Manifesto on Art and Commerce

According to Andy Warhol, “the reason I’m painting this way is because I want to be a machine” (Norbert Lynton, p.294). In the culture industry, in the assembly line of the art world, an artist is a complicit in that process as a worker, but also functions as a director in that system. Artists making money, promoting themselves, are hardly anything new in this society. Although an art work may be sold for ‘tons of money’, the art work may not be always great; on the other hand, an expensive work is not always ‘not a great’ work. Money should not be a determinant of value. But in the contemporary view, material value is higher than the aesthetic (immaterial) value.

The art market today is not much different from totalitarianism. If the market truly has many different choices, and if there really are various different consumers’ appreciations, then this would positively develop the art world, even the art market. But, today’s art market is totally different from Ben Davis’ dictum: “The first thing we need to recognize about the art market is that it has given us greater pluralism” (Art Class). The obvious desire of today’s art consumers is prettier, bigger, more sensational and more of the same.

As Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer point out, “by craftily sanctioning the demand for rubbish [the culture industry] inaugurates total harmony” (The Culture Industry). Demands from the mass culture industry of today are monopolized. Artists have to have a collective responsibility as culture makers. Johanna Drucker criticizes in Sweet Dreams, “the [artists’] appearance of radicalism cloaked the careerism of many artists” (Drucker).

Paul Virilio’s Art and Fear expresses the alleged decay and disappearance of pity and compassion in contemporary art practices that are ‘increasingly demoralizing, horrifyingly self-indulgent, and ultimately, entirely irrelevant’. He writes that there is a threshold that should not be broken: “Without limits, there is no value; without value there is no esteem, no respect, and especially no pity: death to the referee! You know how it goes” (p. 33).

Without limits, parameters, an art work is not art. Artists have to put their own ethical boundary, aesthetic boundary on their works. A boundary that would make clear what is inclusive in the art work and what is out of bounds.

Art biennales have extensively promoted local art to be shown in so called mainstream society. The power of the art biennale boom was its efficiency in the movement of art into mass society; the art (biennale) has now become trendy. It has become a mechanism for the fulfillment of desire. The art biennales promote art as periodical events, furthering ‘the art of speed’; this has been one of the major factors accelerating the volume of production in art world. Speed, moreover, acceleration is a constant worry for me. All the components of today are overheating from accelerating speed. For the last 20 to 30 years, internationally, art biennales have continuously demonstrated and determined the current compulsive speed in art; this successive remanufacturing of belief in the latest issue gives rise to an inexhaustible supply of fresh commodity.

I believe one of the most important artists’ roles now is considering the world that we are living in. I see culture as the medium; and the artist as the culture ADAPTER –CREATOR – SUBVERTER. As one of these culture makers, we have to recognize and keep reporting, criticizing, and changing the society we live in.



  Adorno, Theodor W. Horkheimer, Max. The Culture Industry. Retrieved 2 February, 2008.

  Davis, Ben. “Art Class”. Retrieved 28, Janurary. 2008.

  Drucker, Johanna. Sweet Dreams. Retrieved 28, January, 2008. 

  Lynton, Norbert. The Story of Modern Art. London/New York: Phaidon. (2001).

  Virilio, Paul. Art and Fear. trans. Julie Rose. New York: Continuum. 2006.

About Suk Kyoung Choi

artist / researcher

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: