It is probable that you have witnessed or read news about how an extremely plain painting that seemingly consumes minimal effort; or a totally abstract painting that “matches the paintings of a toddler” is sold in astronomical figures. Is there something that we can’t see on the painted canvas that the buyers see? Is it just a competition of “eliteness”? Is it the buyer’s affection for a specific artist? Or is it a sign of insubordination? The contemporary art world is for sure an ambiguity. However, according to the experiences of Sarah Thornton written in Seven Days in the Art World, one can understand how the soul is extracted out of ‘art’ and what is remaining is turned into an industry for some and a sign of distinction for others.
A painting that is sold for millions of dollars goes through various phases under the supervision of various people who defile the purity of the piece by their own stain, as can be inferred from Sarah Thornton’s words: “The function of museums is to make art worthless again. They take the work out of the market and put it in a place where it becomes part of the commonwealth.” My research suggests that great works do not just arise; they are made not just by artists and their assistants but also by the dealers, curators, critics, and collectors who “support” the work. This is not to say that art isn’t great or that the art that makes it into the museum doesn’t deserve to be there. Not at all. It’s just that collective belief is neither as simple nor as mysterious as one might imagine.”
Another thing that could be considered mind-blowing is how worthless the artist actually is after the work is done, hidden behind all these stages a work goes through. And whenever it involves the artist, there is bitterness in it: “Accordingly, artist’s death can be an opportunity insofar as it cuts off the supply, creates a finite oeuvre, and clears the way for a well-defined market.” Moreover, when you further get to know the mindset of the collectors by their conversations, it becomes apparent how there is a completely constructed definition of ‘worthiness’ which has become normative by a group of pretentious people with definitions such as: “Paintings with figures of an object X is worth at least a million”. And when their constructed world is objected, the usual response is derogatory and implying that other people do not understand art while they do.
In conclusion, the individuals involved in this constructed so-called ‘art world’, running from an auction to another, merely use artworks as steps that aid them in climbing the stairs that lead to external goods such as prestige and wealth. And their idea of ‘art’ would be no different than the idea of ‘sport’ of a betting-addict that values nothing in the game but the final score.