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This was written by Jacob Collins - an extraordinarily talented American Realist painter. Jacob founded the Water Street Atelier in Manhattan. Many thanks to Jacob for allowing me to re-post his essay, as its message is incredibly heartening for artists in today's world.
The "Art World" is in free fall. The world of Avant Garde, theory driven, museum supported institutional modernism threw in its chips with the highest bidder. Over the last decade or so there was an accelerating frenzy resulting from this relationship between the "Art World" and the world of investment bankers, hedge fund managers and their wealth generated by bad credit. Its over now and the art dealers and art they dealt will be just as toxic to the world as the sub-prime mortgage derivatives that paid for the party.
At a moment like this the financial investor will flee to quality. He will look for things to invest his remaining money in: actual companies that make sense, that actually make things and make real profits. He needs to feel confident that he will not be duped again. He curses himself for ever investing that much in something he knew deep down he didn't understand. It is now widely proclaimed, that not only did the dupes fail to understand the chicanery of the markets, but neither did the "experts."
These are the classic conditions for a flight to quality in financial markets and I believe we will be seeing a flight to quality in art as well. Six months from now, when reality has sunk in, the horror amongst the collecting world will lead to questions as to whether any of this ever meant anything at all. What was it for? Did anyone understand it? The art collecting world will definitely be smaller. like the investing world, but it will refocus itself on things that are understandable. Things that resonate with the qualities that we all know deep down are artistically meritorious: beauty, skill, poetic feelings, delicate and simple thruths. These are the values that art and its admirers have traditionally aspired to, and these are the values that it will be natural to return to after the the smoke clears over the carnage of our self destructing art world.
My guess is that it is already happening. I hear that nothing is selling in the "Art World" I see articles announcing that a high percentage of the edgy galleries will be shuttered soon. But I know that a number of my classical artist friends are selling well through all of this. I have spoken to a few in the last few weeks. All selling strong. I bet in the next while we will find more traditionalists just humming along in a new flight to quality environment.
-Jacob Collins • February 23, 2009
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