Wednesday March 12 at 5pm - Art as Property - a DAI PUBLIC lecture by Andrea Phillips at the DAI's auditorium

tag: Arnhem

The mystery of value is a common attribute of all property when it comes to the moment of exchange (the moment at which a thing's property status becomes available to speculation) in the sense that the cloaking of value – its fictionalisation – is always a mechanism of barter. But art's mysterious value – its pricelessness – is significant due to the fact that it serves to remove the image or object from any comparison with other types of property, other types of trade. Such distancing from the commonality of pricing is deeply embedded in the culture of artistic production, the ways in which artists are educated, produced and perceived, and in the commercial and nominally public institutions that have developed to support it. So deep is this embedding that it is almost impossible to imagine an artistic social and institutional structure in which the image or object produced is understood as generative of other forms of property, other forms of trade and exchange (many artists have attempted this but rarely survived in the artistic economy without the production of some form of auratic and exclusive by-product).    

In a bid to begin to unpick the financial relations of art objects to this embedded history of mystic valuation, Andrea Phillips would like to draw attention to three things. Firstly, the fact that art is in fact property though naming it as such contravenes a set of ethical and aesthetic barriers to the understanding of it as such. Secondly that if art is property it must fall prey to the same political and financial contradictions of property that other property forms fall prey to – fluctuations in value, barter, speculation – all of which undermine the idea of priceless auratic value. Thirdly, that the structure of the art market is specifically designed to put space between these two concepts (art as property and art as priceless). Whilst it is true that there are an increasing amount of speculative art devices available for those that seek to profit by art as an investment class, the vast majority of the art world, its exhibition circuits, events and even fairs, is designed to protect the artwork from indiscrete speculation. All of which to suggest that the whole schema of art trade – its population of gallerists, collectors, sponsors, conservators and makers – is structured so as to propose one ontological form over another; auratic (priceless, profound, transcendental) being over property (priced, manufactured, limited) being. To discuss!

Dr Andrea Phillips is Reader in Fine Art and Director of PhD programmes in the Art Department at Goldsmiths. Andrea lectures and writes about the economic and social construction of publics within contemporary art. Read more