Vienna, 13 September 2012. Art Media Agency (AMA).
During the ViennaFair, the International Art Industry Forum (IAIF) will bringing together a cross-section of practitioners and thought leaders from this fast-evolving sector of innovation and art investment.
The famous writer, researcher and consultant András Szántó is the head of this event. Art Media Agency met this important art leader.
AMA: How did you become curator of the IAIF? What interested you in the project? What is the goal with this event?
András Szántó (AS) : Well, I’ve been following the art world for all my professional life. I was a sociologist and I wrote my dissertation at Columbia’s University in the late 80′s and early 90′s. We were just coming off what we thought would be a sort of “art boom” and would not be repeated again (this idea of commercialisation in the art world), when the art was emerging from being non commercial, non operating as an industry. At the time I was really interested as a sociogolist and eventually I wrote about it a lot as a journalist as well and I have always been intrigued by the fascinating friability of the art world which is one of our most important cultural legacies; and, at the same time an increasingly market place where people are behaving commercialy. So the two things combined in a fascinating way to really acknowledge the shifts in the art market. When ViennaFair began, they approchoad me for doing something on the art industry and I felt very connected to it. It is a symbolic venue and I immediately felt that I would do something a bit different (in a sociological perspective). I can see the whole system is changing (investment, financial tour, fondamental changes etc.), with a significant number of new initiatives. Time becoming more commercial, more democratic. It is a very interesting time in the art world to understand the rise of innovation.
AMA: What is your role in this project?
AS: It is my first time as a curator. Basically I have a complete “carte blanche” for the scope of the program and for my choice about who would be featured. I do believe it is a big change event. I reached out one of the smartest people in this field, for example Clair McAndrew, Anders Petersen. They have been tremendously helpful, they got excited and they made suggestions. So my job consisted in thinking about how things fit together. Actually, I used to run a think tank in Columbia University so moderating pannels in Art Basel was fine. ViennaFair is a new topic for Vienna, it is also an important topic for the region. I think there is an enormous potential in the east: we are talking of a new generation, of a new upper middle class who comes from countries where art apreciation is a tradition. Although I have to say there is much more in the USA.
AMA: How do you feel about investment in the art field?
AS: I think we are in a business cycle situation. Even if we know that the art market is doing well – it is not as bad as the general european economy, I think the infrastructures could lead to more activity in this field. There are numbers of factor which indicated sifnigicant expension. It is going to be easier to invest in art. There are more and more entry points (just like SplitArt, for instance) to buy art without the impediments of the galleries. More important is the number of initiatives which are working on data in order to attract the capital. On the macro-level the number of things which are emerging is changing attitudes, infrastructures… But nobody really knows how that will play out.
I think we don’t have much control on the art investment market. It has been extending for a long time. It is interesting that the institutions are able to receive support from the people who are active in this area. The infusion of money and attention has helped to keep visual-watch in the people consciousness, it’s a real plus.
My concerns are not whether people will make money and other will lose money (that is the world of investing). It is more about the situations of museums and of critical discussions where the art is commercialised. Museums are no longer able to collect at these levels or to insure work, so there is a kind of negative side effect of some of these valuations that begin to challenge the world of these institutions. I do not think these art values can exist without independent structures and ideas based on critical support. Prices will suffer if they do not reflect some kind of critical consensus. People who invest in art should do it at their own risk. But the changes are fairly recent so we don’t really know what is going to happen in this area.
AMA: There have been a lot of initiatives around Internet and art lately. What would you say are the most interesting ones?
AS: Some of them are changing things in the whole lifestyle, some of them are really new market places or exchanges about facilitating and creating an investment in art. For example, Art Effect Press is amazing. A lot of initiatives complement the efforts in this field. What is happening is that technology, software and hardware make things possible: we needed to have power to deal with so many images in such a high level, for searching, for expertise. These things only came together in the last 12- 24 months (services that up to high quality). I think this is phase I and there is going to be a tremendous control trend. I think it is a very interesting moment, the digital story is the most important reason why we need to come together because we don’t understand what those companies are doing. We have reached this moment where they can implement high quality, well design, well functionning tools for art related services.
AMA: The goal is to make IAIF an annual event. Will you still be involved? Will there be a specific topic for next year?
AS: IAIF is a privilege and a wonderful way of engaging this world moment of change so obviously it’s something that I tend to participate in the future.
We want to understand who is coming and I expect it to be completely packed. But it is not just a number, we need to bring together all these initiatives. There is a very big question about the confort level of private investors because many of them are sort of new. I am less concerned about investment because money is flowing in the direction of art. But whether its gonna be a moment of investing behind all these innovations is a more critical question: there are great ideas but they are going to need patient and enterprising investors who are willing to get behind these ideas.