Thursday, February 4, 2010
Why is this man walking?
In the New York Times:
One of Alberto Giacometti’s best-loved bronzes, “Walking Man I,” has broken the world record price for a work of art at auction, selling to an unidentified telephone bidder for $92.5 million, or $104.3 million with fees, at Sotheby’s in London on Wednesday night. The previous record was $104.1 million, paid for a 1905 Picasso, “Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice),” at Sotheby’s in New York in 2004.
The article doesn't probe enough. A more interesting question is why is this man walking now?
Sotheby's had expected between $19-28 million, based on the sale of another Giacometti in 2008 for $27 million. Accidents happen, but it would be naive to assume this record sale is just about an isolated investor enamored of Giacometti's work.
As the price kept rising, the bidding narrowed to just two contenders...
And why would it rise in the first place?
Art = capital!
The buyers bidding for Walking Man reflect a particular way of accumulating and exchanging capital. The art market represents the possibility of circulation & exchange of value, more particularly surplus value.
Walking Man reflects the imperative of capital: to reproduce itself and grow.
According to Marx, capital grows by creating a surplus. How? Labor produces value and a surplus. Labor-power is a fundamental cause of surplus value. It harks back to a relationship of exclusion between people, over things, which is the contradiction at the heart of the structure of capital.
It's all ACCUMULATION. As capital accumulates, money ----> capital and surplus value ------> more capital. It winds about a centre in an enlarging continuous circular motion.
So, coming back to our title/question, which prompts others: Is it the lack of confidence in the global economy? Is culture a "safer" way to do business? Does art offer tax-protection at a time of possible bank regulation?