Showing bored and solitary dealers in art fair booths was a very direct way to do it. These may be seen as equivalents of other recession photographs of bankrupt businesses, overstocked goods (thousands of cars without buyers standing in a factory lot, for example) and of the unemployed themselves. Yet there are two immediate problems with such depictions if we want to take them seriously as evidence rather than just as metonymic amusement. The first is that the art market (outside of the auction houses which have, at least, to declare their figures, if not the manipulations that produce them) is highly secretive, and we have little idea how it has been affected. In the pages of the Art Newspaper you will find reassuring statements from dealers about the liveliness of the market but these, of course, are pieces of propaganda from interested parties, and are made to as much create as describe a situation. There is some evidence that investors currently feel more comfortable about putting their money into objects (gold or wine, notably) than into immaterial stocks and shares, and that art may benefit from that effect, but fundamentally the matter remains deeply and deliberately obscured.
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Published in Photoworks Issue 15, 2010
Commissioned by Photoworks