It is sad when you have to beg. Very sad.

Art and Markets 1: Selling Crafts and Art.

I never did get around to figuring out how to load teh Vimeo onto this page, but the link over to Peter’s house has been up all day long, and he’s been embedded the whole time. Despite this, we have received exactly no feedback from you, our dear friends. So perhaps I have not been clear: we are looking for compliments here, folks. We’re way out on a limb, making asses of ourselves. We are assing ourselves because we have hope…hope that through perseverance, creativity and experimentation we might find a new kind of public sociology, and a new way to conversate at a distance. Hope in our future, and the future of our kind. Please encourage us by leaving a nice message over at Peter’s house, or here, telling us how we might improve and what you like, or asking substantive questions about our little discussion. I know you are busy. We are too. But we’d do it for you if the tables were turned. And God bless our Queen.



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5 responses to “It is sad when you have to beg. Very sad.

  1. mike

    I loved it. Waaay too short; I would love to see something about an intersection between the ways trends replicate themselves and the value of art in the market. ‘Cause seriously, if Jeff Koons gets another billion dollars for a glossy, two-story balloon dog he didn’t make himself I am going to cut my toes off.

  2. Emme

    You seemed to have jumped right in, which is great. Love the choice of Hermes and Sotheby’s. Having said that, no discussion of what you consider “culture” or “art.” I say this only because I’m looking at markets inside prison and while its possible to delineate between the purely utile markets (laundry services, for example) many product markets can be very grey (is the the cell phone market cultural or utile?) or blatantly cultural (with a great sociological twist: poetry! Men who aren’t willing or able to write a poem for a girl on the outside will buy one on the market… so very Cyrano de Bergerac). How do various constraints (social/geographic/religious/etc) shape the culture market? How does the culture market reflect society? (That’s an easy and not easy question to answer, but I love creative approaches.)

    What a great question: how are these things valued? By whom, through what mechanisms? How does a group who is willing and able to value and buy and sell them able to effect the tastes and desires of groups unable or unwilling to buy and/or sell them? I love that culture markets are so much about income and class and access (thanks, Bourdieu).

    Okay, let’s really get into the markets (and marketing) of “cultural” products. Hand-made craftsmanship a la Hermes is pricey and long in coming and sought after. Be we all know talented men and women who work with their hands at a craft who don’t get paid the big bucks. The men and women crafting the Hermes bags in the video… their compensation? Valuation for the finished product must be kept distinct from the valuation of the product (and craftsmanship) in its creation. What do we value and why? Why is it that a manicure/pedicure from an Vietnamese or Thai woman is valued at half the rate as the same procedure done by a White woman in this country. Clearly, not only is the product valued (the pedicure) but also who is performing/creating the product. Some would, in this particular case, argue the “experience” is being valued (surroundings, ability to communicate easily with the cosmotologist, etc).

    I’m rambling, and there’s no real order, and I probably have more to say. I like what you’ve got. Keep it coming 🙂

  3. Jenn Lena

    Mike: I’ll have to think about this more. When you write “trends” I read “pet rock” or “furbies” not “Jeff Koons.” Do you mean strictly those trends in luxury goods and the top of the art market, or the broader notion, too? And please keep your toes!

    Emme: A wonderful response! You ask many of the questions we had planned to handle in later episodes. The question, “What counts as art?” is a terrific one, and it is so provocative to think about that question in your research context. Peter and I, in a trial run, had a 2×2 table that located art within a nexus of other products, including “trash” and “kitch”, which would have been a step toward answering your question, I suppose. One of the reasons we didn’t use that table is that the two variables were “economic value” and “cultural value”, but when we took a second look, neither of us thought economic values were distinct from cultural ones. We decided to think more about that before we presented it to the world, and I’m glad you’re pushing us in that direction, also. As to the taste-making power of elites, we’ll have more to say in the future. This is a particular issue in my own research, and I’ll be swimming in it all fall. Finally, you are correct to say that we deal strictly with the value of objects as experienced by consumers, or as portrayed by purveyors, and not at all with the value that derives from the market value of the labor that is used to produce them. I’m glad we got you rambling, and do really appreciate the feedback!

  4. intersection between the ways trends replicate themselves and the value of art in the market.

    Mike, I’d also ask what do you mean here? I think we could and will speak to some contemporary relationships between cultural goods, status, and prices (e.g., the collaborations of Gagosian and Koons, the former of whom purchased the hanging heart for $24M this past year, and who is also perhaps the top gatekeeper/primary market arbiters of contemporary art). This is a lot about taste-making and market power, since there is a kind of cartel/monopoly on contemporary art in the primary market. But yeah, giant balloon dog does indeed create reaction, both to the art and to the sale prices for it.

    Emme – wonderful and thoughtful response, as Jenn notes we both have some kind of long-term stake in understanding the varied classifications of cultural goods. I’m delighted by the fact that fine art, at least in the secondary art market, balances on the boundaries between culture and market – too cultural and it becomes sacred; too market-like, and it becomes burned art. But clearly I’ve been thinking in boxes too limiting to encompass varied producers and consumers of art/culture.

    I do have it in for Bourdieu, at some point we might be interested in slaying that monster of cultural taste=obdurate substantiation of class. But that’s down the road, I think…

  5. Sorry I’m a bit late to this, and I guess I’ll comment here to continue the discussion. As you know I’ve been enthusiastic about this step forward in ‘public sociology,’ and I’m very interested in seeing how this exploration continues.

    A quick technical question: for my part, I found it a bit difficult to hear what either of you were saying, and finally had to put on earphones. That could just be my tinny laptop speakers or my poor hearing, but the sound was a small obstacle for me on the way to actual engagement with the video itself.

    Re: the discussion. A good starter, laying out some questions and themes, and I think I appreciated the parsimony of the introduction with its focus on ‘value’ and ‘markets,’ leaving related topics (fashion, style, taste, worth, interest, preference, price, etc.) to future discussions. I think I found myself puzzling over this curious nature of value; I’d agree that economic and cultural values are not easily distinguishable, but why? – since we are, in fact, able to distinguish between (say) a painting’s value or worth as a cultural object and as an economic investment. Just speculating off the top of my head a bit, values to me seem intrinsically linked, using Weberian terminology, to the emergence of distinct spheres of life or activity: although values don’t only emerge within spheres but in order to negotiate simultaneous demands for differentiation *and* commensurability between spheres. That’s why, thinking about Peter’s dichotomy between culture and market as either too sacred or simply profane, ‘values” are often left implicit, assumed, or unstated; whenever you try to communicate the ‘value’ of something you have to suffer the difficult task of explaining something’s unique or ‘fundamental’ worth (here’s where the self-confidence of taste and style helps) or you put a price tag on it, where it becomes immediately comparable to other items on your preference / utility scale.

    All right, enough BSing from me. Good luck with future series!

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