Modern art is an embarrassment

Jadrien Hernandez, Reporter

The world once rejoiced in art, which used to be the pinnacle of human expression and imagination with countless of renowned masters indulging in various topics with each their own metaphors.  Today, however, art is instead a mangled shadow of its former self as the modern art community deteriorates it into an embarrassment.

Selling million-dollar art pieces can be kept a secret. There is anonymity in selling artwork unlike selling properties which typically detail your name and the names of previous owners. This secrecy makes it a perfect setting for money laundering as anybody can be selling.   

Similar to real estate money laundering, proceeds of crimes can be spent on art and then resold in order to then get legally obtained currency. Criminals can also sell their art, which could have been obtained by illegal methods.

“The art market is an ideal playing ground for money laundering,” Thomas Christ, from the Basel Institute on Governance, said. There is no clear indication that sold artworks are not coming from a criminal source.

As the art community continues to push the boundaries of what art is, it opens itself to individuals who have no interest in art, such as gallery owners and art collectors. They participate in art solely for financial benefits. The gallery owners and art collectors decide what the prices of their paintings are as they sell to one another to create a brand, which serves only to up the value of their pieces.

“…Galleries and dealers act as tastemakers, deciding which art is good and therefore expensive. The end result is to turn artists into brands, which introduces enough certainty for the market to function, Alex Mayyasi from Priceconomics, said. Mayyasi goes further to explain that one art dealer admitted that you could get art of the same quality on the streets but is not worth it as you miss out on an investment.

On top of that, gallery owners and art collectors only sell to specific people they deem worthy. Daniel Radcliffe, a famous actor, once attempted to buy a painting only to be denied because he was not what they were looking for.  

“I went to Frieze Art Fair and saw a painting by Jim Hodges. The guy said, ‘No, we’re waiting for a more prestigious collector to take that.” Radcliffe said in an article by Observer. The gallery owners sell to other wealthy collectors because if they sell to only a chosen few, then they will be seen as a better brand. It works much like a private group or club where only the chosen ones get in. This is a flaw, as this does not give everyone an equal opportunity to shine in the art world.

The nature of the painting is irrelevant when it comes to creating a brand and upping its value. No work or love could go into these paintings, and it will still pass as art solely because of the current climate of art, which is constantly reimagining what art is. Cy Twombly’s “Untitled” is a great example of this fiasco as it is nothing but a barrage of red scribbles on a canvas. It is valued at 46.4 million dollars. While Michelangelo spent countless hours on facial expressions alone, Cy Twombly exerts no effort by scribbling on a canvas and calling it art. This trend only furthers to deteriorate the art world as it is flooded with thoughtless paintings that could be crafted by children.

With all these glaring issues, it is exceptionally difficult for new-coming artists to make a name for themselves. Artists need to overcome the obstacle of being ignored by art galleries who have their own schemes they are conducting along with other greedy individuals with a foot in the art market. Truly talented artists are ignored for easy and quick paintings by galleries who only want brands they can profit off of. Becoming the next famous brand is a whole other strenuous predicament on its own as galleries are similar to clubs where only those they deem worthy get in. Even if an artist’s artwork is sold, their share of the profit is miniscule, as the true profit begins once the gallery has upped its value. Only the sellers in money laundering, art collectors, and galleries get to bask in the riches.

What can be said against this is that you have no clue of knowing which art galleries are crooked and exploiting art. It is also to note that dwelling on this subject ruins the experience for art that is innocent of this crime. Viewing art solely by this perspective is pointless and leaves you unappreciative of art.

However, in a century, humanity will look back on contemporary art and find themselves an embarrassing catalog of artwork. The art world will be buried alive if we continue to let this scheme continue. In order to bring art back to its former glory, we need to stop attending galleries that take advantage of the community and stop seeing art as more than just a currency.