Dr. Sergey Zagraevsky
perspectives of the market
of contemporary Russian art
Published in Russian:
Заграевский С.В. Проблемы и перспективы российского
рынка современного искусства. Электронная публикация. М., 2011.
The following text
was translated from the Russian original by the computer program
and has not
yet been edited.
So it can be used only
for general introduction.
In order to describe the situation, which in the last ten to fifteen
years has developed in the Russian market of modern
art, will hold a short excursion into the recent past.
It is no exaggeration to say that at the end of 1980-ies started the
"Golden decade of Russian art". In the Soviet time, public interest
in contemporary creativity fueled by prohibitions on "modernism" and
some social issues. And when the era of "glasnost" bans were lifted,
then the interest multiplied by the euphoria of freedom of creativity and
access to information instantly led to the fact that the audience rushed to the
exhibition halls, and collectors - in artists ' studios. And not just look at
the pictures, and buying.
This ended the "Golden decade" soon after 1998. The outbreak
of the memorable "the August crisis", was some hope that the market
decline is temporary, that as soon as collectors and art lovers will once again
free money, they will invest in paintings and sculptures not only dead, but of
living artists... These hopes were in vain. The market for contemporary art
since then, not only did not rise, but continues to drop steadily.
How he fell - just impossible, because a little bit of objective data on
the volumes of sales of works of art of our contemporaries (as well as
Antiques) as there was no and no. The vast majority of transactions carried out
as a "rough"and is carried out. But it is
clear that the total volume of this market in comparison with the "Golden
decade" fell many times.
Proportional to the effective demand for works of art degraded and
artistic life - exhibitions, lectures, discussions, creative meetings,
resonance in the press... this is sort of there, but no more than
"like". If, for example, the vast majority of exhibitions of
contemporary art the audience comes only on the opening day, and a member of
this audience is almost exclusively from friends and relatives participants and
organizers? Or if the vast majority of reports about these
exhibitions - "custom"?
In our time the artistic life has turned into a chaotic movement of
individuals and artists, frantically running around the galleries in the hope
something to sell, and gallery owners, with the same purpose frantically running
between collectors and collectors trying in this muddy stream to form a more or
less decent collection. And the artists in the country, tens
of thousands, gallery owners - thousands of serious collectors - tens, and even
worthy of collections - one, two, and a handful...
You can build up a rating total current state of basic directions in
art: the best feeling hits, on the second place - the movie, the third -
theatre, the fourth - classical music... And the bottom firmly settled arts and
literature. For the sake of justice we will notice that the writers probably
even worse than the artists, because paintings and sculptures can somehow sell
at least for a song, and unclaimed lyrics nobody knows what to do but how to
publish on the Internet and hope for a miracle...
In the "Golden decade" many kidding myself
that "the foreigners will help us": that Western collectors in bulk
will go to
For those who does not track the vicissitudes of global policy, please
specify: BRICS is used worldwide abbreviation "
And these experts are still in the "Golden decade" visited
And so it happened that in our time the relationship of the Russian art
market in Western as well as inside the artistic life of the country, form the
notorious loners. Some artists, doing enormous efforts, make their way into the
international market and periodically appear in the auction quotes, sometimes
even managing to get for their work is quite good money. Can a little trade in
the West and some Russian gallerist. But compared
with the art markets of the most developed countries of the world is a drop in
Characteristically, the reverse process - import of works by
contemporary Western artists in
Generally speaking, the "Golden decade" can be called a
"decade of broken dreams". Great hopes in those years was placed on
the creative unions - and as a center of artistic life, and how organizations
can solve social problems of participants in the art market.
Such functions are relatively creative unions successfully carried out
in Soviet times, when the Soviet state was related to art as an ideological
weapon and money to support the allocated a lot. Of course, this support use
only "their" (those who in one or another degree could get along with
the Soviet system), but gradually these "friends" only in art has
accumulated tens of thousands.
All of this enabled the members of the MHS to think less about
"daily bread" and more on creativity and creative communication with
their colleagues and the public. And those who for various reasons had not
And after the collapse of the USSR property heirs MHS - Union of artists
of Russia, the Moscow Union, Saint-Petersburg, Union of former Soviet
republics, now independent States, even if separated, still remained very
solid. And it remains solid so far, in spite of all sales, losses and abuses by
the leadership of unions. And ideological obstacles, no more, the number of
members of these unions is growing, so that these organisations
seem not going to die...
What is the problem, why the creative unions in modern conditions have
not been able to effectively perform its main function - to be a center of
artistic life and to social protection for their members?
Because, as he wrote Bulat Okudzhava,
"sweet cakes are not enough for everyone." Property unions less and
less, members - more and more, and their leadership occurs typical motivation:
if the goods of life (first of all, the money from the leased property) to share
between all members of the
That was in these organizations access to material goods is not due to
creative achievements, and intra-career. Someone makes it with the help of
relatives and friends, someone he shows business qualities... But in any case
to the artistic life of this has to name only the unions is not the miners, and
And "ordinary" members of these unions in the best case
remains participation in "mass graves" - group (or rather, mass)
exhibitions with thousands of participants and, accordingly, with thousands of
works in several rows on the walls of the huge halls, in which visitors look
It is characteristic that in the post-Soviet period have only created
one new large all-Russian artistic organization is a Professional Union of
Almost the same problem and another organization, exists even in the
Soviet time, and since the XVIII century - the
This suggests unhappy generalization in the country live art, and
artistic associations. Creative achievements and known to the public throughout
substituted by nepotism and social career.
Why is art in
In order to answer this question, let us pay attention to the huge
increase in recent years the interest and the public, and collectors to
socialist realism. Specify: not to "Sots art" (surge of interest in
which has taken place in the "Golden decade"), namely the textbook
And it's not that people globally have changed flavors: as fast in the
last few years, this could not happen. And it's not just that modern art market
a lot of his proposal: socialist realism in large volumes was proposed ten
years ago. The main reason here is the following: socialist realism for most
visitors and buyers of works of art was a kind of an "anchor"that
allows to catch hold of the "soil" is a reliable, friendly, calm,
familiar, time-tested, and even causing positive reminiscences of childhood and
This phenomenon is from the same series, they always have a greater
interest in Antiques compared with modern art. And this is logical: in the
antique market is more or less tested, artists are more or less known, trends
more or less calculable, information on real sales there is at least
approximately, - which means that investments in this segment rather reliable.
And in contemporary art turns out that the audience (and especially the
buyer) "catch" not for that. More or less educated people (and
uneducated on the exhibition stopped walking) understands that the
"academic" criteria for evaluation of works on formal skill transfer
reality, composition, choice of themes, etc. are gone. Today almost any viewer
familiar with abstract art, conceptualism, and numerous other "isms".
In principle, the audience is ready to believe the critics. The
specificity of the art market is that it is the art assessment of the place of
the artist in the history of art, his work in General and in each particular
activity is the basis of formation of the prices for the work of art (speaking
in market terms, determines the quality of the goods). All other pricing
factors ("untwisted" the name of the artist, gallery selling status,
the credibility of the auction, the personal tastes of the seller and the
buyer, the accidental coincidence of circumstances, etc.) secondary.
This understanding allowed at the end of the nineties to create the
directory "a Single artistic rating", which successfully exists in
our time. Sustainable success and credibility of this Handbook is primarily due
to the fact that the basis for definitions of ratings are expert art
assessment, to which is added the whole set of other factors.
But one authoritative Handbook is not the whole art criticism. In
General, when artistic life degenerates into a chaotic movement of individuals,
and in criticism there is the same randomness. Critics write mainly about
"us". "Strangers" in full conformity with modern
information technology, they do not even curse, not to make them a
"PR" - just ignore it. And "its" is awkward not to praise,
and sometimes they pay the money - and how else to make a living?
So it turns out that art criticism, which in theory is one of the most
important parts of such a serious science as art history, in practice degenerates
into journalism, and at its worst, "custom" format.
And connoisseurs of art, as they say, not stupid, when they feel
embarrassment from the abundance of laudatory epithets in any critical article
about any artist, they understand that "every Sandpiper praises its own
swamp, and there's no trust to read not have.
The result is disastrous: in our time, for the vast majority of viewers
no criteria other than "like - not like it" does not exist, and in
the acquisition of paintings or sculptures of this essential reference, as
rated places in the history of art, everywhere replaced by the set of secondary
factors (the"promotion" of the author,
status galleries, personal preferences
and so on). The choice of works of art (things that are unique by definition)
is akin to the selection of such public goods such as TV sets or refrigerators,
with the only difference (not in favor of the art market)that
"producers" of paintings many times greater than consumer
And according to the General laws of Economics, with a significant
excess of supply over demand prices for bulk commodities are steadily
declining. This further worsens the situation on the art market.
It would seem that this drop in the price of professional collectors
should use and cheap to buy works of art, so that later on they make good
money. This, in turn, should revive the market. In theory. But in practice
everything is different: any, even inexpensive purchase is a waste of money if
the artist in a few years, few remember (and this often happens). So, for
investment in the modern art should be sure that a particular piece at all
Plus a General deterioration of the investment climate in
In principle, it happens quite often that works of art are bought just
because you like, or are suitable for interior or as gifts - in other words,
without thoughts about any investment. But the percentage of these
"random" purchases in the total art market is lower than the less
people have money to spend. And in this respect
In principle, the spectator (respectively, and the buyer) would be of
interest to the severity of the debate around creating fine art
"intellectual tension." In Soviet times this tension is maintained by
constant conflicts between conformism and non-conformism"in
these conflicts took active participation of the state (of course, on the side
of "conformists"), was a serious struggle, and this struggle with
sinking hearts watched not only citizens of the USSR, but also in the world.
Brutal excesses (like the destruction of paintings with the help of
bulldozers) to the fall of Soviet power, glory to God, ended. But as they say,
with water was splashed a baby, along with the extreme ideological sharpness
left of any General ideological acuity, and with it a little bit interesting
discussions. This is not surprising: the Soviet ideological legacy was even
less hard than the industrial, scientific, and exploit it was possible for very
Attempts to create a conceptual acuity for some time been made in the
form of shocking - hooligan performances, scandalous exhibitions, etc. But that
modern audiences are no surprise: as they say, and not seen. Attempts to
produce more shocking is pity than interest.
In principle, the audience is ready to "go to person". Indeed,
the identity of the artist in our time is critical in the evaluation of his
work (which is consistent postmodern "declaratory" nature of modern
art). But what is now the possibility of an artist in order to make themselves
known as a person? Or the infamous shocking, or "PR", especially in
the media. But, as we have just said, shocking is no surprise.
There are many other reasons sad situation in contemporary Russian art
market. But even the ones we have listed here, as we see, it is quite objective
and directly related to the global geopolitical and macroeconomic situation in
What to do if problems of the market of contemporary art of
In principle, it could change the government of
And it turns out that in this case the state will spend a lot of money,
but instead of gratitude will receive a negative public outcry and accusations
of creating another "feeder close". And any government, of course,
rightly ask: "It is necessary to us?"
In principle, the situation may not change state, and public art.
Imagine as an ideal: all major participants in the art market unite and create
a single Advisory (or management) mechanism, which begins systematically and
purposefully to involve the public in the halls (respectively, and financial
resources on the art market).
But, unfortunately, that this ideal is just utopia. The trend of recent
years shows that however bad the situation on the art market, creative
organizations, galleries and artists prefer not to unite, and to treat fellow
"fine shop" on the notorious principle of "you today,
tomorrow". We have said that the modern artistic life is chaotic movement
of individuals, unable to positively affect the overall situation on the art market.
What remains? Wait global changes of the geopolitical and macroeconomic
situation for the better is when the Russian art market will have more money
No, not all the same, because in the world of art in any country in any
epoch waiting for "better times" does not mean inaction, and the more
This artist is different from an entrepreneur that works not in order to
earn money. Of course, the money he can not think, but the actual act of
creation with the potential earnings not related: the motives are absolutely
Therefore, any deterioration of the situation on the art market is also
its unique rehabilitation, those who came to the "fine shop" for easy
money, go away, but the real artists are. The same applies to the gallery
owners and art critics, and collectors. And viewers of idle onlookers turned
into thoughtful judges.
And you must always remember: whatever happens on the art market in the
country and the world, the art still will not die, nor has it died in the
course of many millennia of existence of the human civilization at a much
larger scale shocks.
So, all that is created, sooner or later will be in demand - albeit not in
the form of modern art, and Antiques. This is the albeit weak consolation for
all participants in the art market, and especially for the creators of works of
art - artists. And in these conditions, the creators of an additional task is
not only to create but also to preserve all that is created in order not to
disappear from the memory of posterity "for technical reasons".
But speaking in scale not millennia, and at least several decades, and
not for the whole world, and about
Say: how would in the foreseeable future,
So, in one form or another art market in
The Soviet creative unions with many thousands of participants was gone,
and replaced them should come "specialized" artistic Association,
accepted in the West, and until 1930-ies and in
"Association of the Wanderers", "World of art",
"Jack of diamonds", "Society easel"... but you never know
the history of Russian art knows such associations?
Only in these conditions it is possible to build more or less balanced
and reasonable price policy. After all, compare the creative level
(respectively, and prices for works of artists absolutely different styles and
not always even to the leading art critics (the book "one art rating"
gives only social minima). And without this comparison even auctions turn into
a celebration of tastiness.
What styles will be more in demand and, accordingly, will cost more -
abstraction, realism or some other "ISM," is really a matter solely
artistic taste of the public, and better tool than the market, for a price of
expression can not think.
And if these artistic Association will argue among themselves and on
basic principles of art, and about the place of art in society, and just about
any style and what the artist is better and which is worse (and they probably
will argue, as argued in the XVIIIand in the XIXand XX century), there will be a notorious sharpness
debate. Undoubtedly, it will attract viewers - and therefore increase the
effective demand for works of art.
Another option out of the grave situation prevailing in the Russian art
market, personally I do not see. Anyone who sees them, let them offer their own
version. We will discuss and thus increase the public interest in the world of
And there, staring, and the overall situation in the world will change in
© Sergey Zagraevsky