The uselessness of art makes any spending on it especially potent: buying a yacht is a tiny bit like buying a rowboat, and so retains a taint of practicality, but buying a great Picasso is like no other spending. Olav Velthuis, a Dutch sociologist who wrote Talking Prices, the best study of what art spending means, compares the top of the art market to the potlatches performed by the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest, where the goal was to ostentatiously give away, even destroy, as much of your wealth as possible - to show that you could. In the art-market equivalent, he says, prices keep mounting as collectors compete for this "super-status effect."
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As money stacks up in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), their oligarchs are buying into the wealthy Western mainstream by forking out for its art, the way their poorer compatriots are buying into skinny jeans and Lady Gaga.
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Top art collectors aren't shoppers like anyone else. If they spend right, they can purchase the status of cultural patron. No one looks up to you for buying a fleet of Bentleys, but own a flock of Richard Serras, and you become a supporter of culture. Turning the filthy lucre of commerce into the "cultural money" that's used to purchase art is one way to launder it, explains the Princeton sociologist Zelizer.
Pak So is an artist, writer, and the Director of Operations at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York City.
Anna Tan is an award winning Design Director who has successfully completed creative projects for major companies and clients in the travel, arts, entertainment, retail and publishing industries.
Pak and Anna are currently producing an upcoming title for Trips of Wonder on the business capital of Tokyo, Japan.
TRIPS OF WONDER
PAK SO STUDIO
ANNA TAN GRAPHIC DESIGN
Most of us want to reach an end, we want to be able to say "I have arrived at self-knowledge and I am happy"; but it is not like that at all. If you can look at yourself without condemning what you see, without comparing yourself with somebody else, without wishing to be more beautiful or more virtuous; if you can just observe what you are and move with it, then you will find that it is possible to go infinitely far. Then there is no end to the journey, and that is the mystery, the beauty of it.