Invisible Faces: Business of Visual Art

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 2:10 PM
Gibson Room (New York Hilton)
Kyunghee Pyun, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York
Between 2015 and 2017, 46 small or mid-size galleries, reputable in the field, went out of business in New York while demand for contemporary work has risen five-fold since 2000. Despite growth in the total amount of sales, only 25 artists are responsible for almost half of all postwar and contemporary art auction sales. In 2017, work by this small group of elite artists sold for a combined $1.2 billion—44.6 percent of the $2.7 billion total generated by all contemporary public auction sales worldwide.

Teaching the reality of business in contemporary art is not easy. Historical precedents and contemporary practices are traceable in primary sources, but students rarely relate them to their own future. Project-based learning initiatives with in-depth interviews with artists in their studios are designed to address issues such as changing conditions of primary and secondary markets; demise of small or mid-size galleries; rise of public art; growing business expenses; choices made by artists as alternatives to a gallery system; amending a standard gallery contract; transformation of an artist’s careers; monopoly of few giant galleries; demographic changes of collectors; and other crucial perspectives. 360 videos of artist studios scattered around New York City's boroughs were produced to engage students with work conditions of professional artists of our own time. In this presentation, Pyun presents mini projects she developed in order to move forward immersive learning initiatives related to business and labor history.