Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 5 – artmarketblog.com

Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 5 – artmarketblog.com

To appreciate exactly why classical music is such a good example of the benefits that can be gained from investing in classical figurative art, and figurative portraiture in particular, one needs to look at the opposite of classical instrumental music – namely contemporary pop music.  One of the most dominant characteristics of pop music is the emphasis put on the profile of the pop performers themselves.  In fact, the actual music of the pop music genre is often treated as less important than the profile of the performers to the point where the whole pop music genre is defined more by the personalities than the music they produce.  Consequently, pop performers and their managers make elaborate efforts to project the desired image through their clothing, music video clips, manipulation of the popular press, and similar tactics. Indeed, many pop acts are formulated around achieving the desired image. Take a look at the popular music charts and you will find that it is dominated by a range of highly theatrical personalities who have personas that are more akin to that of a movie star than a recording artist.

What really differentiates contemporary popular music from classical instrumental music is the extent to which the artistic integrity of the music is compromised in favour of commercial appeal and profitability.  Whereas classical instrumental music places greater importance on the artistic and intellectual integrity of the work being produced, contemporary pop music is usually focused more on satisfying the desires of the celebrity obsessed target market.  Instant mindless gratification and short term fads define the commercial consumer culture that dominates the contemporary pop music scene and record labels have become extremely good at taking full advantage of this market.  As we all know, most contemporary pop music record labels seek to produce music that appeals to as many people as possible and will earn as much money as possible in as little time as possible. The problem with this approach is that the music being produced has become a sort of disposable product that often has very little or no long lasting artistic or historical value.  The real value is in the persona of the performer.

When one considers the fact that songs are often written and arranged by anonymous producers it becomes clear exactly how little value the music actually has.  If the actual instrumental music and the words to the songs of the contemporary pop era were completely disassociated from the performers who we associate the music with, would the music and the words have any value at all?  The answer I think would have to be probably not.  However, as long as the persona of the performer is linked to the music that music will continue to have value.  Would it be fair to say that one of the reasons that classical music has remained so popular is the degree to which one can disassociate classical music from the period during which is was originally created, and the musician who originally created it?. And could the same be said for classical figurative art, in particular portraiture?  I think so.

What is interesting about the contemporary pop music situation is that it is almost exactly the same as the current situation with contemporary art.  Contemporary artists have taken on the role of performers and celebrities whose profiles are often more important than the work they are producing.  Almost the entire value of the work being produced by many contemporary artists is linked directly to the profile and persona of that artist; the artists themselves have become essential components of their own work.  Without the connection with the artist, the art being produced by many contemporary artists would be left incomplete and without much value.  It would therefore make sense that the work of such contemporary artists and pop performers would not function well as a form of currency.  Classical music and classical figurative art, on the other hand, have characteristics that would make them more suitable as a form of currency.

What my comparison between music and art tells us is that the long term value of a work of art is linked to a certain degree to two important factors:

1.      the extent to which one can disassociate the work of art from the artist

2.      the extent to which one can assign value to the actual characteristics of the art object as an independent entity

To end this post I want to quote some more of Joshua Fineberg’s article “Classical music: why bother?” from salon.com which says:

Some composers may be bristling at this point and muttering that they are not so cavalier as to completely disregard public taste and societal demand. They may believe this, but ultimately they are wrong. If taste and society were their real yardstick, then the Billboard Hot 100 would be the true arbiter of worth and value (in the non-economic sense, as it already is in the economic sense). Let’s face it, any “classical” composer holding that view is in the wrong business. This is not to say (as some have done) that success is incompatible with cultural value. It is merely to say that the worth of a work is either intrinsic to it and therefore completely independent of its commercial success (as I believe), or it’s determined entirely by its social reception, in which case any flash-in-the-pan boy band is “better” than just about any “classical” composer.

To be continued…….

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications


Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 4 – artmarketblog.com

Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 4 – artmarketblog.com

With this post I want to explore an analogy between music and fine art that I believe will help make further sense of the portraits as art market currency concept that I am attempting to explain. When it comes to classical music – ie. art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 9th century to present times – a situation exists where the skill and ability of the musician/s playing the music is more important than their profile or level of fame. Although it would be preferable to have the original composer play the music if that were an option, at the end of the day it is the quality of the music being played that takes precedence over who is actually playing the music. In other words, the actual music produced is usually more important than the person who produced it.  The reason this is significant is that the concept I am trying to explain focuses on the value of the actual result of the artistic process, the artistic product, as opposed to the value placed on the artist and their persona or profile.  I chose classical music to illustrate this point because of the high level to which instrumental classical music can be disassociated from the people producing the music and valued according to the technical and constructional characteristics of the composition – in a similar way that figurative portraiture can be valued independent of the profile of the artist (a concept I will explore later on).

When it comes to the eligibility of something to be used as currency, one of the most important characteristics that something must have is the ability to be able to be judged/evaluated according to a universal set of criteria and standards.  It is the universality of the classical music language combined with the technical and intellectual nature of the compositions that should theoretically allow any classical expert from any country to judge a composition or performance by the same standards and criteria, and come up with the same or similar results.  Although opinion regarding a particular piece of classical music may differ from critic to critic due to personal preference, a critique of the technical and compositional characteristics of a traditional classical musical score by a classical music expert should theoretically be similar to that of every other classical music expert because such  a critique is more of a scientific analysis than an artistic analysis.  According to Joshua Fineberg, a composer and Harvard University music professor, in an article titled ‘Classical Music: Why Bother?’ written for salon.com, “If one believes in the intrinsic value of art, then — contrary to most contemporary ways of thinking — taste and social construction are of decidedly secondary importance. Composers often speak of pieces being well constructed or clever, sometimes even brilliant, and then go on to say that they don’t particularly care for them. This is because personal preference is seen as being much less important and enduring than these other, harder-to-define criteria. Even real Shakespeare-haters are unlikely to criticize the quality of his verse. We can all feel the genius even if we are not all sensitive to its charms (or at least this is what I tell myself)”.  What is interesting is that Fineberg’s musings about classical music are totally applicable to classical figurative art, and classical figurative portraiture in particular – just replace the term “composers” with art historians or art critics.

To be continued……..

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications