The Art Market is Less Ethical than the Stock Market

Is the art market less ethical than the stock market?  An interesting topic that led to a debate last year.  Supporting the motion was Richard Feigen, Michael Hue-Williams, and Adam Lindemann.  Against the motion was Amy Capellazo, Chuck Close, and Jerry Saltz.  The moderator for the debate was John Donovan who is a correspondent for ABC News television show Nightline.

The people supporting the premise are an interesting bunch with amazing backgrounds.  Richard Feigen is an art collector, author, and art dealer.  Richard L Feigen & Co art dealers is located in Chicago (1967-1999) and New York City (1963-current).  Michael Hue-Williams is owner and CEO of Albion Gallery.  Adam Lindemann is an investor, entrepreneur, collector, and author.

Against the motion included a diverse group of art professionals.  Amy Cappelzazzo is deputy chair of Christie’s, featured in Art Review’s “100 Most Important People in the Art World”, quoted regularly in numerous publications, and was a essential part in setting up the Art Basel Miami Beach Fair.  Chuck Close is an artist that has exhibited in close to 1000 shows, he received the National Medals of Arts, and has received over 20 honorary degrees.  Jerry Saltz is a senior art critic for New York Magazine, lectures at numerous museums, teaches, and was a finalist for the Pultizer Prize in Criticism twice.

Supporting the motion, Richard Feigen: “The first premise that I want to propose is that the art market is a financial market now.  It has become this and it is a totally unregulated financial market.”  Where does this leave artists?  The truth of the market can leave artists delusional.

On the other hand, Chuck Close: “So I question whether sales really is a barometer of value and whether ethics has anything to do with how that work is marketed.  We have examples of the work being marketed extremely well, with great ethics.  And we have examples of it being done in a somewhat sleazier fashion.  I would say that art is not a business.”   To some artists, creating is not a business.  However, I believe the best way to protect your art (investment) is to treat it like a business.  No one will care about your art as much as you do unless it sells and makes money for interested parties.

Could regulation be the key to solving issues that arise in the art market?  Adam Lindemann: “So I was trying to imagine how we would regulate the art world in order to make it truly ethical.  And I was thinking we would have to create something called the AEC, as opposed to the SEC we would have the AEC which is the Art Exchange Commission.”  Would regulation help or hurt artists?  It depends on who writes, supports, and funds it.

The discussion is also determined by how we define the word: ethical.  Is money a good or bad thing?  The stock market is based on money and so is the art market.  For example, art is sold and traded just like stocks.  Will regulation help?  Money will have the final say.

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