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The Price of Everything/ Bloomsbury art

The Price of Everything is supposed to take the lid off the contemporary art world. It does not do so.

Nathaniel Kahn

Reason? It is confined to New York and only centres on modern art not the Old Masters.

It’s really a series of interviews with the big players: the artists, dealers, auction houses, historians and collectors who relish the platform for self promotion and aggrandisement. The after-taste is sour: modern art is not about art at all but high finance.

Jeff Koons for example has created the nearest to a futures market with a 3 year gestation period in his colourful sculptures.

One collector told us that brown paint does not interest collectors (Turner?) nor does fish (Picasso?). Like most markets the rise and fall in fame and appeal are inexplicable. Damien Hirst no longer commands the prices he once did.

Will Basquat or Koons maintain their prices?

Does Andy Warhol now have masters/classic status in the way the Beatles have in the music world? Museums except for those in The Gulf and China cannot compete in such a market.

One dealer derided them for keeping so much back. She failed to acknowledge that in this country it’s free entry and a marvellous opportunity for aspirant artists to copy and for appreciators to savour.

Conversely much of the art bought for fortunes stays in private homes, or worse, private vaults in free port warehouses. One dealer said that they (dealers) make an artist. I doubt if many artists would agree as the relationship between artist and dealer is as often as not a troubled one.

Picasso only trusted Kahnweiler and Matisse all but disowned his son when he became one. To sum up this documentary was too self-admiring and self-serving. Dark Side of the Boom provides a much more incisive look at the global art world in all its forms and machinations.

I very much enjoyed the National Rust trip to Charleston House.

Bloomsbury was really a creative association of good friends who although they rejected stuffy Victorian values were themselves drawn from the socially elevated if not elite and not working class heroes.

Leonard Woolf, for example, was at Trinity with Clive Bell, Thoby Stephen and Lytton Strachey but was not at ease in his admission to the gilded set as he came from trade and was a Jew. He of course married Virginia Woolf.

For me the greatest legacy of Bloomsbury was the promotion of post-Impressionism by Roger Fry.

He was the first Briton to admire Van Gogh, Gauguin , Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse and in two ground breaking Grafton Gallery exhibitions showcased them by no means to critical acclaim.

This said, I admire the portraiture of Duncan Grant who seemed universally loved by man and woman alike. As Nancy says there is an intimacy about Charleston House which made the visit productive and I very much enjoyed lunch at the Ram Inn, Firle but I will leave that review to Daffers.