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Auction House Alien (Part 2): Reclaiming A Cultural Encounter

 lucian_freud_portrait

lucian_freud_portrait

In response to my mini post concerning  the auction house, reader Nick Johnston writes,

"Following the recent sales here in London of Picasso’s painting La Lecteur at c. £25m and now Bacon’s small triptych of Lucien Freud at c. £23m – both to vanish into private, anonymous collections I presume – it’s a salutary reminder that art can always be reduced by the global art trade to secure and lucrative personal investments. No doubt, in 10-20 years’ time, the same paintings will reappear in the major auction houses, and fetch even greater sums for their new owners. Can these works now ever hope to escape the celebrity status of becoming auction house blockbusters and be seen again as paintings, as ART – made not for money but for some kind of love – when the price tags threaten to eclipse them?"

This is partly a question of perspective. It could be argued their celebrity has considerably diminished their potential for being experienced as individual works of art  - where they are approached in purely commercial terms,  instead of as objects made by an individual, as works with their own historical context.

 La Lecture c. 1932

La Lecture c. 1932

Cheyenne Westphal says Bacon's was "an artwork that radiates 'wall-power'". 

Whether a work has 'wall-power' or any cultural resonance is a curiosity that is best explored, not an opinion to be blindly accepted. What we do with our curiosity is key. Without the effort to seek out and experience the work first hand, the artists, and not just their works, remain far removed from any kind of artistic or cultural experience that can be called worthwhile. We are too easily saturated with the digital image, instead of transformed or provoked by the physical matter of a created work encountered in real space and time. In the face of cult celebrity, alienation and vulnerable art market, this is the one physical response we should be encouraging people to have.