Art prices at ‘obscene’ levels as Chinese join high-spending elite says Richard Partington, the Guardian’s economics correspondent. Apparently, newly wealthy Chinese buyers compete with financiers and Saudi sheikhs to push up prices and “with its $450m price tag six months ago, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi remains the most expensive painting ever sold”.
The tenor of the article is that the money could be better spent elsewhere by supporting 10,000 struggling artists for a year or by funding medical research.
Well, yes, I quite agree. I agree with everything he says but great art has always been patronised by great wealth and without great wealth great art would not exist. Define “great”: well look at Venice. The Doges were not nice people, not at all. And look at Florence, the same can be said about the Medicis. Most people who create great wealth seem to be….possibly not very nice people?
Look at Westminster Abbey and the many Norman churches built or improved after William the First invaded the country, took what he wanted, and killed thousands of the locals. Read about the harrying of the north. Genocide no less and yet great beauty emerged from the Normans. But then the modern Chinese have had their moments: Tiananmen Square was not a pleasant incident, leaving aside the atrocity of Chairman Mao. Perhaps great wealth from modern China is not untainted especially when you consider the less than attractive lives lead by the industrial workers in the soulless dormitory towns of Shenzhen. Life is not pleasant for those people and yet their “owners” are the very people pushing up art prices on their ill gotten gains.
So yes, art prices are “obscene” and it is madness to pay such absurd figures for a mere piece of canvass covered oil. And yet while we live in a world where factory workers are treated like dogs for the benefit of greedy and vain fatcats, such prices are likely to remain that way.
It isn’t that I am some crazed revolutionary or hardline Marxist. God forbid. Who ever benefited from the dystopias created by such monsters?
But I do yearn for a better world and am not sure where that is going to come from. Certainly the prospect of obscene art prices on the back of near slave labour is not appealing. But it’s not just the Chinese who are involved in such benign business practices. It’s every businessman who can get away with it. Every business man who steals his firm’s pension fund, who sells tobacco which causes cancer, who spies on us and receives our data for free.
Here is what we need more of: men like American Bishop Michael Curry who wowed the world today with his sermon on love at the Meghan Markle Royal Knees up.
Here, here Bishop. I’m with you. It is not just art which is obscene. It is our world. Sadly, I don’t think we ought to hold our breath for better days.