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The Life Artistic - Hub Culture Salon, London

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2nd Oct 2008

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

"The world goes wherever it wants to go, and then we all go back to evaluate."

Hosted in the shadow of London's monolithic Frieze Art Fair, Hub Culture recently gathered another stellar group of art influentials to discuss "the life artistic" and riff on the confluence of art, money and higher powers in the contemporary art world. What determines an artistic life? Who judges?

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Jose Maria Cano: Humo Torres
Joining this salon were the following guests, hosted at the magnificent home of the artist Jos Maria Cano and organized by Hub's Lauren Prakke.

Louise McKinney, Serpentine Gallery

Jos Maria Cano, artist and musician

James Linden, Victoria Miro

Rina Banerjee, artist and Whitney Award winner

Anna Zaoui, Collector

Lauren Prakke, Prakke Contemporary

Madeleine Webster, collector

Armida Allevi, The Sense of Luxury

Charlotte Sorato

After a brief round of introductions the discussion dived straight into definitions with two collectors raising the idea of art as "an intimate pleasure" and the desire to "find something more than was obvious". How our society chooses what is "good" art or "great" art changes, and in some way reflects a collective, unconscious decision. For both collectors and artists, says Madeleine, it "is an impulse to create and sustain something that others may later recognize as valuable." Jos added, "An artist and a collector are different a collector loves art, an artist can't stop himself"

Madeleine's opening contribution was a story of Jungian observations involving monkeys on isolated tropical islands that discovered innovations independent of each other at the same time (washing sandy potatoes in the seas, as it were), suggesting a form of collective consciousness that informs us over time, and which can be applied to the art world to describe how communities come to value certain artistic lives over others.

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R.Banerjee: She played caught but .. was not
Louise chimed in on the growing role of art as a connected secular religion something that buyers can buy into as a means of accessing meaning devoid in other sectors. But she later countered (with a sigh) the idea that art is increasingly linked to money. "Buying art is an invitation into a life artistic, it gives you entr e " but when measuring influence, "it comes down to money, it always does" which explains the growing conflict between museums, brands, collectors, galleries and artists themselves, all in a race for attention and value. James built on this, suggesting that money has replaced politics as the defining factor in the creation of art.

Armida agreed that art 'has become an asset' and like all asset classes, values are set by "a lobby who decides" whether directly or indirectly, the direction of a career or piece. But Jose countered, saying that the information is shared, and that "success ultimately is determined by luck and endurance." This opened the door to who determines artistic value. Unknowingly, the group gathered around the idea of galleries being the most important link in the chain, but no one would admit it outright.

James: "The role of the gallery varies from artist to artist, but there is no set way for how taste appears over a given time."

Says Charlotte: "The galleries make the biggest difference now they are shorting the old masters and soon they will short contemporary." She added a comment about provenance being the driver of value today, because contemporary art has proven provenance, where old masters and pre-war art has a more murky origin.

Rina highlighted the relationship between the artist and the gallery. Everyone knows a gallery will hold the best work back, and "if an artist says something is their best work, they find the gallery won't sell it quickly", because the ultimate value is likely to be higher. Here, the artist impression creates the perception.

Does value create perception, or does perception create value? Most agreed that in the end, value creates the perception, although Madeleine said it best "it is both, you can't have one without the other." Two more interesting points presented themselves at the dinner. Lauren posed the question of art awards and their value in creating perception for an artist. Rina, who is a Whitney award winner and certainly glad about the recognition, felt that overall it probably did not affect her career very much. But the fact that three artists have turned down the Turner suggests an opposite affect awards are judgement on a life artistic and do indeed mean something, so much so that an extreme artist may be inclined to reject such recognition to preserve the value of their own mystique. "Artists are always trying to escape the mainstream," says Jos .

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Kate Moss by Mario Testino
But what about the rest of us? Accidentally, the key insight emerged as the group discussed "who was more druggy" Warhol's pop icon Marilyn Monroe, or today's contemporary darling, Kate Moss. Jos remarked that in Monroe's time, "being druggy was not commercial" but in the Moss era, it is. Then, Monroe represented politics and political discourse dominated art. Today, Moss represents money and business, which now dominate art.

Charlotte felt "Kate is more druggy because she's addicted to love" and Rina contributed a global view "there is a racial bias to the sexiness of vice rehab life is the new life artistic."

And that folks, sums it up. As Anna said "anyone can be creative, but to be an artist takes discipline." OK, so she didn't mean that kind of discipline, but James pointed out that in older times "people were physically moved by art" to laugh or weep for a time in front of a painting. Today the crying and weeping is done elsewhere.

The "life artistic" is to feel such strong emotion, whether as an artist "who can't stop", a collector, "who must possess sensitivity" or a patron, "who buys a piece". We watch Kate and Marilyn's tragedy, despair, hope, glamour, and love through the prism of art, and see that the greatest museums today are in fact rehab centers like the Priory and Betty Ford.