Tulosta sivu1-08 in English


Fashions in art – art in fashion?

taavakasvotPerhaps it is the beginning of a new year which makes one think of trends in the visual arts. There is always a great deal of froth topping the waves of the art world, and it is also typical to declare certain working methods either dead of reborn.

The beginning of the 21st century was a period marked by a strong upswing for video art and photography. Just before Christmas 2000 I was interviewing some of the leading gallerists in New York, amongst them Susan Dunne from PaceWildenstein and Helene Winer from Metro Pictures.

It became obvious that the market for photography was especially overheated and there were customers out there who the gallerists did not regard as serious collectors. As an example, Helen Winer mentioned the sales boom of photography on the secondary market; the unknown buyers who were trying to sell photographic art to the auctions hoping for financial gain.

Winer pointed out she wanted the works by artists coming from her stable, like Cindy Sherman, to end up in good collections. Potential collectors who were not considered serious were simply not sold to.

At the moment it looks like no mode of work is especially overpowering. The 'ism' of the day is obviously individualism – in the first place it is names, not trends that are discussed in the international art press. This of course does not prevent anyone from appearing as a fashion expert of the visual arts.

Finland has now got one: the art investment expert Pauliina Laitinen-Laiho.

Apparently Laitinen-Laiho sees art collecting purely in terms of investment. Of course there is nothing wrong with that per se. I have to wonder however, whether the new targeted customer/investor group is entirely new – possibly children?

“Art stirs up very different feelings in people, but when art is considered as an investment, the starting point is the rationalistic side of it. All passionate, distress relieving, memorable or disturbing feelings have to be put aside. One must purely concentrate on weighing up the future prospect for the market value of the artist’s production”, Laitinen-Laiho writes on her website.

The collectors who I know are indeed capable of thinking thoughts and feeling feelings completely independently. Very often financial gain is not the primary motif for purchasing a piece.

Laitinen-Laiho also argues that ‘quality art’ is a good security in times of economic crisis or in a state of war. Today there is much discussion in the Finnish media as Finland marks the ninetieth anniversary of the 1918 Civil War.  Laitinen-Laiho’s art theory about states of war does not apply to my own family history, and I am afraid it does not apply to any other kind of history either.

The Reds (troops primarily consisting of working class citizens and left-wing activists) came and stayed overnight at our family estate. When leaving in the morning one of them partly smashed a beautiful art nouveau glazed stove with his rifle. The traces of glue are still visible. As for the Second World War, some rather inconvenient disturbances were perceived in the sales of the European avant garde art of the time.

But back to the trends and sales of contemporary art. In the first 2008 issue of the art magazine Frieze they state that facial hair is in – so the reader should be able to guess whether the trend of the year 2008 is a) the ‘Gustave Courbet’, b) the ‘John Baldessari’, c) the ‘Guerrilla Girl’, d) the ‘Anwar Sadat’. Perhaps Laitinen-Laiho will give the cosmetic tips for the contemporary artists of the future?

Taava Koskinen