Art Institutions of the 21st Century is a not-for-profit foundation created in 2017 to research and promote the economic and social conditions that support a sustainable contemporary art sphere. Their most recent report, released this summer, is entitled “When Financial Products Shape Cultural Content.” It examines how the funding landscape for art has changed radically since the financial crisis of 2008. Check out an excerpt from the report below, or the full text here.
The numbers-driven exhibition economy raises critical questions about curatorial agency and cultural content creation. Regional museums and commercial galleries with weak branding were most hard hit, further widening a culture gap between the region and the metropolis, the bridging of which should be considered a priority by today’s art ecosystem.
In parallel, the report examines the rise of blue-chip art in the wake of the financial crisis, perceived by investors either as low risk on the basis of staggering auction results, or as a creative way of finding regulatory loopholes. The ensuing price hike, accompanied by a shift of the sales from the primary to secondary market, granted auction houses a substantial advantage in their core business, transforming them from a dealer platform into an international stage for collectors. In tandem, the balance of ‘closing deals’ migrated from galleries to an ever-increasing number of international art fairs, placing all but the leading galleries under considerable pressure that has led to an attrition of the mid-tier galleries, the former mainstay of the market, along with their representation of emerging and mid-career artists. A dozen galleries that emerged as leaders with business models defined by blue-chip stables, museum-quality exhibitions, presence in major cities, and strong branding that branched out into publishing, hospitality and destination art tourism. A concentration at the commercial apex which may threaten the art world with a monoculture.
Image of the Wall Street bull sculpture via NBC News.