Dan Fox:《万物有价》被“价格”迷惑,忽视了更有价的“价值”

在我坐下来观看纳撒尼尔·卡恩的新世界艺术纪录片《HBO纪录片》的时候,我对自己说,我敢打赌,这是从拍卖会上的一个场景开始的。我敢打赌,这部电影是在克里斯蒂或苏富比的当代艺术品拍卖会上开幕的,一位迷人、口才很好的英国拍卖商卖掉了一张毫无价值的蓝筹股作品,结果是一笔淫秽的款项。为什么?因为关于艺术世界的所有纪录片必须在拍卖会上开始,这是不成文的规定。它确定这将是一部关于金钱和权力的电影,并且暗示了金钱和权力是艺术界的所有人都感兴趣的,无论博士在其他权威发言中如何否认。

Art Doc ‘The Price of Everything’ is so Hypnotized by Price that it Neglects to Say Much of Value About Value - 艺术博士的“一切事物的价格”被价格所催眠,以至于忽视了价值的许多价值。

《万物有价》电影剧照 Nathaniel Kahn, The Price of Everything, 2018, film still. Courtesy: HBO Documentary Films 

你猜怎么着?万物的价格始于拍卖。在纽约苏富比拍卖行。随着开幕式的推广,我们看到艺术处理人员将弗朗西斯·培根,罗伊·利希滕斯坦,理查德·普林斯,达明·赫斯特和安迪·沃鲁斯从观景画廊带到街区。一位英语口语很好的英国拍卖师喋喋不休地说道。 '我们将从350,000 ... 400,000 ... 500,000 ... 650,000开始'配乐是古怪的无规经典,告诉我们我们属于前卫的领域。 “艺术和金钱总是齐头并进,”拍卖师Simon De Pury在V / O上宣称。 “对于好的艺术而言,昂贵是非常重要的。”价格开始变为超新星:'13,000,000美元,15,000,000美元......'现在,音乐转向了一种华丽的维也纳华尔兹舞曲,你听到它在好莱坞rom-com中使用的那种想要发出奢侈的财富和荒谬的信号。 “这只气球狗卖了52,000,000!”随着国际资本的流动,维也纳华尔兹随着时间的推移而蹦蹦跳跳。 “Jean-Michel Basquiat的杰作......”Basquiat的照片在销售室的屏幕上闪现。在电话银行中,有一些看起来很激烈的工作人员可以快速拍摄。电脑读数显示英镑,欧元和日元的价格。 '98,000,000美元......最后一次机会......'木槌倒下了。 '98,000,000美元!恭喜!非常感谢!'热烈的掌声,仿佛做了一些聪明的事情。标题出现了:“价格最低”的字体,用一种富有表现力的手绘剧本来表示'高端时尚',还有'对冲基金','一切',因为这是一部关于艺术的电影据推测,艺术家们用酷炫的草书手写签名。然后切入杰夫昆斯的工作室参观和迷人的似曾相识的感觉。

Déjà-vu,因为卡恩的电影似乎与过去十年中无数报纸文章和杂志智囊团对艺术世界的看法相同。这是一部吸引人的电影,正如许多记者理所当然地认为,对于超级富豪来说,艺术只不过是一种资产阶级。它想知道人们为什么把钱存放在巴斯基茨和格哈德·里希特,收藏家的欲望机制是什么,以及艺术世界的政治家和商人如何推销他们的产品。它希望,如果你拍摄足够的B卷镜头,人们穿着古怪的女帽,喝着香槟在Frieze纽约艺术博览会,你可能会瞥见幕后的一个大型文化活动的行动。围绕着纽约拍卖周的筹备——字幕总计有“六周到秋季拍卖”、“四周到拍卖日”,仿佛在营造紧张气氛,尽管在拍卖过程中几乎没有发生什么——万物价格把观众带到了艺术行业的顶端。

Art Doc ‘The Price of Everything’ is so Hypnotized by Price that it Neglects to Say Much of Value About Value - 艺术博士的“一切事物的价格”被价格所催眠,以至于忽视了价值的许多价值。

Nathaniel Kahn近照 , 2018, photograph. Courtesy: Raymond Meier

卡恩拜访了电力经纪人、大款收藏家和A级艺术家。一个蒙太奇序列告诉我们,我们正在处理的艺术史的版本。大多是男性,大多是白人,大多是北美人:沃霍尔、列支敦士登、威廉·德·孔宁、罗伯特·劳森堡、海伦·弗兰肯瑟勒、马克·迪·苏维罗、基斯·哈林、巴斯奎特、里希特、朱利安·施纳贝尔、辛迪·谢尔曼、赫斯特、王子、昆斯、村上隆、特蕾西·埃明、马克·布拉德福德、厄斯·费舍尔、艾·W。伊维,George Condo。一个如此可预测的列表,以至于在我的眼睛里戳破的画笔会比看着这批画更令人惊讶的视觉体验。我们在家和收藏家斯特凡·埃德利斯一起呆了很长时间,看着他看着Excel的电子表格,详细地记录了他的藏品,沉思着收藏游戏。苏富比执行副总裁艾米·卡佩拉佐在筹备拍卖日时,我们用许多“伟大”、“最伟大”和“最重要”来形容她正在出售的作品。我们可以看到他们的工作室里工作的公寓和玛丽莲明特,听到更多的收藏家和更多的拍卖商,以及少数艺术历史学家,特别是少数艺术经销商(加文·布朗,玛丽·布恩和丹尼斯·亚雷斯的简短露面),以及批评家杰里·萨尔茨的强制转变。(所有艺术纪录片中的另一个不成文的规则是你必须采访Jerry Saltz。)

除了拍卖行之外,还有两个关键的故事贯穿所有的价格。一个提供了战后艺术市场的缩影历史。Kahn将索斯比拍卖行的罗伯特和Ethel Scull收藏在1973作为他的艺术市场年零。早期抽象表现主义和流行艺术的收藏家,雕塑家拍卖了他们收集的大部分活着的艺术家的作品以获得巨额收入。罗伯特·劳森伯格(Robert Rauschenberg)1958年的作品《解冻》(Thaw)被斯卡尔斯以900美元买下,并以85000美元卖出。“我一直在为你赚大钱,”斯库尔微笑着对他说。“你的工作现在怎么样了?”我一直在为你工作。“我们一直在为彼此工作。”艺术史学家芭芭拉·罗斯解释说,随着雕塑拍卖,人们意识到“你可以通过低价买进高价卖出来赚钱。”艺术家们什么也没看到,但拍卖改变了艺术市场。

Art Doc ‘The Price of Everything’ is so Hypnotized by Price that it Neglects to Say Much of Value About Value - 艺术博士的“一切事物的价格”被价格所催眠,以至于忽视了价值的许多价值。

《万物有价》电影剧照 Nathaniel Kahn, The Price of Everything, 2018, film still. Courtesy: HBO Documentary Films

在第二个故事情节中,卡恩跟随艺术家Larry Poons准备在纽约的YARES美术馆展出。对于电影制片人来说,庞斯——在成为画家之前受过古典音乐家的训练——代表了一个艺术世界反复无常的故事。“他们认为我死了,”艺术家说,当我们看到他在乡村工作室里工作时。20世纪60年代,波昂是下一个大人物。后来,他的事业在改变方向后陷于瘫痪,他不再创作极简风格的绘画,而是受到同龄人的排斥。就像他描述的那样,“背叛了事业的魅力”。Poons表现得和蔼可亲,专心致志地工作,对自己的事业兴高采烈进行哲学思考。卡恩给了他一个小心翼翼的救赎故事弧度,包括突然商业兴趣在他的最低时期的作品从拍卖行,但结束与艺术家在耶鲁开幕,由仰慕者包围的电影。

除了Koon和经销商Jeffrey Deitch称之为“自然的美国推销”,艺术家卡恩的讲话被描绘成对艺术市场的轻蔑,尽管所有的作品都相对成功。在行业的白热化下,你如何保持理智?Minter问。“这是不好的,当这是一个房子的价值”的言论,他的一个自己的画李希特。(在这一幕之后不久,我们看到Cappellazzo驳斥李希特的言论,称之为“避免民主的人想要拥有他的作品的一种社会民主方式。”不要让我开始。然而,其他的建立和破坏艺术家事业的机制在这里没有得到足够的分析。Minter指出,如果你老了或者死了,你只会得到女性的认可,但这个关键的观察并没有得到跟进。Njideka Akunyili Crosby和李殿朗是电影中仅有的两位年轻艺术家之一,所有其他人都在职业生涯中后期,她指出,她在工作室里工作的市场需求越大,生活的时间越少。她坚持自己的主题。李在电影开头只做了短暂的露面,他说:“如果我们让市场决定什么是好的,那么就没有地方适合我。”“当艺术家真的很难,”馆长康妮·巴特勒在克罗斯比参观工作室时说。我想,一个不熟悉艺术世界的观众可能想知道:为什么?

这些调查路线是开放的,但从未被Kahn所追求,他似乎更喜欢关注市场的过度行为。导演说,我心中的理想主义者和无望的浪漫主义者现在比以往任何时候都更加相信,艺术中确实有超越金钱的东西,有扭曲的自由商业,在最好的情况下,它为某种启蒙指明了道路。我从这部电影中知道他是否认为当代艺术本身是可疑的,或者只是大钱的腐败影响。也许是因为我们没有太多的洞察力来驱使他采访艺术家。看康多和敏特上班很愉快,但对于艺术界以外的人来说,你会认为绘画就是这些天所能创造的一切。你永远不会知道,表演、视频、声音、装置、舞蹈和社交活动是艺术界许多人谈论的话题。卡恩说,这部电影“记录了我们在几年间在艺术界所经历的漫长跋涉”。卡恩说,这部“漫长跋涉”是“有机进化的”。这部“漫长跋涉”把他带入了蓝筹股,可能因为新闻原因而令人着迷,但不是最有趣的想法。当电影开始转向更复杂的领域时,它就消失了,依赖于一个皇帝的新衣版本的艺术世界运行,而不是解决矛盾和复杂性。

FRIZE特稿 ARThing编译

 

Before I sat down to watch Nathaniel Kahn’s new art world documentary for HBO, The Price of Everything, I said to myself, I bet this starts with a scene at an auction. I’ll bet this film opens at a contemporary art sale at Christie’s or Sotheby’s, with a charming, well-spoken English auctioneer selling off an unquestionably blue-chip painting for an obscene sum of money. Why? Because it is the unwritten rule that all documentaries about the art world must begin at an auction. It establishes that this is going to be a film about money and power, and insinuates that money and power is all anyone in the art world is interested in, no matter how much the talking heads featured in the rest of the doc will deny is the case.

Guess what? The Price of Everything starts with an auction. At Sotheby’s, New York. As the opening credits roll, we see art handlers wheeling Francis Bacons, Roy Lichtensteins, Richard Princes, Damien Hirsts, and Andy Warhols from the viewing galleries to the block. A Charmingly Well-Spoken English Auctioneer rattles off the prices. ‘We’ll start at 350,000 … 400,000 … 500,000 … 650,000’ The soundtrack is herky-jerky atonal classical, to tell us we’re in the realm of The Avant-Garde. ‘Art and money have always gone hand-in-hand,’ declares auctioneer Simon De Pury on the V/O. ‘It is very important for good art to be expensive.’ The prices start to go supernova: ‘13,000,000 dollars, 15,000,000 dollars …’ Now the music switches to a pompous Viennese waltz, the kind you hear used in Hollywood rom-coms when they want to signal extravagant wealth and absurdity. ‘The balloon dog, sold for 52,000,000!’ The Viennese waltz bounces and crescendos in time with the flow of international capital. ‘A masterpiece by Jean-Michel Basquiat …’ Image of said Basquiat is flashed up on the salesroom screens. There are rapid cut shots of intense-looking staff fielding bids on the telephone banks. Computer readouts show the price in Sterling, Euros and Yen. ‘98,000,000 dollars … Last chance …’ The gavel comes down. ‘98,000,000 dollars! Congratulations! Thank you very much!’ Rapturous applause, as if something clever has been done. Title comes up: ‘THE PRICE OF’ in a minimal sans-serif font that signals ‘high-end fashion’ but also ‘hedge-fund’, ‘EVERYTHING’ in an expressive hand-drawn script, because this is a film about art and artists sign their work in cool, cursive handwriting, presumably. Then cut to a tour of Jeff Koons’ studio and a crushing sense of déjà-vu.

Déjà-vu because Kahn’s film appears to share the same angle on the art world that countless newspaper articles and magazine think-pieces have taken over the past decade. This is a film fascinated, like many journalists justifiably are, with the idea that art is nothing better than an asset class for the super-rich. It wants to know why people park their money in Basquiats and Gerhard Richters, what the mechanisms of desire are for collectors and how the art world’s politicians and traders work their sales pitches. It hopes that if you shoot enough B-roll footage of people wearing wacky millinery and drinking champagne at Frieze New York art fair, you might catch a glimpse behind the curtain at a big cultural con-job in action. Structured around the run-up to New York auction week – subtitles throughout count off ‘Six weeks to Fall auction’, ‘Four weeks to auction day’ as if to build tension, though little much happens along the way – The Price of Everything takes its audience to the art industry’s top tranche.

Kahn visits powerbrokers, big money collectors, and A-list artists. One montage sequence tells us the version of art history we are dealing with here. Mostly male, mostly white, mostly North American: Warhol, Lichtenstein, Willem De Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Di Suvero, Keith Haring, Basquiat, Richter, Julian Schnabel, Cindy Sherman, Hirst, Prince, Koons, Takashi Murakami, Tracey Emin, Mark Bradford, Urs Fischer, Ai Weiwei, George Condo. A list so predictable that poking broken paintbrushes in my eyes would make for a more surprising visual experience than looking at this lot. We spend a lot of time at home with collector Stefan Edlis, watching him look at an Excel spreadsheet detailing his holdings and musing on the collecting game. We shadow Sotheby’s Executive Vice-President Amy Cappellazzo as she prepares for auction day and uses the words ‘great’, ‘greatest’ and ‘most important’ rather a lot to describe the works she’s selling. We get to see Condo and Marilyn Minter at work in their studios, and hear from more collectors and more auctioneers, along with a handful of art historians, notably few art dealers (brief appearances from Gavin Brown, Mary Boone and Dennis Yares), and an obligatory turn from critic Jerry Saltz. (The other unwritten rule of all art world documentaries is that you must interview Jerry Saltz.)

A couple of key narratives run through The Price of Everything in addition to the auction line. One provides a thumbnail history of the postwar art market. Kahn takes the Sotheby’s sale of the Robert and Ethel Scull collection in 1973 as his art market year-zero. Early collectors of abstract expresssionism and pop art, the Scull’s auctioned off their collection of mostly living artists’ work for huge sums. In one telling archival clip shot at the sale, Robert Rauschenberg – whose 1958 work Thaw was bought by the Sculls for USD$900 and sold for $85,000 – shoves Robert Scull in the chest. ‘I’ve been working my ass off for you to make that profit.’ Scull smiles back at him. ‘How about yours now your work can sell for that too? I’ve been working for you. We’ve been working for each other.’ As art historian Barbara Rose explains, with the Scull auction came the realization that ‘you could make money by buying low and selling high.’ The artists saw none of the money, but the sale changed the art market.

In a second storyline, Kahn follows artist Larry Poons as he prepares for a show at Yares Art gallery in New York. For the filmmaker, Poons – trained as a classical musician before becoming a painter – represents a tale of art world capriciousness. ‘They think I’m dead’ says the artist, as we see him working away in his rural studio. In the 1960s, Poons was the next big thing. Then his career tanked after a change of direction in which he stopped making minimal style painting and was ostracized by his peers. A ‘betrayal of the career charisma,’ as he describes it. Poons comes across as affable, dedicated to his work, philosophical about his career ups and downs. Kahn gives him a cautiously redemptive story arc, including a sudden commercial interest in his minimal period work from an auction house, but ending the film with the artist’s opening at Yares, surrounded by admirers.

With the exception of Koons and what dealer Jeffrey Deitch calls his ‘natural American salesmanship’, the artists Kahn speaks to are portrayed as leery of the art market, even though all are relatively successful. ‘How do you stay sane under that white heat [of the industry]?’ asks Minter. ‘It’s not good when this is the value of a house’ remarks Richter of one of his own paintings. (Soon after this scene, we see Cappellazzo dismiss Richter’s remark as ‘just a social-democratic way of avoiding rich people wanting to have [his paintings].’ Don’t get me started.) Yet other mechanisms that build and destroy artist’s careers aren’t afforded enough analysis here. Minter points out that you only get recognition as a woman ‘if you’re old or dead,’ but this crucial observation isn’t followed up. Njideka Akunyili Crosby – along with Margaret Lee, one of only two younger artists in the film, all the others being in the mid- to late-stages of their careers – points out that the more market demand there is for her to produce work in the studio, the less time there is to live the life that she draws on for her subject matter. Lee, who makes only a brief cameo appearance at the start of the film, states: ‘If we allow the marketplace to determine what’s good, then there’s no place for me.’ ‘It’s really hard to be an artist,’ says curator Connie Butler during a studio visit with Crosby. I would imagine a viewer unfamiliar with the art world might want to know: why?

These lines of enquiry are opened but never pursued by Kahn, who seems to prefer to dwell on the excesses of the market. The director has said that ‘the idealist and hopeless romantic in me believes, now more than ever, that there really is something in art that transcends money, that twists free of commerce and that, at its best, points the way towards some kind of enlightenment.’ Yet it’s not entirely clear to me from this film whether he thinks contemporary art itself is suspect, or just the corrupting influence of big money. Perhaps it’s because we don’t gain much insight into what ideas drive the artists he interviews. Watching Condo and Minter at work is enjoyable, but to anyone outside the art world, you would think that painting is all that gets made these days. You would never know that performance, video, sound, installation, dance and socially-engaged work are what a large number of people in the art world talk about. The film is a ‘record of the odyssey we took through the art world over the period of a couple of years,’ says Kahn, one that ‘evolved organically.’ This ‘odyssey’ took him into blue-chip waters that may be entrancing for journalistic reasons but are not where the most interesting ideas evolve. Just when the film begins to turn towards more complex territory, it shies away, relying instead on a defeated-looking art historian Alexander Nemerov to stand for intellectual disillusionment with the art business, portrayed as a lone scholar who still believes there is meaning beyond commercial value. (This in itself is a false binary.) Here Kahn’s film becomes lopsided. Perhaps because it’s far easier to let the new gilded age excess parody itself: the sight of collector Inga Rubenstein crying as she reminisces about buying a Hirst at Miami Art Basel, for instance, or De Pury’s preposterous justifications for expensive art. Easier to shoot a window display full of Koons’ god-awful Louis Vuitton ‘Masters’ series, layering it with the artist saying ‘I have not done my best work, I want to achieve that, I want to do something spectacular,’ and run with a tired Emperor’s New Clothes version of the art world, than it is to grapple with contradiction and complexity.

 

There is plenty to critique in the art world, no question. Plenty that can be found beyond Upper East Side penthouses and auction salesrooms, in sectors that might think themselves above market vulgarities. Kahn, however, seems to have gravitated towards the most obvious area of its economy. The corner of the industry that the filmmaker portrays is so rarefied that it means little to many people themselves working in the art world. I cannot remember the last time I had a conversation with any of my peers about Koons – he’s as relevant to the art I think about as Bono is to the music I listen to. The work in Edlis’ collection leaves me cold. Like Kahn, I too think Maurizio Cattelan’s gold-plated toilet, plumbed into the Guggenheim Museum lavatory system, is fatuous. ’99.99 percent of artists don’t have money, it’s that simple’ says Saltz at one point, yet the film includes no visual representations of social status that signal anything other than wealth and professionalism. (Poons’ tumbledown country studio might be the exception but that looks idyllic to me.)

I want to see an art world documentary that visits a non-profit art space in Peckham on a wet Friday afternoon when nobody comes through the gallery. I’d like to watch a film that depicts a freelance critic juggling multiple jobs to make rent, and shows you artists creating their own art school because they can’t afford the official ones. A more complete film about the art world would be one that tells us what it’s like to try and start a gallery in São Paulo with the country falling down around your ears, or what it takes to run an art centre in Lagos. One that speaks to artists who had to give up their career to raise kids, who don’t have friends to stay with in Berlin, who are too broke to go to Venice, documenta and Art Basel and have no clue which the cool restaurants are in London at the minute. A movie that features the artists who don’t live near the major professional art centres, the ones who devote years to teaching in regional art schools, the ones who refuse to sell their work to certain collectors, and the ones who have dropped out altogether because, screw it, there’s more to life than all of this. A film that speaks to dealers who had to close their galleries on the Lower East Side because they couldn’t afford to run them anymore, and the smaller and mid-level gallerists who bend over backwards to support their artists. A film that follows W.A.G.E. as they lobby institutions to pay a basic minimum fee to artists for their work, that shows us a day in the life of a museum educator running workshops for teenagers, and introduces us to activists who believe that art might have purpose other than being a line on Edlis’s collection spreadsheet. A documentary that dutifully catalogues the expanded field of middle-management jobs that come with capital: the art consultants, the VIP specialists, the PR firms, the fundraisers, the armies of underpaid assistants who keep the show going. I want a film that shows a private view where only three people have turned up and are standing around a plastic bucket full of beer looking awkwardly at their phones. I want a movie that asks the interns what they think. I want a film that shows the friendships and conversations that keep everyone going.

But this will likely not happen. To fund a film about the art world requires the inclusion of subjects who have name recognition beyond the specialist sphere. Which means more Koons, more Warhol, more Basquiat, Abramović, and Cattelan, thus reproducing a blue-chip image of the industry. The Price of Everything gives us money and power because that, today, is what we are interested in. Excess makes for good TV, but artist-run spaces on a wet Friday afternoon in South London don’t. Money and power is what also keeps HBO audiences watching comedies such as Silicon Valley, Veep and Ballers – because they satirize the tech, politics and sports worlds that we have no control over. In that respect, I can understand Kahn’s motivations for making this film and if commerce is what you are interested in learning about, then Kahn will provide you with a highly polished, well-made account of it, auction house drama and all. But remember, it’s not the full story.

The Price of Everything takes its title from Oscar Wilde’s quip that ‘nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.’ Ironically, this film is so hypnotized by price that it leaves little room to say much of value about value.

Main image: Nathaniel Kahn, The Price of Everything, 2018, film still. Courtesy: HBO Documentary Films

Dan Fox

Dan Fox is the US Editor at Large of frieze magazine and is based in New York. The author of Pretentiousness: Why It Matters (2016), his latest book, Limbo (2018), is published by Fitzcarraldo Editions.




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