Essay

Art in an Accelerating and Expanding Era / Kosuke Fujitaka [Contribution Text for Tsuyoshi Hisakado]

©︎Tsuyoshi Hisakado ©︎Tsuyoshi Hisakado

In these past few decades, the inequality between the rich and poor has been increasing, and with globalisation and technology, it is gaining even more speed. However, this also means that the total sum of money put into investment is also increasing; more and more money is entering the art market, expanding its scale. In the 20th century, the so-called art market remained within Western Europe and US, but in these past 20 years it has spread across the world to Asia, the Middle-East and Eastern Europe. Auction houses, art fairs and major galleries have spread their networks to the world; art is being purchased worldwide, all year round.

It is not only the art market that is growing. New museums are being opened all over the world, and
international festivals such as Biennales and Triennials are also increasing. Performances and talk events that are not directly connected to the market are frequently being held, and professional artists who make a living from various forms of art are increasing. Modestly put, art is making the most of this moment.

On the other hand, even the curators who are supposed to be the guardians of museums and festivals are huddling closer to huge collectors; there is a feeling that art’s value is decided upon its price in the market, rather than the critic’s voice. A negative mood as if art is under the control of money, unlike in the past, is growing.

But is this mood really accurate? Looking back in history, we see that the great critic Greenberg may be famous within specialists, but Jackson Pollock is known to a much larger audience. Even if you don’t know Barnes, one of the top American impressionist collectors, everyone is familiar with Renoir, Cezanne and Van Gogh. Critics, curators and collectors have only existed because of the great artists and their artwork. It is not money that will decide which art is “good”, it will continue to be the good art where money gathers. Only, the speed and cycle will become much faster.

Art has started to enter the investment portfolio along with stocks, bonds, property and gold, as assets rather than consumables. With a budget surplus and relative drop in profits from the traditional financial assets, it could be that money is only being spent on art because there is simply nothing else to purchase. There is also another way of looking at this, that unlike stocks and bonds that create profit, art is being recognised as a replacement for gold that preserves its value – it protects assets.

Gold has established its value amongst humans, as a means of preserving value with its rarity, stability as a substance, and its appealing aesthetic characteristic. On the other hand, art may also have rarity, but is unstable substance-wise, and its value is synthetic and abstract, created under the complex influence of diverse opinions. Thinking of it this way, we could say that art is highly intellectual compared to the gleaming gold.

Last year, one of David Hockney’s paintings was sold at an auction for $90.3 million, the highest price a painting by a living artist has ever sold for. Imagine which will preserve its value the best out of the following after 100 years: Hockney’s painting, $90.3 million worth of gold, or $90.3 million worth of Apple’s stocks. Of course, nobody knows the answer. However, my instincts tell me that it is neither Apple nor gold, but Hockney’s painting. Could it be, that I am overly optimistic about humans?


Kosuke Fujitaka
Born in Osaka, 1978. Graduated with a BA in Economics from the University of Tokyo. Co-founded Tokyo Art Beat in 2004. In 2008 he moved to New York and launched NY Art Beat. Since 2014, works for SmartNews as US Media Business Development.

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  • Tsuyoshi Hisakado

    『Practice of Spiral』