the (con)temporary collection

lecture 011210

Conference: Art Work. Accumulation. Availability

4 main positions characterize the current state of the arts – the economy at large, the state and its cultural institutions, the galleries and the art market, and the artist and art itself. Each position has its discursive settings and institutional constraints.
Financial markets depend on credit. The crisis forced the state to replace the consumer as debtor, or money creator, of last resort. Temporarily, this caused a favorable environment for art – abundant money with low interest rates and few investment opportunities.
But the state finds itself in an awkward position. After the transfer of the taxpayers money to the banks, i.e. the wealthy and thus potential collectors, some nations embark on a journey of money creation, others try to impose austerity measures. Cultural budgets are slashed in either way.
The already fragile equilibrium between the art market and the museum turns unstable, with discursive effects. The institution of the museum so far provided for the historical temporality, and thus the discursive basis of modernism. Now, the temporal structure of the markets takes over. But (con-)temporary art allows only for (con-)temporary collections. Here two discursive settings fall apart – the artwork as collectible object or art as bearer of cultural value. Many artists try to serve both, as can be seen in the current style of referentialism or in the inflation of manuals, sheets of paper ascribing cultural significance to artworks. But on the other hand, with the decline of the cultural economy of reproduction, art may take a unique position as non-reproductive meta-culture.