McMafia and our art

Posted: 11 January 2018 in Cultural, Understanding Others
Tags: , , , ,

Balloon Dog.jpgMcMafia loves the art world.  And so do the other super rich (see my The Face that haunts us still).  Billions (of people) still tremble, but a few splash billions. Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (Orange), a giant steel replica of a dog in the shape of a stretched balloon, was bought for $58 million by a New York collector.  He didn’t even get it for the art.  He shunted the piece into his New Jersey warehouse – “anticipating future resale at a profit”[1].

Over-priced, over-sized and over-meaninged- this was not exceptional.  A bargain when compared to Salvator Mundi sold last November.  The 2016 global art market was worth $44 billions[2] and the 2017 will be more.  Chinese billionaires, Russian billionaires, Middle-Eastern billionaires fuel this excess of conspicuous consumption and gross ostentation.   Richard Morrison (The Times) asks “I wonder what Chairman Mao would have said about his granddaughter being married to the biggest shareholder of Sotheby’s.”  And McMafia is here.  Thompson [1] quotes Martin Roth, the former director of the V&A accusing the art market of being a “camouflage for money laundering” and nothing to do with the arts.

Billionaires have alternative.  Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and other billionaires show a terrific example of using their immense financial firepower to drive social welfare at a global level.  This is wonderful.  And it is a challenge to the rest of us to use our small resources to benefit others in small ways.

The great art galleries show us the alternative too.  Last week I enjoyed kinaesthetic art in The Tate Modern turbine hall.  To see Superflex’s Mirror Ball and Swings.  Under this silvery alien floating just above us, lying flat on the carefully zoned carpet that is regularly cleaned by Tate staff.  Just art as fun.Tate Mirror Ball.jpg

Back to the Fat Cats and their inflated dogs.  It is a symbol of much that’s so not right in current society. I’m amazed there is not more social media outrage, not more radical political pressure, not more questioning about humility in the elite, greed, and wealth.

As an Evangelical Christian, I will stand with others and say this is wrong. And if we must have billionaires, then Buffett and Gates show us the better sort.  However, I will acknowledge the danger of “projection” and “objectification” of these very fat/inflated targets.  Indeed, Jesus cuttingly commented “how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye.”

So we end with a classic Christian paradigm: we work on our own hypocrisy, and it helps us see it elsewhere.

[1] Don Thompson “The Orange Balloon Dog: Bubbles, Turmoil and Avarice in the Contemporary Art Market” 2017
[2] TEFAF Art market Report.


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