The concept of “Transparency for the Art World” is not really transparent

In one of my last articles titled: What does it mean the “Democratization of the art world”? I try to clarify the misunderstanding and misuse, created by the art market of this concept. But I discovered that the same is happening with what “Transparency for the art world” means. And it is that both concepts are comprehensive and cover a great variety of groups of people, pillars, and links that conform to the art world and the art market. According to Wikipedia: “The implication of transparency is that all of an organization’s actions should be scrupulous enough to bear public scrutiny. Increasingly, the nature of social media and other communications means that even actions intended to be secret may be brought into the public’s awareness, despite an organization’s best efforts to keep them hidden.”

Ups! that goes directly into the most questionable point of the art market: the speculation. As everybody knows the value of the artwork is based on some subjective variables. And this is because art collectors and gallery owners have realized that the value is in direct relation to the size of the pocket of their friends. But I dont want to deviate to another way and I would like to come back to the main point of this article and this is to clarify what transparency for the art world means.

Let’s start by imagining that there is a body. In order that a body works have to be performed many functions and have to be taken many decisions. In the brain there are 86 billion neurons, Can you imagine that only one million neurons make all the decisions of the body? This number is 0,000011628 % of the total neurons. But all neurons have the capacity for decision, the same happens with the art world, the people who conform to the art world are many millions but the ones who decide what art is most important, valuable, and transcends to art history are just a couple of thousands.

So my point here is that every situation where decision-making has to be performed is susceptible to being manipulated and corrupted, and by making public the information of the inputs, processes, and results of those decisions the truth of what real art is could start to lean out. Ok, let‘s make a list of those main decisions where transparency for the art world should be present:

  1. Distribution of the funds, and we are talking here not only the funds facilitated to the artists but the funds provided by the government, also from private and public institutions to the art galleries, museums, and other private and public art institutions.
  2. Selection of the artists shown by museums and other art institutions
  3. Selection of the artworks collected by museums and other art institutions for public and private collections
  4. Price of the artworks from the primary and secondary market

Maybe some of you that already have experience in the art world and art market immediately thought: that Artnet., ArtPrice, and many other websites provide information on the prices of millions of artworks. Yes, you are right but nobody provides why. and how this precise price has been set it up. So, remember that in order to transparency succeed is not enough to publish the results, but also the inputs and the process.

Being not regulated and transparent in the art market, the art world is now a victim of many variables that has nothing to do with ART, for example, speculation, nepotism, manipulation, corruption, etc. So art has become some kind of „game of an elite“ to increase their fortunes and their reputation. Others have used the art for money laundering and others to avoid tax payments. But just a couple of cases have been discovered and published in the news.

I founded an organization in Berlin called the Organization for the Democratization of the Visual Arts (ODBK) whose aim is to create more equality, diversity, inclusion, and democracy in the art world. That‘s why my interest is more focused on the selection of the artists and the collection of artworks. And here I want to show you an example of one of the aspects of what transparency for the art world could mean: In Feb 2019 has been published a research paper called “Diversity of Artists in Major U.S. Museums” by PLOS said: „By scrapping the public online catalogs of 18 major U.S. museums,… we find that 85% of artists are white and 87% are men… the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) found that 72% of staff at its member institutions identify as white. This same study found that 60% of the museum staff are women, though only 43% of directorships are held by women,“

In the ODBK we are now conducting an ambitious project called „Transparency for Art World“ to gather information about the artists selected and collected by 400 contemporary art museums. Also performing actions to promote transparency in the art world. If you are committed to this aim, join us!

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