By Nancy Nesvet
Okay, so now we acknowledge that the world of art is tied to economics. Only the Venice Biennale and other recent exhibitions after that model survive to showcase the best of new art not for sale or created with economic appreciation in mind, only the other kind.
There is no shame in admitting people buy art to hang on their walls while also hoping the work goes up in value; that supports galleries who pay artists, a noble and necessary employment. The art fairs are a great venue for creating an art marketplace for collectors to buy and galleries to sell. But let’s acknowledge the distinction between and value of art fairs for fun and profit and the Biennales, Documentas and other not for sale art venues.
That value was recognized until the recent economic debacle of Documenta 14 at Kassel and Athens. Not only did Documenta 14 lose millions of euros, but the loss was tagged as due to everything from bad management to outright embezzlement. Now, art gallery and museum directors worldwide are calling for Documenta 14’s director’s head, or at least resignation, and for a reorganization of the board. Attribution to splitting the fair between Kassel and Athens has been cited for the economic disaster, but that cannot be all as attendance at both venues was quite high.
Documenta 14 made statements through art and created awareness of worldwide situations through irony, humor and blatant political statements expressed in multiple art forms. Frog sounds emanating from a pool of water (Benjamin Patterson, When Elephants Fight, It is the Frogs that Suffer, 2016-17, Karlsruhe Park, Kassel) would hardly sell to a collector, large corporation or museum, nor would the LED ticker streaming announcements of the progress of the Crusades by the Ottomans in the mid 1400s (part of an installation at Westpavilion, the Orangerie, by Romvald Karkamar, Die Entstehung des Westens, 2017, Kassel). The store installation at Neue Neue Galerie, by Irina Haiduk, Nine Hour Delay, 2017, Kassel, selling the Borosana Labor Shoe from the Soviet era in Yugoslavia that guaranteed workers a comfortable nine hours standing at work (not unlike artists) did a bit better economically, as the shoes literally sold off the shelf to Documenta 14 visitors.
The Venice Biennale 2017, with equally important and brazen statements did much better. It had the sponsorship of individual nations, their Cultural Councils and corporations. It seems that without the contributions of individual nations and sponsorship by large corporations, and a hefty entrance fee, as at the Venice Biennale 2017, art cannot be seen for free, no matter how important, not in a Germany that once was socialist nor in a country that claims to have birthed free art and drama.