The Valuation of Art vs. Performance

Just got back from the Intersections with Art and Performance panel discussion at MESTC.
It was a really fascinating panel and discussion but we didn’t get to the one thing that always gets my goat, which is the disparity in valuation of live art performance and theater-as-performance. There is a huge infrastructure around museum culture specifically designed towards creating economic value around art objects. And when that infrastructure is brought to bear on live art performance it creates disproportionate valuation. Is Tino Seghal’s work intrinsically worth more than a similar dance performance or the work of Radiohole? I don’t think so.

The NY Times just ran an article on how much it costs to be on a board:

Looking to join the power set at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Be ready with a check for as much as $10 million. The price of admission can reach that high at the Museum of Modern Art, and remains roughly $5 million at the New York Public Library, according to people involved in the process.

It probably costs about that much at the Guggenheim, MoMA or the Whitney. The average give/get for a contemporary performing arts organization is probably, oh, $5000. I mean, I don’t have a lot of knowledge to draw on but I can tell you there’s a pretty significant difference. It is ironic because contemporary performance that happens in a theatrical setting is often exploring many of the same ideas as contemporary performance in a gallery/museum setting. It is certainly as rigorous and thought-out. It is certainly, often, of as high or higher quality. But there is no apparatus for creating economic value. A board member that shells out millions expects a concomitant ROI in status and cultural weight thus there is incentive on the parts of museum professionals to insure that everything they do has high value. Not so in the performing arts.

What do you think?

3 Responses to “The Valuation of Art vs. Performance”
  1. culture spy says:

    I think you’re right on. And I also think it’s really interesting to consider this issue in light of the Marina Abromovic show at MoMA. I think Abromovic’s performance at MoMA and her whole show “The Artist is Present” asks the popular museum going audience to contemplate art in relationship to presence, life, experience and to question our assumptions about the value of art and commodity based art making. Maybe the fact that MoMA is doing that show and the fact that the Guggenheim has that Works in Progress performance series, and the New Museum presentations and the way that so many other museums, the Asia Society…. even the NY Public Library have regular performance events is also becoming an answer to the problem of the poverty of theater and performance venues. It would be interesting to figure out how to get the Art Institutions to share the love more….

    Maybe it’s also about scale of institution – because I don’t think that the Vivian Beaumont or the Public suffer in the same ways as so many other performance venues — but then again, museums are about architecture and you need to have big bucks to have the architecture vs. performance venues can kind of be anywhere in way…..

  2. There has always been a high/low culture in the arts. Folk vs. Opera, Painting vs. Outsider, etc. I think that your observations are a direct reflection of this. It is money that creates the high and lows as well as determine what their money will support. We don’t have to like it. We do have to support the smaller venues that invest in nourishing emerging work and not the wallet.

  3. cc says:

    art in a museum increases in monetary value over time. a theatre piece does not. a show is performed for 5-6 weeks, you buy a ticket, you see the show once and then, most likely, never again. i can go see a painting or sculpture from a museum’s permanent collection 52 weeks of the year.

    performance art is still young (as is photography) in comparison to painting, sculpture, etc. looking at performance art in a museum is not the same experience as watching a piece of theater. in a museum, there is always the option to walk away and look at something else (you are choosing to be engaged). how many times has one felt trapped in a theater seat watching a show you’ve lost interest in, hoping it gets better? the immediate relationship between the audience/viewing public is different in terms of mental perceptions and physical space.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: