Sunday, August 24, 2008


Looking forward to the first day of my second MBA semester I renewed my Wall Street Journal subscription. It is not only that WSJ is a required lecture for some of my classes but I started to enjoy reading it.
I was surprised by my enthusiasm when I picked my first paper from the driveway yesterday morning. I was even more surprised to find that it was discussing two topics to which I gave a lot of thought recently: the monetary value of art and the diverse diversity.

The monetary value of art

The weekend supplement discusses Mr. Damien Hirst’s decision of auctioning his own works via Sotherby[1]. The article’s author , Melik Kaylan applauds Mr. Hirst decision since it does open the potential market for the “nouveaux riches”, potential buyers from the new emerging markets that might not work as well with dealers due to the fact that these intermediaries put a higher accent on a buyer’s quality. (For new artists selling to a reputed collector seems to equal building their own reputation).
Now the point beyond this article is so interesting because it presents the value of art from the perspective of its market value. Good art sells good and there are always a few Maecenas to support the artists, but nowadays the market is no longer limited to the few chosen. A new concept is introduced and should be discussed : the art’s ”mass market”. With so many more of us able to read, gain an education past elementary school and all the sources of access to all forms of art the artists are facing now more potential buyers than before. They also can find new and more accessible ways of reaching out to these buyers (blogging being just one of them). But this new type of market is not only more diverse than the traditional one but also its taste is sometimes doubtful. Since the bitter statement that a true artist only creates for the few chosen is in my opinion just B(IA)S[2], one has to wonder what effect will have on art this new type of market.

The diverse diversity

Another article (by Mr. Kaufman and Mr. Fields) is discussing what it means to be black. The article points out some notable differences between African immigrants and African-Americans as well as the ones between the lower income black population and the middle class black population. However it is not this article I want to discuss but a feeling that bothers me since I came to live in US.
As any human being I have my own cultural and racial biases [3]. I consider my biases to be normal since:
a. It is normal to relate with people that share similar interests and values, and is more likely to find such people among those coming from the same cultural and religious background, same social class etc.
b. It is somehow difficult to understand a different paradigm without living it or studying it for some time and because all the cultural diversity in US it became impossible for most of us to assimilate all paradigms.
However, I noticed that some of my fellow American seem determined to simplify these differences and come up with four categories where one has to “fit” in somehow: black, and by black they mean African-American, white-and by white they mean white American , Hispanic- that means usually first and second-generation of immigrants from South America and Asian- that is generally identified with Chinese and all like.
Somehow I find this categorization unsettling, probably because it tends to cancel out my own way of seeing the world (that is my own biases). I have had hard time thinking about me as being white as opposed to black or Asian. It is even harder to distance myself from what is generally understood as Hispanic, since my cultural background that combines a Latin heritage and the way of Balkans makes me a lot more alike to South Americans than their northern counterparts. And, while again I find it hard to explain, it is hard for me to assimilate into the white population not because I am not white or European but because I am white and European and somehow more reluctant to be categorized just because of the color of my skin.
Returning to the article mentioned above, while it invites the black community to re-think its own identity, I feel that other communities should probably do just the same.

[1] I still have a hard time comprehending the reason for which someone will pay $25 million to get a cow’s carcass in his living room, if that reason is not a. eccentricity or b. publicity.
Yes it does have golden horns and a very sad look and there is some symbolism beyond it but it is a dead cow (a golden calf for $ 25 million, the sale itself is art in the making more than the object sold).
[2] that is because I believe that art is a form of expression and one can not express herself without a public.
[3]according to last’s week sermon even Jesus had His moment when calling this Canaanite woman ‘dog’ – that was at that time a racial term.
[4]My ex makes a good example here. I was returning from a visit to a friend from Sri Lanka that was sick and he is asking if my friend is white or black.
-Kind of black, I say thinking at my friends’ skin color
-What do you mean by “kind of black”, is he white or is he black?
-Well, he is from Sri Lanka.
-Where is Sri Lanka?
-South of India.
-Oh, so he is Indian.
I decided to stop here, because if I would said “well, kind of Indian” I would get another bickering comment on how I try to complicate the world.

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