REVIEW: The Price of Everything

by Polyxeni Sotirchou

According to world history, art has always served the interests of the plutocracy in a attempt to satisfy its bottomless hunger for culture. Yet, director Nathaniel Kahn (“My Architect”) goes a little bit deeper in his latest documentary, “The Price of Everything”. He places contemporary art in the heart of capitalism and reintroduces the whole thing in purely commercial terms. In the post-modern times we’re living in, amidst stock market madness, a work of art is now considered to be a brand in its own right! So what happens when a Picasso sells for 179 million dollars and a Jeff Koons sells for 65 million? What are the reverberations?

Kahn stirs the waters, posing provocative questions to courageous curators, romantic artists, chatty gallerists, billionaire collectors and art critics about contemporary art and the machinations of the market behind it. How did the art world turn into a cold blooded money market? Kahn does not believe in simple answers. In one of the most interesting interviews, an auctioneer openly admits that if “high art” didn’t cost a fortune nobody would be interesting in owning or safekeeping it. So if we want something to gain value, whether it’s a work of art or anything else for that matter all you have to do is slap a price tag with multiple zeros on it.

The documentary features auction highlights from the 70s all the way to the present, where the business of buying and selling art is a lot more similar to a meat market than you’d like to think. The astronomical amounts involved usually end up in the pockets of the in-betweeners, leaving a large percentage of the artists themselves out in the cold, mere spectators of the riches made in their name but never on their behalf. In his effort to document what happens in the interim and what’s left in the end, the director is tormented by much larger questions: What is, after all, art? Who makes the decisions? Who get to enjoy it? If this isn’t the beginning of a significant public dialogue then I don’t know what is…



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