Symposium: Who gets paid? What for? And what's the problem?

Saturday 30th November, 2019

Who gets paid? What for? And what's the problem?

The starting point for this discussion were comments made by American art critic, Jerry Saltz, that the art world is broken: mid and small galleries can't survive; the top, blue chip, galleries dominate by their large scale and by selling and re-selling for hugely high prices; mega-rich collectors are driving the thing. But is this a limited view, dependent for example on art market activity only in capital cities, in fairs, etc.? How else is it broken?

We asked our panelists to talk, share their knowledge so that we all could be empowered to work on this shared problem. We spoke, very excitedly, with Alexander Branczik, Darren Flook, Raju Rage, the White Pube and Poppy Moroney.

Alexander is Head of Contemporary Art at Sothebys. Darren founded the independent Art Fair, Hotel and now runs the gallery Freehouse. Raju is an artist. The White Pube is Zarina Muhammad and Gabrielle De La Puente. Poppy is Programme Manager at the artist-run gallery, Auto Italia South East.

The discussion was chaired by Alex Schady and Alison Green, who teach at Central Saint Martins.

We discussed these questions:

Who holds the knowledge of the art market? If you want to know how to get into it, or how to do well, how do you find out? And, what do we know about the art market from this?

Are there new financial forms emerging and can we look at who and how people are getting paid? Can we distinguish between the art market as a service economy, or one that depends on selling things (commodities)?

Where (in the world) does the art world thrive? Is the crisis we're talking about specific to the big art centres of the world? Are there other types of art-worlds we can talk about?  

What support networks are there in the art world that are non-financial, and/or may be invisible?  

We approached the panel with a sense that we didn’t have answers to these questions. The problems are large and not easily solved. Changes will also require big shifts in culture: in working, economic and social practices. We saw the panel as doing research.