Art, money, parties: new institutions in the political economy of contemporary art

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This was a fraught triangle of positions, which saw the United States, Britain and the Caribbean immersed in a nexus of centre—periphery relations. The growing Caribbean diaspora in the UK was a community that meditated on whether cultural practices could overcome such histories.

Intellectuals from parts of the Caribbean that were undergoing decolonization would focus on the significance for political independence of their own literature, painting and sculpture. For discourses on art during the late s and early s, a sense of provincialism and its temporal connotation of belatedness presided over transatlantic connections to America, which for Britain made the matter of its shrinking empire all the more central. A more nuanced understanding of this moment in the history of art would no doubt be reached through considering British nationalism as a register for issues of gender, class and age or generation.

It could be deepened especially by holding up for scrutiny the Caribbean and its diaspora. The problem for a Caribbean-born artist such as Bowling, in struggling to be remembered as integral to British pop art, is not that he was never associated with the status of the outsider or backward provincial. Vigorous assertions of the Britishness of cultural spaces such as the field of fine art were in tension with the presence there of creative individuals from colonies and newly independent nations in the Caribbean.

It was a tension that would take its toll on those artists, as we shall see, in a way that drew attention once more to the United States. Without doubt it has held lasting implications for understanding art of the Caribbean and its relation to America. It should seem unsurprising that since artists such as Bowling were given no place to belong in the British art scene of the s, they should choose migration once more. As I have suggested, they were effectively left with nowhere to go but the United States. In the autumn of , Frank Bowling moved to New York, marking a firm new beginning, launching the career in abstract painting for which he is now better known.

Until early , he lived in the Chelsea Hotel, thrilled to be sharing daily life with Jasper Johns, who also lived in the hotel, and with Andy Warhol, Rothko and many others. The success that followed from the artist's migration is further testament to an art landscape dominated by America. Much has been made of the ways that Bowling became associated with prominent African American artists in New York, as though an identification and community through diaspora would provide the key to that success.

In that UK context, ideas of displacement — which may have been thought uniquely located in postcolonial, exilic and diasporic experience — were themselves taken up in the recuperations of provincialism and temporal alterity that energized Britain's art mainstream during decolonization. But the choice to emphasize the diasporic dimension of Caribbean experience presents a larger difficulty. It is that the prevailing conceptualization of African diaspora culture has been founded on the historical experience of the United States, rather than on a wider base of multiple locations such as those in which Caribbean artists have lived, worked and moved through.

This mismatch is not inconsiderable; it is telling of what happens when discourses of cultural, racial and ethnic difference that were formed in the United States are overlain on other parts of the Atlantic.

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What emerged as a counterhegemonic category, in the historical struggle of people of African descent in the United States, cannot so easily be transmitted to other settings; the overall orientation toward America was experienced differently around the Atlantic. The generation of meaning and value for art and artists of the Caribbean and Britain took place in uneven ways relative to American hegemony, and was beset by competition, collisions, frictions and prejudices that mediated ideas about the United States and its perceived centrality and leadership.

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The two distinctions that I began by outlining have shared this sort of paradoxical relationship. Through the effort to find a stable alternative to a displacing, centralized, developmental, modern art story, very often the same terms hauntingly return. There is the added danger of misrecognizing the same tendencies as an alternative. There are several theorists of time and space whose ideas bear a family resemblance to Kublerian ones, with their vision of sequence and originality for the development of art at the level of its formal qualities.

International Politics & Contemporary Art: A.S. Dhillon’s World Party/Model UN

It is worth, for instance, seeing Paul Gilroy's idea of the black Atlantic as party to a similar scheme. Of course, Gilroy provides a sociological account instead of an art-historical one, and he locates creativity in the outer-national or transnational experience of the descendants of enslaved Africans — those communities that are left outside nation states; indeed whose experience reveals how the formation of nationhood through modernity has commonly been a process of displacement. Between Kubler and Gilroy there is, of course, so much more to see. It pointed to ways of making transparent the sins and omissions of the past: whether that be European exploitation through centralized techno-bureaucracies, or the debasing of African ways of life and the manipulation of culture as a field of exclusions, forgetting and trauma.

Even so, these histories also contribute to the normative spatio-temporality that I have outlined, with a nexus of values that may be traced to American epistemological dominance in art history. A further example of an artist who becomes implicated in this process is Aubrey Williams —90 , who was also born in British Guiana. He has been the focus for much righting of wrongs in the story of British figurative and abstract painting.

They help to rehearse an unquestioned time—space logic. In decolonizing Guyana, painting itself was made anachronistic through the rejection of the medium in preference for sculpture which was often monumental and commemorative , and public spectacle, such as in carnival, dance and other time-based, contingent media. Painting would undergo a similar fate in postwar Europe and America, although for different reasons, and through the proliferation of different sorts of media and visual technologies.

This is all part of an untold story of how Aubrey Williams straddled each location, as he and his art moved between Britain, the Caribbean and, latterly, the United States. After Williams spent more and more time in America, settling finally in Florida. For an artist such as Williams it is therefore crucial to ask how he found in the conditions of provincialism and belatedness a vehicle for working through the various models of artistic practice that map onto the triangulation of the Caribbean, Britain and the United States. In this connection we may identify the challenges and limits of this artist's strivings to disabuse modernism not only of its racism but also of the politics of its geography.

His success seemed to stem from an appreciation that outsiderness and anachronism have a less than essential character, and that they offer a vital margin for ambiguity, exploration, exploitation and reclamation: that the spatio-temporality of art-historical discourse may be seized upon with the aim of subversion.

Trying to express these complexities has yet to be acknowledged as a primary difficulty for studies of art and diaspora which intersect the American context during this period and are concerned with migratory lines between the Caribbean and elsewhere in its diaspora such as Britain. The intimate details of their artworks provide the basis for an assessment of their artists' agency when set against this history and geography.

Through their art, the generation of Bowling and Williams would demonstrate landmark success in turning around the accusations of being out of place and out of date. A notable figure on a more contemporary landscape is the artist Christopher Cozier b. He was born in Trinidad of the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago and returned there to live and pursue an art practice after studying undergraduate and postgraduate art degrees in the United States.

Cozier's works span a range of media which includes printing, drawing, digital and video work and some performance. Figure 2 is entitled Castaway It features the image of a swimming figure and a map, all in an illustration style, with ink painting and pencil drawing used simultaneously. This overlapping of media comes to trouble or stretch the work's location within the category of fine art. The composition of a body in movement presses the meaning further. Combining these details, Cozier's piece brings associations with forced movement.

Castaway is a historical reminder that the consequences of European travel — since around the year — have included the widespread displacement of human populations, whether as the inevitable by-product of colonization or of plantation slavery. The illustrated figure is burdened by that largely untold and still unfolding story. It seems to carry a ship's sail which is also a map that catches the wind and is used to navigate its route. If the title of the work, Castaway , suggests an island location and home for the survivor of a marine disaster or misadventure, it is also the jetsam of an individual who is refused or excluded and put out of view.

I take this to be Cozier's way of exploring the theme of isolation while sounding a protest at the precariousness of his own uncertain place as an artist. This pictured figure is an active one but it also raises the issue of the choices an individual may have about whether to migrate, and what are the forms of a present-day forced migration for someone who moves in order to succeed or simply to survive. As I will suggest, this is an attitude that has prevailed historically and which artists like him have encountered on several fronts at once.

The first such context is in the Caribbean itself, where certain constraints have been placed on Cozier in the course of his career. These disadvantages issue from a logic of time and space which is shared as much in Trinidad as elsewhere, in which the global and local are made to appear as total opposites, through an anticolonial struggle to establish a historical periphery as a new centre. Such an expectation carries the legacy of the role that was taken by nationally celebrated artists before and after the establishment of the new nation in There was an urgency to find suitable signs for an ethnically mixed and yet proudly harmonious community, fully emancipated from its past as a territory of the British Empire.


What resulted was an iconography for the Caribbean that corresponded with norms and ideals of postcolonial citizenship. But it was also a scene of restrictions, working to prescribe artistic activity. Cozier has not enjoined the battles of the anticolonial generation and he has objected to the continuing investment in its cultural politics. On completing his art education in the United States he would return to Trinidad and find a way of prompting a critical discussion of the art of the independence era.

It is a path that may have led to the sometime neglect and denigration of his art within Trinidad. In the late s he would comment,. This is an argument against the view that gaining an art education abroad is only useful if it serves domestic ends. It has shaped an art practice that shows how the old anti-imperialist counterhegemony became the new conservatism that a generation of artists have contended with since Trinidad's breaking away from Britain. The ensuing dialectic signals how the Caribbean has not wrested free from anxieties of centre and periphery in the Atlantic's cultural geography.

This first set of constraints is complicated further by Cozier's experience of operating outside his country and the wider Caribbean. Here he has shared challenges with other Caribbean artists which are similar to those of many more artists around the world. Like theirs, his place of birth is assumed to be a provincial, and unsuitable, zone for contemporary art. The ensuing struggle to enter the global art circuit has led the artist to pursue a record of involvements abroad that stretches back several decades.

He was included recently in large group exhibitions in Liverpool and New York, and has also been curating, with several exhibitions and major art projects in Paramaribo Suriname and Washington, DC. The main base for his participation in exhibitions, public talks and other art events is by far the United States, and comprises a steadily growing list of activities. In contrast to the difficulties faced by the generation of Bowling and Williams — whose association with the United States seemed to hold no adverse consequences for their status as artists in the Caribbean region itself — the more recent career of an artist such as Christopher Cozier tests the paradigm of redemptive rootlessness that has been classically imputed to such diasporic biographies.

Cozier's experience differs from that of artists of previous generations such as Bowling and Williams not simply because they left the Caribbean altogether, but in the different paths that have been taken in trying to recuperate from a condition of displacement. For Cozier, the main challenge is consequently about retaining the right to choose when and where one may travel for work while maintaining a Caribbean base.

The United States dimension of Cozier's career is significant for any attempt to understand how he has coped with mobility and what has come to count as success for him and his peers. He finds himself at his most visible when participating in US exhibitions, many of which he has led as a curator, or when he undertakes an academic residency, as he did in Dartmouth College in Even so, he feels ambivalently about this, and for reasons which are quite distinct from the traditional discouragement within Trinidad to cut a figure abroad.

Such ambivalence can be elucidated by noting how works such as Castaway have been presented by art institutions. Cozier is of African descent, as indeed is around a third of the population of Trinidad, but within the Caribbean he has never had to present himself or his art in that connection. Artists thus create products that at all events refrain from looking like products.

It was modelled on an 18th-century skull, but the only surviving human part of the original is the teeth. It didn't sell outright, and on 30 August was sold to a consortium that included Hirst himself and his gallery White Cube. Now the artist is acting openly as an entrepreneur, but an entrepreneur who also mocks the money business.

Mimicry and critique is now intertwined closely. Still, artworks contain immaterial values — the various forms of capital involved have been delineated by Pierre Bourdieu. Some of these forms of generating value, these forms of neoliberal entrepreneurship might be even more noticeably displayed in the figure of the contemporary curator. What are the various use values and exchange values that play a role in the art world? Bourdieu extended the concept of capital: instead of simply limiting the term to economic capital, from his perspective it exists in three different manifestations: economic capital, cultural capital and social capital.

Economic capital : the creation of value from work and exchange and its representation in money and the accumulation of money. Cultural capital is fundamentally associated with the body and requires a process of internalization; personal investment must be made in teaching and studying — this costs time and is paid for by the investor or their parents.

The delegation principle is ruled out. Embodied capital is a possession that has become an integral part of the person and is incorporated into their habitus. This cannot be passed on in the short term unlike money, property or a title. Objectified cultural capital includes writings, paintings and sculpture.

However, to enjoy these one also needs cultural capital. Cultural goods can be acquired materially or symbolically. A symbolic acquisition would be, for example, having power of control or acquiring something on paper.

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This gives rise to the ambivalent position of managers and of arts administration. Institutionalized cultural capital: a title, emphasizes the difference between title holders and autodidacts who are under pressure to prove their credentials. Any title yields various profit-making opportunities. Social capital : Membership of a group club, degree course, association, family, aristocracy or a network build up during studies. The amount of social capital that the individual possesses thus depends both on the extent of the network of relationships that he or she can actually mobilize and on the range of economic, cultural or symbolic capital possessed by those with whom they are in relationship.

Relationships require constant cultivation and the process of mutual appreciation is regularly ratified by the deployment of time and money. In this diagram one can see how Bourdieu saw the distribution for France in the s; cultural capital also serves as a means of distinguishing oneself from other groups, a way of establishing a line of demarcation.

Cultural capital can be turned back into economic capital when, for instance, a training to be a designer, artist or teacher pays for itself. This is what Diederichsen sees as second order of use-value. In Europe, the answer is still primarily, in full or in part, the state or, in a populist abbreviation, the taxpayers. In the United States and other neoliberal areas of the world, financing this general component of labor that is socially necessary for the production of art has become the responsibility of the artist themselves, who take loans to pay their way through school and, as it were, invest the income they will only receive later into their prior education.

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In this sense, artist are entrepreneurs who pursue their own material interest and later that of others. The alternate model traditionally followed in Europe effectively casts artists as civil servants or government employees and hence, at least indirectly, bound to a conception of the common good. Cultural and social capital should be examined more closely in the particular places that have become new locations for the art market.

This much can be said: the financially powerful elites in India and China use cultural goods as a means of distinction; that is, they want to mark themselves off from other social groups. The art market in China still functions as a largely closed market — Chinese artists are bought by Chinese collectors.

To break into these closed markets, Art Basel established a presence in Hong Kong. One can take a similar view of the new institutions set up by arts universities and museums in Hong Kong and for example Abu Dhabi. At this point, a word on the enjoyment of art from the point of view of race, class, gender and centre vs. The artistic comment on this well known image The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David puts western art in a specific setting, it may be interesting that Jacques-Louis David was a Jacobin supporter, one of is most famous paintings was Napoleon on horseback, a decidedly political propaganda, very modern in its appearance.

So the staging of his heroic life and death that culminates in this imaginary image of him as a martyr of the new republic could be seen from other perspectives. In real life, one might add, the cleaning staff would be women. Unsurprisingly most new painters of the new art market s are male — again a recourse of the artist-genius-entrepreneur narration pattern.

Financial Markets — Art Markets There are, however, other hidden agendas that underlie art acquisition, beyond proclivity or personal cachet and the gains that go with it. In Das Gespenst des Kapitals The Spectre of Capital , Joseph Vogl argues that, amazingly, financial markets discursively fabricate the present and future:.

MR Online | International Politics & Contemporary Art: A.S. Dhillon’s World Party/Model UN

If — based on the parameters set by normal distributions, mean values and Gaussian or bell curves — the scatter of future events can be calculated according to the range of variation of past unpredictability and if future risks behave analogously to existing risks, the business routines of the financial markets will be sustained by the fact that future expectations can be translated into expected futures and this will lead overall to a more or less reliable homogeneity between the future present and the present future.

What Vogl means is that the premise of speculations that are built on the latest economic theories emanates from a guessing game and this game only works out if the present merges into the future in an essentially uniform fashion, whereby normal distribution and mean values play a major role. But these are completely speculative assumptions, which, as you know, also lead to bets being placed on losses on the financial market, thus contributing in part to the threat we face of the system collapsing for the time being. Attempts are, in fact, constantly being made to contain an event, or an investment, with a system of reinsurance.

But at some point the last person in the long line of reinsurers takes a hit and this sparks a chain reaction. As Vogl puts it:. The most recent thesis proposed by equilibrium theory also predicts a reconciliation of nation states with liberalism; at present we all find ourselves part of a major worldwide experiment which will remain in progress for the foreseeable future. Viewed in this way — and there are some very rich people who have come to this conclusion — the art market is a relatively safe, crisis-proof and stable way of accumulating capital. What is interesting in the art market is that an individual collector can influence it through his or her purchases, an individual can built up a valuable collection which adds to the value of every piece in the collection.

In the U. In , China is by far the largest — based on auction sales it had a 45 percent share versus the U. And China has come from virtually 1 percent or 2 percent in So they compared art prices to income measures. Subsequently, the academics cited by Fraser found that there was no connection between art-based profits and general income variables such as GNP. Mc Andrews claims knowingly that buying art is often a tax efficient way to transfer wealth through generations. This is even more so in states in which the art market is more closely relying on private purchases.

In Europe there is still direct public arts funding, which gives artists and the intelligentsia far more room for manoeuvre. Overall the artist Andrea Fraser adopts a decidedly downbeat tone when it comes to culture, especially one might ponder, after her ambivalently received art work, Untitled , a video edition of five, in which she videotaped a performance of her having sex with a collector. I am not so pessimistic about the state of things and continue to see the opportunity for art to adopt a critical view of things, even if there is plenty of evidence that art production is repeatedly being overtaken, mollified and co-opted by market developments.

Bourdieu claims for the intelligentsia something that can also hold true for artists:. And yet it moves us …? The double role of art as a possible means of criticism and as a tradable luxury item probably cannot be resolved by withdrawing into an autonomous clique as Fraser proposed. Ultimately, the interesting coteries will then be commercially exploited and integrated into the system whether as professors or in some other capacity.

To offer a glimmer of hope here, I will provide an example as a comment on the system. This picture is, no doubt, familiar to you:. Yes, Warhol one might think, but it is in fact Sturtevant, whose artistic practice it is to copy artworks by male stars of the art world, sometimes even using their meshes when creating screen prints. She articulates a feminist critique of iconic white male artists. And, of course, a critique of the art market too, especially when she says in one catalogue that a collector passed off one of her works as a Warhol, and that he himself no longer knew what he had bought.

One might argue then that even if contemporary art can be classified as a cultural asset only for certain social groups and strata, even if it may be used perhaps as a superior object of speculation, in each case it conveys a message. Art market and a critical attitude cannot be seen as fundamental contradictions, we are all part of a celebrity culture, of a labelling machine, of so called cognitive capitalism, as Isabelle Graw states in High Price.

This probably entails a reform of older welfare states and the emergence of a new format that merits the name not only of a competitive society but also of a risk culture with a modular organization. In this system there will be no classes or parties, only the bond between financial interests and economic partners.

Americocentrism and Art of the Caribbean: Contours of a Time–Space Logic

A retreat cannot be achieved, but a position can be taken up under all circumstances. Just as an example: Even when in the lecturer-student relationship also a very hands-on price tack occurs in these expensive neoliberal education systems the attitude towards the students will matter, the honesty, the support, the challenge of equality and the attempt to make knowledge a shared process accessible for free and for many.

Jonathan Kirshner ─ Political Economy and International Security: The State of the Art

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