I think this is one of the most interesting and intriguing questions in the art world. But before getting into the matter, we have to face a sad truth, in the current system of the art world the quality of the work of an artist doesn’t matter, what really matters is the fame, prestige, or recognition, in relation to the name of the artist who made the work. We trust in the fame, prestige, or recognition of the institutions that hang the work on their walls because most people don’t feel enough rich, enough smart, or enough cool to understand contemporary art and/or the work of an artist. And let me tell you that this is totally wrong, what should be enough is the will to read and be open to feeling and understanding to create a connection between the objects/work with our life, experiences, and knowledge.
So in my opinion anybody who is an art lover and has the will to open their mind to what is there, he/she has the capacity to understand and create a criterion around the work of an artist.
But firstly, there are some observations that have to be made. In our social unconscious, there is a tide link between the art market and the art world. The art market is based on the current economic system that rules the world: neoliberalism, so is logical to conclude that the art world, or what we know as art, is shaped by the economic model that we have embraced in our lives.
This economic system is characterized by extremes, for example, someone could become a super billionaire and super famous, or on the other hand, have nothing and be a nobody. Those extremes are very very difficult to imagine and perceive objectively by the human being, could you imagine a hundred billion dollars in a table? Another characteristic is that those extremes are disproportion accumulated, less than 1% of the population is a billionaire and there is a huge bigger percentage that is poor or very poor and nobody. So, the same happened in the art world extremes are disproportion accumulated and the top extreme accumulates 90% of the wealth and opportunities.
I mention that because the quality of an artist’s work is independent of these mechanisms, our perception of an artist’s work quality is not possible to perceive on those extremes. Artwork can’t be super good and others can’t super bad. So, from my perspective quality moves in a limited range of perception. And this is a very good observation because now this is proof that the price of an artist’s work has nothing to do with the quality of the work. In that case of price based on quality, would be very clear that the artwork should have a cap price and above that is speculation.
Very well, add to that openness, will, and capacity, to find a criterion about the work of an artist, here are four points that could help to create a base and guide to figure out the level of the quality of an artist’s work:
- Discourse: the concept or discourse of an artist is the starting point. In contemporary art, this is one of the most important points to perceive quality. Points to judge the quality of the discourse: a) Clarity of the message or topics that are dealing with. b) How contemporary are the topics that are dealing with? c)References with other artists, texts, or research
- Work: look at the complete work of the artist or at least a big part of it. Try to figure out if the work has coherence with the discourse. Here is important to consider all aspects used to build the artwork: media, colors, materials, time, space, etc.
- Relevance for the art world: is the work of the artist contributing something innovative to the art world? form, materials, meaning, topics, style, etc. Has been an inspiration for other artists to create their works? Has been for curators, critics, and academics to write and research about it?
- Relevance for society: is the work of the artist contributing something to society? form, materials, meaning, topics, style, etc. Has been for activists, politicians, sociologists, anthropologists, etc. to use, write and research about it?
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