On Its Head

An item of conversation this year in the Lower Town art community has been the record level of high-end art sales around the world. This fact is usually mentioned with a note of irony since many of us struggle with stagnant or declining sales. The other note is obviously a jealous one since we all know “The Land of High-End Art” exists out there somewhere. To get there seems to require some archetypal journey through Jungian forests of doubt where we meet Joseph Campbell minding the gates. There we will present our art in the form of the perfectly shaped key to fit the lock and which will open the gates where we enter an land filled with rich and exotic Chinese buyers.

The high-end art market was awash with renminbi in 2011. In part, Chinese currency flooded the art market in a reach for cultural legitimacy as it snapped up art with pedigree, both East and West. After a long march of another kind, the success stories of the Chinese economic miracle are now ready to enter the international art market in a frenzy to purchase the talismans of refined taste. I consider myself part of the working class here in America and I thought I had it tough competing. Imagine the outrage you’d feel if that prized Pollack you were eyeing got price-jacked at the Christie’s auction due to another round of nasty Sino-based inflationary pressures.

But give it time. China has its own problems. We thought mucking our way through exposure to international labor markets was rough on our financial picture. China will soon face a billion workers who feel that they deserve a pay increase and better working conditions. A Chinese contestant on a popular reality show where a panel of women interview potential date material said it well. She was offered the opportunity to take a romantic bike ride with an eligible bachelor. Her response shows her to be perfectly in tune with western sensibilities by offering this nugget of capitalist poetry, “I’d rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bike.”