Arts Conference Event Review

Hello dear ACM students, IK members, and professors!

As you all know, there was an exciting event that happened on Thursday 18/04! We are here to provide you some interesting facts, experiences, and newly acquired knowledge that we took from this conference.

First and foremost, we want to thank our Conference Committee, the IK Board, RUG professors, and the speakers: Hans Abbing, Karlijn Profit, and Andreas Blühm for making this enlightening and important event possible. As everyone is experiencing difficulties in organizing (or just living) anything during these times, we respect and appreciate the effort that went into this even more, since not only was this conference useful and necessary for our ACM students, but it was also telling of how despite the pandemic, we can still (to an extent) learn about the functions of the artworld from these important and incredibly knowledgeable professionals. 

So, thank you once again!

Summary: 

During this three hours-long event, we learned and discussed art and money. Amongst some students, and the event organizers, there were also some professors such as Thijs Lijster, Kristin McGee, Lucia van Heteren, who participated in the discussion and helped pose some interesting and thought-provoking questions that further sparked the discussion.

Hans Abbing: 

A prominent scholar, sociologist, economist, and visual artist. His knowledge about art and economy helped tailor the cultural scene of the Netherlands in the 70s since he was elected to advise and work for the Ministry of Culture, Recreation, and Social Work.

In his talk, we learned of some of the dynamics that one encounters on the art market, and how interestingly a market per se does not necessarily mean that it stands for capitalism. This notion changes the perspective of art funds and popular art, in the sense that popular art does not automatically need to be the art that plays into the conventions of capitalism. One of such ways of breaking capitalist conventions is the decommercialization of arts. To elaborate on the decommercialization professor Abbing explained what is commercialization. In short, commercialization occurs when one solely goes after gain, rewards, and similar features without any regard towards the quality or cult value of the artwork. Continuously, that happens when the art serves as the government’s added feature in the international competition. Professor Abbing also mentioned the terms ‘positive freedom’ (which would be: time, means, and autonomous art) and ‘negative freedom’ (which would be censored art). We learned that autonomous work could still be orientated towards the market, even though the means of this work stem from private funding or some other separate source. 

For those who want to see Hans Abbing’s visual art, we warmly recommend following him on Instagram. 😊

Karlijn Profijt:

During the Arts Conference, Karlijn the following subject: the importance of funding, why you should be interested in funding, and how to get it. As a short side note, Karijn is also a fellow ACM student who graduated in 2012. Currently, she is working as a Grand Coordinator at the Fonds Podium Kunsten Performing Arts Fund and is in charge of the process of financing different projects. Having worked in the festival industry in Montreal, as well as being a music supervisor in Amsterdam for a year, she understands the need for funding better than anyone.

Why would an artist want their art to get funding? Putting aside the possible restrictions and mixed feelings an artist could feel while being part of the funding process,  this procedure can bring multiple benefits to the creator. It is a good way to start building up capital and bring people together to work,  as well as help experiment and explore artistic freedom.

There are different types of funding: public funding, which comes from the government, and private funding, which comes from investors. Karlijn gave some concrete examples of public fund programmes, such as ‘Creative Europe’ and ‘BIS’. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that artists could also look at regional or local funding programmes.

Andreas Blühm: 

An esteemed art historian and museum director, he became a director of our very own Groningen Museum in 2012. He is also a professor of Art History, Museums, and Society at the University of Groningen. 

With Andreas Blühm, we looked at the relationship between art and money from a historical perspective. One of the first notions about this relationship is that art has always been on the market. Through a display and short analysis of paintings such as Jean Antoine Watteau’s Signboard of Gersaint, and Johann Zoffany Charles Townley and Friends in His Library at Park Street, Westminster from the 18th century and the photographs from the art dealer company Goupil from the 19th century, we can see that the art dealership has had its roots far back. Even today, for example at the TIFFA art gallery the art dealership and the steady art market can be seen unfurling right before one’s eyes. The component that changes through time is the value. For instance, a Van Gogh painting today is seen as far more valuable than at the time when it was created. But why? What is the value of such a painting and why does it change? Van Gogh’s contemporary Alexandre Cabanel, on the other hand, was extremely triumphant in selling his work. He was a successful academic painter and one of the ‘favorites’ painters at the time. In present-day the dynamic changes; almost all paintings of Cabanel are worth one moderate van Gogh painting. How does that occur? 

Additionally, during this talk, we were told an illuminating anecdote about money and value. Amongst several stories that we were being told, the last one caught our interest, since it best described how society associates meaning and gives value to artworks. It started with two abstract expressionist paintings being next to two each other. An interesting social experiment occurred when we were asked which painting we like the most? Unassumingly most people answered the right one, with some have answered the left. Almost unanimously the participators concluded that the left one is more expensive. After learning that the left painting was done by Franz Kline, one of the leading American abstract expressionists, and the right one by a chimpanzee Congo, most people were astonished and they reiterated their choices. The evergreen question appeared again: what is the value? 

Even though this question has also been the center of avant-garde art, no definite answer is to be found, but we hope that through Andreas Bluhm’s numerous stories, we managed to show you how the ambiguous nature of artistic value sprung the art world into new mysterious spheres repeatedly and that the search for an answer to this question is never-ending. 

We sincerely hope that this review can serve as a concise recapitulation of what happened at IK’s first committee event of the year and can also provide some help when in search of art funding! 😉  

We can’t wait to see what next in-store at upcoming IK’s events! 

Take care and goodbye till next time, 

Publishing Committee