Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 4 – artmarketblog.com
With this post I want to explore an analogy between music and fine art that I believe will help make further sense of the portraits as art market currency concept that I am attempting to explain. When it comes to classical music – ie. art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 9th century to present times – a situation exists where the skill and ability of the musician/s playing the music is more important than their profile or level of fame. Although it would be preferable to have the original composer play the music if that were an option, at the end of the day it is the quality of the music being played that takes precedence over who is actually playing the music. In other words, the actual music produced is usually more important than the person who produced it. The reason this is significant is that the concept I am trying to explain focuses on the value of the actual result of the artistic process, the artistic product, as opposed to the value placed on the artist and their persona or profile. I chose classical music to illustrate this point because of the high level to which instrumental classical music can be disassociated from the people producing the music and valued according to the technical and constructional characteristics of the composition – in a similar way that figurative portraiture can be valued independent of the profile of the artist (a concept I will explore later on).
When it comes to the eligibility of something to be used as currency, one of the most important characteristics that something must have is the ability to be able to be judged/evaluated according to a universal set of criteria and standards. It is the universality of the classical music language combined with the technical and intellectual nature of the compositions that should theoretically allow any classical expert from any country to judge a composition or performance by the same standards and criteria, and come up with the same or similar results. Although opinion regarding a particular piece of classical music may differ from critic to critic due to personal preference, a critique of the technical and compositional characteristics of a traditional classical musical score by a classical music expert should theoretically be similar to that of every other classical music expert because such a critique is more of a scientific analysis than an artistic analysis. According to Joshua Fineberg, a composer and Harvard University music professor, in an article titled ‘Classical Music: Why Bother?’ written for salon.com, “If one believes in the intrinsic value of art, then — contrary to most contemporary ways of thinking — taste and social construction are of decidedly secondary importance. Composers often speak of pieces being well constructed or clever, sometimes even brilliant, and then go on to say that they don’t particularly care for them. This is because personal preference is seen as being much less important and enduring than these other, harder-to-define criteria. Even real Shakespeare-haters are unlikely to criticize the quality of his verse. We can all feel the genius even if we are not all sensitive to its charms (or at least this is what I tell myself)”. What is interesting is that Fineberg’s musings about classical music are totally applicable to classical figurative art, and classical figurative portraiture in particular – just replace the term “composers” with art historians or art critics.
To be continued……..
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications