From the Founder: October edition

Am I right now observing some changes in (general) trends in the contemporary art scene – or maybe am I witnessing a change in how to look at and appreciating art? Ok, it is nothing dramatic or revolutionary – wait a moment, of course it is something big, if there is anything to it! Here is the background that triggered my conclusions from the observations.

In international auctions lately several younger artists that have seen very high prices  the last couple of years, not seldom several times the asking price, now have seen their prices collapse completely. With this ”verdict” from the market, these artist are not, or at least hardly, seen in any upcoming international shows and exhibitions, to my knowledge. Poor artists, but even poorer, in several respects, collectors and buyers. The flippers just hit the bad luck they should have put in their initial ”investment/speculation” calculation and are now testing their real love for art.

Right now the real action seems to be going on in London. At the Royal Academy there is a survey of Abstract Expressionism with all the big names that also have left eternal marks in art history. Even though the works are half a century old they are as fresh and challenging as when they were made. As one critic (Waldemar Januszczak in Sunday Times) put it: this is an art that set out to paint the way we feel, not through description, but through evocation and sensation.

At Tate Modern there is a retrospective show with the great Cuban master Wifredo Lam (represented in our Collection with Pleni Luna, a suite of ten prints). Here another critic, Jonathan Jones, The Guardian, wrote  ”His work continues to bring a historical perspective to contemporary issues. This exhibition celebrates Lam’s life and work and confirms his place at the centre of global art history.” In another place I found the conclusion: ”His art is the last tarot of surrealism and a tropical wonder of modern painting”.

To join this bandwagon right now is Miami art pusher Gary Nader with his Nader Art Museum Latin America. He is teaming up with the auction house Phillips with another Lam show at their premises in London. I quite don´t see the merits of or reasons for this show – maybe both of them are trying to make their territories within Latin-american art.

The primary market is closely correlated with overall economic health. There is less buying on this end when the economic outlook is negative. To counter this, more power is put into the money side of the art business. In Frieze London right now, 10 outside specialists have been drafted in to oversee a range of sections. Another example of how art fairs strive to stand out from the crowd, as well as the influence that commercially focused events now command.

But also other fairs are stepping up. TEFAF is coming; New York Fall, Maastricht and New York Spring is on the next agenda. Don´t expect too much young, hot and new there! Or cheap for that matter.

We are now waiting to see next year’s heavy agenda – Venice, Kassel and Munster. I will not be surprised to see the same safe and established game involving big money being played there. The upcoming 57th edition of theVenice Biennale exhibition, curated by Christine Macel, long time chief curator of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, will be titled “Viva Arte Viva.” In a statement explaining the decision, Macel writes, “In a world full of conflicts and jolts, in which humanism is being seriously jeopardized, art is the most precious part of the human being.” Macel went on to stress the role of art in unstable times: “It is the ideal place for reflection, individual expression, freedom, and fundamental questions. It is a ‘yes’ to life, although sometimes a ‘but’ lies behind. More than ever, the role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist are crucial in the framework of contemporary debates.” I think we all agree.

Although nothing wrong with being young, even I myself was that at one time, but I now see a hesitation in the market towards anything young and untested or, even worse, not in trend and fashion. Now there is a different approach in the market. The big galleries and institutions are trying to lure the big investors/collectors with more respectable art. For Frieze in London this fall the ten curators engaged, I presume are there to make sure that the right mark of seriousness is hanging over the fair.

There might perhaps be a risk that you could tend to share a cultural landscape with the artists from your own generation. But a ”newer is better” view is not a sure thing. As we see from art history, trends and -isms come and go irregularly and without warning. Same thing with the popularity of artists.

Finally I hope that Brexit does not mean that we will miss the British humor. A woman consulted a gipsy clairvoyant. Looking into her crystal ball, the gipsy looked alarmed and reluctantly warned the woman that her husband would soon die a violent death. The woman asked if the gipsy could gaze further into her crystal ball and tell her if she would be acquitted (courtesy David Tang, FT).

– Greger Olsson, Founder of the Olsson Art Collection, October 2016