Features December 2018
Sell the picture
On the history of the art market.
The relationship of art to corresponding monetary values seems to have been a vexed question perhaps not forever, but surely since early-Victorian times. The sense that art is “pure” and should remain unsullied by grubby considerations had been elevated to the status of dogma and is reflected in works as disparate as the visionary landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich and the writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Romanticism, almost by definition, eschewed practical, value-based judgments that might cast shadows on its endeavor for spiritual purity. So firmly was this conviction rooted in nineteenth-century ethics and aesthetics that it has prevailed to this day, its survival immeasurably aided by Marxist and neo-Marxist politics. (“Art belongs to no man but to every man,” so goes the well-worn mantra). Today, paradoxically, one never hears such dated cant repeated in Russia, Eastern Europe, or...
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