RKS Film: “The Art of Making It”: The Power Structure in the Art World

The documentary “The Art of Making It” clearly outlines the current power structure in the American art world and presents the views of young artists seeking survival outside the mainstream.

The large galleries are currently in the driver’s seat and for many artists being carried by a mega gallery is a mark of success. 50 art galleries in the United States control 90% of the major showings.

The mega galleries have the wealthy patrons and collectors. They have so much influence that they “sign-up” second year students at fine art schools like major league baseball teams signing up high school students. In today’s art world the ticket to possible success is enrollment in a nationally recognized fine arts programme. Did Vincent Van Gogh have a Master of Fine Arts? Who can afford the tuition at Yale for a Master of Fine Arts programme? And if you are admitted don’t be too inventive or like one young black artist experienced you will be booted. Boola Boola to the Yalies.

If you are going to make it in the American art world as an artist start at the bottom of the food chain in a Master of Fine Arts programme, exhibit at a small gallery move to a mid tier gallery and then with a mega gallery.

If you are an artist of colour life is tougher as most curators of galleries are Caucasian and if there is a person of colour does their upper middle-class existence have any connection with the difficulties young artists of colour face and what they are producing?

We hear from many young artists struggling against the art world power structure. That structure picks up who they think are winners and possibly the next hot new thing. Then there are the sharks or “astute investors” acting like speculators in a futures market buying entire collections of up and comers then storing it and hoping to sell their investments off years later.

But is anything revolutionary here? Art is a commodity in a market and those who control the market share the spoils. And like an economic system that is riddled with sexism and colour bias did you expect anything less? The art world is unregulated and governmental spending on supporting artists in the United States is the lowest in the developing world. One gallery in the documentary will not sell to a list of sharks it maintains.

The documentary concludes with some artsts musing if the art world will change? Have a listen and are we left with dreamers?

Perhaps like me you have visited many art galleries and museums and seen a work of art you liked. You might remember this documentary and give some thought how that piece of art appeared before your eyes. I recall seeing a very powerful Finnish documentary tracing the history behind a tin of ravioli in a Finnish supermarket. Every ingredient was traced and the whole production process filmed. Will art ever be more than a tin of ravioli? Did Andy Warhol have a secret vision with his tin of Campbell’s soup!

The film opened on August 5th at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto and if you missed it keep your eyes open as it will no doubt be making the rounds.

This 94-minute American documentary was directed by Kelcey Edwards.

RKS Film Rating 79/100.

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