Thursday, October 23, 2008

Out today: Interview & Review for Art Market Tome; Q&A on Karaoke Art; and a Review of Kruger at Art Met

Out today from me in various media:

An interview on art market issues for with Don Thompson (pictured above) author of The $12 Million Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art.

A review of the same book for NOW. The print version was chopped for space; read on after the jump for my full review.

An National Post Q&A with young TO curator Maiko Tanaka about the karaoke art show she recently co-curated for the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery.

A NOW review of Toronto artist Nestor Kruger's somewhat disappointing current show at Art Metropole. I love Art Met, but the work Kruger chose to show there just really doesn't seem to work in the space.

by Don Thompson. Doubleday. Cloth. 268 p. Rating: NNN

Review by Leah Sandals

As world markets crumbled last month, at least one man knew his net worth wasn’t falling: British artist Damien Hirst. On September 15, Hirst’s works earned their highest-ever auction prices, including $17 million for a stuffed shark piece.

In The $12 million Stuffed Shark (which refers to Hirst’s previous high-sale price) York U business professor Don Thompson tries to figure out why certain works of art bring in so much cash, while others molder away in cramped studios.

The best part of the book is that Thompson is an economist. His chapters focus on things like the branding of artists, collectors and dealers and competition between auction houses and gallerists. All of these do help explain why prices for some contemporary art is so high—even equal, at times, to the operating budgets of major museums like New York’s MoMA.

Similarly, the worst part of the book is that Thompson is an economist. He describes artworks in terms of materials, not meaning or sensation. One gets the sense that he might call Anna Karenina a pound of cheap paper containing a few words about a two-timing lady who kills herself. Or describe a great pizza as flour and water topped with old tomatoes and cheese, warmed over.

Still, there are locally relevant insights to be had. A chapter about museums and private interests is particularly timely given that the AGO’s huge reno gives collector Ken Thomson an exclusive display space. And a chapter on art fairs explains why Queen West gallerists spend so much time out of the country these days.

Toronto never have Hirst’s shark, but its lessons still linger.

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