still remains the credited artist. Of all the odd paintings and sculptures referenced in the documentary, this style seems the most likely to be influenced by mystification.

Perhaps I am just not well-versed enough in contemporary art, but it seems to me as though Koons’ “gazing ball” works are nothing but a cash grab. He mystifies the painting so that the onlooker thinks it is a bold statement about life. Because of the onlooker’s learned assumptions, they expect the art in a gallery to be meaningful and fall for his mystifying words. But is the art meaningful because it hangs in a gallery, or is it meaningful because the onlooker finds it to be so, regardless of where it hangs? Is contemporary art beautiful because it means something, or do we think that because we have prior knowledge of its monetary value? Even if the onlooker truly does find the work to be exceptionally moving, perhaps it is its presence within a fancy gallery that makes them want to spend so much money. As Berger says, “The relation of what we see and what we know is never settled” (Page 7). I do not think it is ethical of Koons to take an existing work and profit greatly from it by adding one simple element. Not to mention all the artists who did the physical painting who did not (to my knowledge) receive credits for the works.

Overall, I think both the film and the documentary made interesting points. I agree with the documentary on the fact that art has value simply because people say it is so. A painting that sold for millions of dollars could have easily been created by a street painter in New York City and sold for ten dollars, or vice versa. That is not to say that some works are not better than others; surely there exists great art in the world that is worth spending money on. I’m simply stating the documentary left me marveling at the unpredictability and inequalities of the market.

To my classmates: which artworks in the documentary most surprised you as being famous (or valuable) contemporary works?

Blog 3: Capitalism ruins Art

The film shows how good art is dependent on what is taken to be good art by certain class of people, that class being the rich. This intersects with John Berger’s argument because he is being critical of what is considered to be good art. Berger argues that the arbitrary way that the ruling class justifies good art mystifies the past and art. In the film, the elite class has the time and money to fund the art they see fit. The art critics explain the details to mean more than what they depicting in order to justify spending millions of dollars.

Art should be held ethically accountable to the extent that the artist and the spectator is not being exploited. Art tells a story about the artist and the artist should be able to have the power to decide how they would like to tell the story. Art and capital will inevitably co-mingle, but it is up to the people to set up regulations to ensure that the artist and the spectator are both respected. Artist should be able to make a living and art dealers should not be profiting millions more than the artist. The film depicts the art market screwing over the artist for the sake of the rich people’s game. Art should be for everyone and so long as there are no regulations between the artist and the market, art will remain only entertainment for the wealthy class.

I agree with Berger’s and the flim’s argument. The wealthy are able to run the art market because of their financial power. The wealthy class exploit artists for their entertainment. Under a capitalistic system, we will never be able to reach a point that ensures art is held to an ethical standard. Capitalism allows and encourages the rich to profit millions of dollars of the art market. This type of system leaves the producers of the art, the artist, to be exploited for the sake on contributing to the rich’s money scheme.

Blog 3: The Price of Everything, the Value of Nothing

1) The film intersects with Berger’s Ways of Seeing in that the minority, the upper class, absolutely controls art and how it is seen – assigning monetary value and worth and therefore controlling which stories are told and valued. The sellers often buy cheap from the artist and then sell it for much much more while the artist merely gets credit and tries to make more to potentially get more money for the next work. It all becomes monetarily driven and then controlled by the exact people Berger speaks against. Art is referred to as “assets” and money seems to be the most common discourse about these pieces.

2) Art should be held ethically responsible, as everything should be. I can’t help but let Deveraux’s arguments influence my thoughts here as art is meant to reflect life and viewpoints, thereby harmful art for the sake of it can cause plenty of harm in the viewers, as well as a society that knows that such harmful work and harmful art market practices are rewarded. Elitism and classism are rampant in the art collector community and it tends to overshadow the artist and the actual art itself, making it more of a money laundering and clout business than artistic and creative.

3) Art and artists should have value and should be compensated for talent and work, but the way the art market is going and has gone on for so long is just terrible and is usually much beyond the art itself. Again, it’s become more about the elitist, classist, status symbol and exploitation. I don’t know what the solution is, here. Berger argues for artists to create and control the market themselves, but that also moves past our capitalist institution and I’m just not sure how that could work.

The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

DROWN by Njideka Akunyili Crosby

The primary connection that I caught onto between HBO’s The Price of Everything and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is the effect that the economy and upper class have on what we view to be art. According to Berger the minority ruling class hold a great deal of power over what the majority get to see in the art world and they use this power as a tool for oppression to deprive us of our relationship with history. The Price of Everything gives us an inside look at just how strong the value of art is determined by its price. If the dollar value of an art piece has become the main focal point of determining it’s overall greatness, then those who are buying (the minority upperclass) have the biggest say in what is considered to be art.

Jeff and Llona by Jeff Koons

Should art be held ethically accountable? Considering that art is essential to each culture’s identity and expression I would say that it should absolutely be held ethically accountable. Today art presents itself in many ways such as music, film, sculpture, literature, video games and much more. The effect that all of these art forms have on how individuals in a society come to form opinions on right and wrong, good and bad, gender, race, sex, etc… is powerful. With power comes responsibility. Art should be held accountable for its massive influence and how that influence is being used.

To what extent should art and capital be encouraged to co-mingle? Capital has way too strong of an influence on the value of art. The idea that the best artist is the one who makes the most money seems to be a very shallow take on something that deserves much more depth . I think the overall value of art should be determined by its emotional and lasting impact on those experiencing it, followed by many other more important assets than just its price. M. Night Shyamalan’s live action Avatar film, The Last Airbender, cost millions to make and was one of the highest grossing films at the time of its release, but is widely considered by the majority to be one of the worst movies of all time. Money doesn’t always equate to value.

Marilyn Minter

I unfortunately agree that the economy has a heavy influence on art and that the current art that is being produced is largely impacted by the minority ruling class, since they are the ones determining its value. Considering that this ruling class is the minority the art being released will not accurately reflect the majority, yet it still holds a powerful impact on how society, as a whole, forms opinions on and view the world around us. Our perception of reality is skewed in favor of how those in power desire it to be presented. As long as the value of art is determined by wealth the representation of the majority will be oppressed in its depiction.

Blog #3

1) The primary way I see the film The Price of Everything relating to Berger’s Ways of Seeing, is in how art is portrayed. In the film The Price of Everything, for Sotheby’s Auction House Amy Cappellazzo, the only valuable art for her is one which makes her a lot of money. Instead of art been portrayed as something beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, the film depicted how art was seen more as an asset to both art collectors and dealers; as for one art served to flaunt their social status, and for the other it served as a way to make more money off of an artwork once a collector decided to sell it.

2) I don’t necessarily believe that art should be held ethically accountable. The purpose of the painting should be determined by the artist themselves, and regardless of whether they choose to make it for their own pleasure, money, or to provoke their audience it is essentially up to the artist/creator themselves to decide.

3) Personally, I don’t agree with the fact that art should only be valuable if it makes money, however, I believe that artists should be remunerated fairly for their art, and if that means that only art collectors will have access to these works and not the general public, then so be it. While I would love to see beautiful art displayed in museums so that we could all enjoy it, I also have to think about the fact that for most artists their art is the only source of income they have.

Blog 3: Art and Film

1. What do I identify as the primary way in which the movie intersects with Berger’s argument. As his argument was that art is revolutionary, there could be several ways. The artists that were featured all had something to say in regards to their own art or art in general. As well as how this shapes the art community or their life. But, the primary way, I would say is that the artists took their pieces and displayed them regardless of whether others thought of it as art or not.

2. To what extent should art be held ethically accountable? To what extent should art and capital be encouraged to co-mingle? I think that art should be held ethically accountable is when it depicts something that could pose a harmful effect on others or could be offensive to others. And, I think art and capital should be encouraged to co-mingle is when it is a reasonable situation like during an art auction or something similar to where the art interacts in a positive way.

3. I agree with my previous answer for number one. And I can see how it fits for number two. For artists who have the courage to put their art out in the world without caring if someone thinks it’s art or not is inspiring. As long as a person’s art can be presented in a way that could help motivate others. 

Blog 3: “The Price of Everything” & Berger “Ways of Seeing”

Victor 25448 by Jean-Michel Basquiat

In “The Price of Everything” documentary Nathaniel Kahn chronicles the current issue around the art market and art when it comes to artists. At the start of the documentary it is said, “The only way to make sure culture artifacts survive is for them to have commercial value”. Throughout the rest of the documentary many artist like Larry Poons and art sellers speak on their perspectives with the selling of art marked up triple and more times much than it’s original selling value. Also, how older art is valued in comparison to contemporary pieces. The central point of the documentary relates to Berger’s point in “Ways of Seeing” on how much their has been a shift arts value. In addition to this how the social class of the rich is the center of the issue. In “The Price of Everything” art seller, Gavin Brown spoke about the purpose of art changing. Berger had said, “The experience of art, which at first was the experience of ritual, was set apart from the rest of life-precisely to be able to exercise power over it. Later the preserve of art became a social one. It entered the culture of the ruling class” (32). Therefore the main argument is that art changed overtime to become what it is because of the ruling class/rich and wealthy having power of what is valued. For them, the power comes with money that excludes them and the art pieces they are able to purchase out of the hands of others or anyone from the lower class. Due to this, the way artists are looked at and their work has changed. With emphasis being on the more wealthier or in the mainstream an artists is, the more their art has value in the eyes of others.

Another thing that is mentioned is how the older works, that are preserved and sold at art shows have a connection to the rich buying them. Berger mentioned that, “the museums [art] are fully of holy relics which refer to a mystery which excludes them: the mystery of unaccountable wealth. Or, to put this another way, they believe that original masterpieces belong to the preserve (both materially and spiritually) of the rich” (24). For those that are rich them purchasing older works goes hand in hand with their mentality and perspective on wealth and needing to preserve with and the value of those exclusive pieces that they buy. An interesting analogy that was made by Barbara Rose is contemporary art being alike “a luxury brand”. Even though contemporary art pieces are more modern there is a connection made with calling it a luxury brand since luxury thrives off and markets primarily to the upper class that have the power through money to have accessibility to stuff over those from the lower class. Overall money gives the wealthy class the accessibility to purchase those art pieces and preserve who has access to it as well.

I think to a certain extent art should be held ethically accountable when it comes to how artists are getting the treatment that they do. A quote that stood out to me from Larry Poons is “I don’t think I’ll be alive today if I got rich then”. I read his quote as saying that for him he would have lost his place, his own ethics would have been messed up with how wealth when it came to art changed everything. His quote relates to ethics and Berger’s argument with art’s shift and who has the real power of things due to money. It is imperative that not only should art be ethically accountable but those buying the art and those selling it as a markup of artists original work/selling of it. Art and capital should be able to co-mingle to the extent when it comes to artists supporting themselves and creating. Artist should be able to get paid for their work without them getting the short end of the stick because someone is selling their work. Its their work they created and they should benefit from it. However the issue that comes up and is often asked with artist wanting to be paid of their value and their work is, The intention behind their creation(s)? Also with their purpose in being artists? Is the work they are creating for the sole gain of being known and wealthy or to be expressive and paid their work?

I agree with the point that intersects between the film and Berger. I feel as though art has shifted in the intent with creation. Wealth and the upper class is at the center of the art buying and it is looked if art is not being bought it’s not good or has no value at all. In the long run this has an effect on the way art is valued and how that affects other artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat of the past and contemporary ones as well like Njideka Akunyili Crosby. From the documentary it was mentioned that at he told George Condo his work was not being sold and had no idea if it was due to his race or him being an outcast to those around him that were successful artists in a different social class he was in at the time. Since wealth shares a connection to social class and race as well their is a lot of influences in how artists work is treated, consumed and valued. For many artists and those of the past it was a gamble taken to be one and on the outside of the art market with art selling being on the rise.

My position on that commonality speaks to my answers in 2 because of how their is a lack of ethics being taken around art being sold and the way artists are treated as a result. For art sellers they want to sell the art pieces their value is placed on benefiting from a sale(s). For artists they are put in a challenging position with possibly creating art that will sell and sacrificing doing what they want instead. For those in the upper class they are buying into what needs to be preserved when it comes to material in terms of wealth and art. Lastly, the question that can be sparked with knowing how artitst and their work is being effected, is how things can be worked out to their benefit with money/capital being connected to their art? Because as Gavin Brown explained it the two are “Siamese twins”.

“Dot painting” by Larry Poons

An Accidental Intersection

The philosophy of John Berger’ Ways of Seeing and The Price of Everything intersect, almost by accident, through the display of “high” societies’ monopolization of art. The Price of Everything confidently toits the insane prices of artistic pieces at auctions, creating an unintentional sensation of dread for every raised hand intent on meeting and raising the bid. Art is referred to as assets, as commodities, rather than as aesthetical visions. John Berger argues that art is intentionally mystified through the meddlings of the ruling minority– to the rich, art is a commodity to which only the rich can afford. The trade of art becomes an in-house operation, wherein the wealthy trade only to the wealthy, thereby making art so remote and so unattainable that art becomes mystified.

See the source image

Art, much like people themselves, must be held to an ethical standard. In fact, through the progression of the modern age, art ought to and must be held to higher standards due to the ready availability provided by the Internet. Is the art depicting overtly anti-Black images? Is the art created using a brown directly created from the wrappings of a robbed, mummified corpse? Is the creation of the art and the transactions including the art pumping unnecessary amounts of carbon directly into the atmosphere? These are all necessary questions– art should not only be judged on the criteria of pleasure or pain, but rather art should also be judged on the criteria of non-monetary cost. With the creation of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), the mingling of art and capital have created a most ugly offspring. NFTs are a cryptocurrency using tactics of false scarcity to sell domains of “artistic” images. Now, rather than owning art, the primary goal of the NFT is to be sold at a higher value which, thereby, eliminates the purpose of art to produce feeling. Instead, the NFT produces more than 200 kilograms of carbon through every transaction, and NFTs can be made of any artistic work even if the individual has no ownership of the image. Art and capital should only co-mingle at the benefit of the artist and the non-destruction of anything else.

See the source image

Hopefully, by now, my opinion on the intersectional argument of and The Price of Everything and John Berger’ Ways of Seeing has been made relatively clear. Truthfully, I bare no love for the wealthy and, frankly, disdain the continued existence of the ruling minority that has for so long mystified the common folk through an abusive hold on the aesthetic tradition. The rich justify their existence, no matter how pointless, and instead rob humanity of its legacies and its resources– turning the “commoner” against themselves with the false promises that they, too, can ascend above, betray those of their status and be one who finally holds the reins. The NFT is just another malicious tool in a long line of foul trades. The continual practice of combining capital and art will forever be a method of control amongst the ruling minority– keeping the artist poor, and keeping us lessers desperate.