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.”