Monday, September 22, 2014
6

高价艺术品的道德成本

墨尔本—上个月,佳士得拍卖行在纽约售出了7.45亿美元的战后和当代艺术品,这是其一次拍卖所达到的最高价格。成交的最高价是巴尼特·纽曼(Barnett Newman)、弗朗西斯·培根(Francis Bacon)、马克·罗斯科(Mark Rothko)和安迪·沃霍尔(Andy Warhol)等人的作品,每件在6,000万美元以上。据《纽约时报》报道,亚洲藏家在竞价中大出风头。

毫无疑问,有的买家把买艺术品作为投资,和股票、房地产或金条一样。据此,他们付出的价格是高还是低取决于市场在未来愿意为这幅作品出价多少。

但如果不是为了利润,为什么会有人愿意花几千万美元买这样的作品?它们并不美,也没有表现出高超的技艺。甚至也不算不上艺术家的代表作。用图片搜索引擎搜索“巴尼特·纽曼”,你可以看到很多画作都采用了通常用细线分隔的纵向色条。好像纽曼一有想法就喜欢尝试它的所有变化。上个月,有人花8,400万美元买了这些变化中的一个。安迪·沃霍尔的玛丽莲·梦露像——也有多幅在世——也卖了4,100万美元。

十年前,纽约大都会艺术博物馆花了4,500万美元买下了杜桥(Duccio)的《圣母和圣婴》(Madonna and Child)。随后,在《你能拯救的生命》(The Life You Can Save)中,我指出购画资金的出资者有更好的方式花掉这笔钱。现在我仍持有这一观点,但大都会博物馆的《圣母和圣婴》是700年前的名作。杜桥是西方艺术史关键转型期的重要人物,并且传世作品已经非常稀少。纽曼和沃霍尔则并非如此。

不过,或许战后艺术的重要性正在与它挑战了我们的观念。这一观点由杰夫·库恩斯(Jeff Koons)明确提出,他的作品也名列此次佳士得拍卖中。在1987年与一群艺术批评家的访谈中,库恩斯提到了上个月被拍卖的那副作品,称之为“‘占边·波本’(Jim Beam)作品”。库恩斯在一次题为“奢侈与退化”(Luxury and Degradation)的展览中展出了这幅作品——一个注满波旁威士忌的超大号不锈钢玩具脑。据《纽约时报》报道,该作品考察了“高飞的20世纪80年代的奢侈品的肤浅、过度与危险。”

在这次访谈中,库恩斯说占边·波本作品“用奢侈品的隐喻定义阶级结构”。批评家伊莲娜·孔塔瓦(Helena Kontova)接着问他,他的“社会政治倾向”是否与时任总统里根的政治学有关。库恩斯回答说:“里根主义导致社会流动性崩坏,我们没有形成由高中低收入水平构成的结构,直接退化到只有高和低两级……我的作品反对这一趋势。”

作为奢侈与过度的批评的艺术!作为对贫富差距扩大的反对声音的艺术!这听起来是多么冠冕堂皇、勇气可嘉啊。但艺术品市场的最大优势就在于它能够点明一件艺术品所能激发的不论多么离谱的需求,并把这件艺术品变为巨富的又一消费品。佳士得拍卖为库恩斯的这件作品——注满波旁威士忌的玩具脑——赢得的价格是3,300万美元。

如果艺术家、艺术批评家和艺术品买家真的有志于缩小日益扩大的贫富差距,他们可以将时间花在发展中国家,花在与当地艺术家的合作上,在这些国家,几千美元的卖画收入就可以让整个村子的人的福利得到真正的改变。

我在这里所说的一切都不是反对艺术创作的重要性。素描、绘画和雕塑与唱歌和乐器演奏一样,都是自我表达的重要方式,没有它们,我们的生活就会变得乏味。在一切文化中——以及任何情况下——人们都在生产艺术品,哪怕他们连基本需要都未必能够得到满足。

但我们不需要艺术品买家花几百万美元鼓励人们这样做。事实上,不难论证一飞冲天的价格在腐蚀艺术表达的影响力。

至于买家为何要花这么多钱,我的猜测是他们认为拥有著名艺术家的原创作品能够提高他们自身的地位。果真如此的话,这倒提供了变化的途径:用更合乎道德的方式重新定义地位。

在一个更加道德的世界中,花几千万美元购买艺术品将是被人唾弃而不是受人敬仰的行为。这种行为会让人们质问:“当今世界,每年都有六百万儿童因为缺乏安全水源或蚊帐而失去生命,或者因为得不到麻疹疫苗而死去,你难道找不到更好的花钱途径吗?”

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  1. CommentedRichard S. Stone

    Although obviously well intended, this strikes me as a version of a sermon to give money to the poor. The purchased art is an alternative form of currency, or an investment, or possibly an ornament for the buyer. But in any event, the seller of the art now has the money. Maybe the sellers of the art could help the poor?

    Is any of this "art' (or "Art...") worth the millions of dollars paid? Clearly the author thinks some of it might be valuable, but not all, but here we have willing buyer's and sellers, etc. for all of it.

    What this really tells us is that taxes on the rich, and on these transactions, are inadequate in concept and in effect. It is a good that the rich support the arts. But is it the very best way to manage our resources? (And in one sense the rich are very much the beneficiaries of the resources at the disposal of human-kind, and the rich are a part of the whole, such that their skills for making money and their own creative talents should benefit human-kind.)

      CommentedTristan Cummings

      This was interesting to read: perhaps Singer doesn’t flesh out his argument because it is so well known but perhaps a clearer articulation might help? He would begin with the assumption that 1) preventable suffering is bad. The next step is to say that 2) if we can prevent this suffering without losing anything comparably morally important we ought to do so. Therefore 3) there is a moral duty to spend your money to relieve suffering. The fact that your money hasn’t’ “disappeared” doesn’t discharge that duty: you cannot claim that by spending money on art the possibility that someone else will satisfy their duty will satisfy your own? As far as I understand Singer provides you with a choice: spend your money to relieve suffering where it is preventable and not to the detriment of something else that is morally valuable (and if we agree that this art is not comparably morally valuable to the life of another it is not valuable in this moral way) or fail your duty to do so.

  2. CommentedD. V. Gendre

    If Gresham's law is applied then one can understand why people invest, or try to exchange their Dollars for art, jewelry and other luxury goods which are rare and scarce no matter how high the price is. So art is definitely not a consumer good but an investment for the super-rich. I do not want to go into the definition of a consumer good since this is basic knowledge. But such statements are definitely not in favor for credibility of the author.
    I also can't understand the concept of buying indigenous art in developing countries to support an entire village. I highly doubt that this is in some way helpful or sustainable. I also doubt that the money for a piece of art would enrich a whole village at all if there is no law enforcement to do so. And such law would most likely indicate to a totalitarian state.

  3. Commentedupanishad chakrabarti

    A thoughtful article, but not sure I agree entirely. Full response below on my blog, but briefly: the aesthetic comments about Newman's etc work aren't adequately substantiated; making art-work in series, as in the 'zip' paintings does not devalue the work, at least according to contemporary art-theory. But my main concern is that this ignores the art-object's status as an asset, and assets get bought and sold all the time, at crazy prices, by willing buyers and sellers. To posit that somehow preventing transacting in art objects would or could lead to more socially valuable, or ethical, uses of the money, is a position whose logic I cannot follow. This is also a pretty dated, yet undeniably evergreen, topic within the contemporary art theoretical discourse.

    https://eatthehipster.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/response-to-the-ethical-cost-of-high-price-art/

  4. CommentedA R

    A great story on the relationship between the art merchants and "investors" would be that of Joseph Duveen. I am sure art collectors love for the work they are buying is genuine. Maybe even the emotions that it animates in them are genuine. Although maybe its not only the respect for the ouvre that motivates them.
    And the second, about the more ethical relationship to art, would be that of how iron "jewelery" became the most respected, because it symbolized the families commitment to war effort in Prussia in the XIXth century... hmm... war effort. Maybe slightly ambivalent ethically, but still...

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