Is the increasing commercialization of art an effect of the widening scope of finance markets? Is contemporary art dying at the hands of capitalism? And how can we refuse the impulse to bring art down to its lowest common denominator – money?
While forcing us to address these troubling questions, Mark C. Taylor’s newest book, Refiguring the Spiritual: Bueys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy, brings critical analysis to bear on art’s decaying place in the world today.
The structure and development of financial markets and the art market mirror each other. As art becomes a progressively abstract play of non-referential signs, so increasingly abstract financial instruments become an autonomous sphere of circulation whose end is nothing other than itself. When the overall economy moves from industrial and consumer capitalism to finance capitalism, art undergoes parallel changes. There are three stages in this process: the commodification of art, the corporatization of art, and the financialization of art.”
Taylor makes the provocative claim that contemporary art has been led astray by money. Artists no longer make art for the sake of art, but rather for the sake of capitalizing on ever-expansive finance markets. Yet the impulse to refuse commercialization exists in the works of a few artists. Taylor engages in insightful examinations of four artists—Joseph Bueys, Matthew Barney, James Turrell, and Andy Goldsworthy—who defy trends in contemporary art both by virtue of their genius and their refusal to conform to the demands of the market.
The crisis of confidence plaguing individuals and institutions is a crisis of faith. We no longer know what to believe or whom to trust. At such a moment, art might seem an unlikely resource to guide reflection and shape action. If, however, God and the imagination are — as Wallace Stevens insisted — one, then perhaps art can create an opening that is the space of hope. Perhaps, by refiguring the spiritual, art can redeem the world.”
Taylor’s treatment of the art produced by Bueys, Barney, Turrell, and Goldsworthy results in a clear and cogent argument for recognizing the benefits of refusing the financialization of art, as art may be the only thing left that can save us from ourselves.
For more information and to purchase a copy of Refiguring the Spiritual: Bueys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy, please visit Columbia University Press.