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Sunday
Oct162011

The Big Frieze

Last week I accompanied a good friend to the Frieze Arts marketing event in Regents Park. It was a truly extraordinary experience. I just want to remind you that this was last week. Mid October 2011, it took place during an unprecedented period of social upheaval, of global gatherings and demonstrations to limit the power of finance capital and an attempt to build a more equal society.

The Frieze Arts event takes place inside a massive tent covering many acres of the park. The tickets are expensive and yes I did buy my own.

Inside the tents are huge booths run by private art dealers from around the world, Berlin, Geneva, New York, Sydney, Paris, Rome, Madrid. Each would have 3 or 4 works on display, the price? From say €25,000 up into the millions. There wasn’t anything on display within reach of 99% of the population.

I won’t comment on the art, it was the people attending, the punters that told the real story.

They are the 1%. Everyone attending was tall, slim, rich and confident looking. It was packed, the fleets of limo’s dropping people off outside was like an Oscar night, the security was spectacular, literally hundreds of polite men in black suits with ear pieces.

A lot of art gets shifted at this annual binge, even if I had the cash to buy something, I don’t have anywhere to put it. Most of the pieces were enormous, you’d need a massive house to accommodate them, but of course these people do have massive houses.

So why shouldn’t they have big houses, they’ve worked hard for their money, so we’re told. They are driving the economy, they are creating wealth.

Except it is now becoming increasingly apparent that they don’t, and they never did. They just manipulated the world in order to gather indescribably wealth, not earn, merely gather. They then continued to manipulate governments in order to keep it.

They already have all the cars, houses, holidays and private beaches, they don’t need anything, so they buy tat which, due to the increasingly frail belief system that supports it, is deemed to ‘have value’ because someone paid shit loads to a gallery to own it.

This sort of conceptual art is seen as an investment, of course banks are big buyers, slap a weird painting up in the massive foyer of the Bank’s glass tower in the hope you look more sensitive and creative.

I didn’t get angry while I was there, very confusing messages are sent out, much of the art was directly critical of the people buying it. They like that. They love the irony of buying a painting with the words ‘The Person who Bought this Painting is a Cunt’ in 3 meter high letters, (yes, it was there and it had been sold) it shows they are brave and able to deal with the inherent irony of life.

I considered my own position as I wandered around the exclusive tent. True, I was able to buy the £30 ticket to get in, and yet utterly unable to consider buying anything.

That said I have been very lucky in my career. There have been times in the last 25 years when I have been paid way over the average. I have worked hard, I do have a nice house, I even have 2 actual paintings on the wall.

However I have always paid tax on my income, I don’t have any investments other than a pension, I have always been paid for work I’ve done rather than received income from money I’ve gathered. I’ve been prudent and careful, not borrowing too much, all my credit cars are at zero. When I want something expensive I wait until I’ve saved enough to buy it.

There have been times when I’ve felt I am part of the 1%, part of the problem not the solution, but what events in recent times have shown be beyond doubt is I am nowhere near the 1%, I never have been. I work for a living, if I don’t work, I would go broke in a couple of weeks.

The people who buy ‘art’ at Frieze will never go broke, they have arranged things in order to make that almost impossible. They have massive investments, they don’t pay tax, they don’[t abide by the same laws the rest of us have to.

I am middle class, property owning and yet just as disenfranchised as the youngest student or unemployed protester in Wall Street, Madrid, Sydney or outside the Stock Exchange in London.

For the governments around the globe and their corporate backers, this is a very dangerous state of affairs.

It’s truly not just a bunch of lefty hippie vegans demonstrating, it’s much, much broader than that

I’ll end on this quote within a quote by Paul Mason at the BBC.

“As Manuel Castells, one of the first sociologists of the internet, said: the more autonomous and rebellious a person's attitudes are, the more they use the internet; the more they use the internet, the more autonomous their lifestyle becomes.”

 

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Reader Comments (7)

Great post, but here's the thing... if we do get in the mindset of breaking this down, you know it always goes into the opposite extreme... The greatest irony of all is the Internet system and it's telecommunication backbone, not to mention the absurd wealth generated by the Software houses and equipment manufacturers that drive the very same social networking sites that people use to organise this stuff. As a "for instance"; Vodafone has 381,720,000 subscribers - that's at least £25 per month from each... now until the highly erroneous 3G licencing scandal they were going to make their network exactly the same price globally making a call to your friend where in the world, the sae price as calling next door... Sadly our previous Govt. killed that with the licensing auction and this govt will do it again for 4G...
But 381,720,000 per month at £25 = £9.,543,000,000 per month on an infrastructure that is already built, and has little more than council tax and the Electricity bill to pay...
And then the ethics of the equipment it's self - did these people organising these demos on social networks use a £600 iPad built by someone beaten into making it or the $60 tablet of India etc? Then issues relating to the fact that China has a frankly disgusting human rights record and India is one of the most cash rich nations on earth - yet is run on corruption...

I hear and agree with what you're saying and I believe there has to be question asked when people become Billionaires about when is enough money enough?
But what to do and how to do it is a tough call, because like everything else - when it filters down through the system.. we are the ones always hurt the most.

October 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTWBrit

Great Blog . I think the person who sold that painting was a bit of a c@#t too. I don't mind not being able to afford that 'art', though it seems to me what passes for entertainment for the masses these days costs us nothing from our wallets , but a lot from our souls

#occupylsx #occupywallstreet

October 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

"However I have always paid tax on my income, I don’t have any investments other than a pension, I have always been paid for work I’ve done rather than received income from money I’ve gathered."
But you ARE receiving income on money which you have 'gathered', that's why your pension is growing!
And yes, I know that your pension fund pays tax (thanks G Brown) and your pension will be taxed when you get it.
I sympathise with your article, but the problem as usual is where do you draw the line? No income on any gatherings, only some income etc etc etc.
I think it would be better to just have everyone pay tax.

Regarding the thorny question of how much money is enough: The recent lottery win of 101 million makes the point. The papers go on about how they could spend it. Even stuck in a poor performing bank account, they'd get 2% interest and an income of 2 million p.a. without touching the capital. If they decided that they'd live for say 40 years and wanted to use it all up, they could withdraw 3.7 million a year.
What about a billionaire? A billion is 10^9 (one thousand million), multiply all the above by 10 to get the comparable figures, ie incomes per year of approx 20 million or 37 million. This latter figure equates to over 100,000 a day, 4,223 an hour, 70 per minute and of course 1 per second. Could anyone spend it???

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November 4, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterabercrombie and fitch

I don't care so much that some people have a lot more money than others, but what I am upset about is the fact that our governments all have passed laws that make it easier for the wealthy to become even wealthier than they are now. Globalization is a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle, so why didn't our governments go about making our social systems better. As an American, I am deeply disappointing that we didn't have any thing for the people who lost their jobs in the last 25 years to do. If you don't have a good health and educational system, how are people suppose to rebound after the government passed policies that enabled the big corporation to leave the country? Governments essentially told citizens 'good luck, we're not technically responsible for your job going away'.

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