Art and Money: A Lesson from the Borgias

January 5, 2015 5:41 PM

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Periodically we hear the anguished voices of sensitive aesthetes lamenting the deplorable and degraded state of contemporary art. These ascetic sophisticates often blame the prominence of Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and Takashi Murakami on the corruption produced by the vast, even unprecedented economic power of a few wealthy dealers (Larry Gagosian) and collectors (Steven Cohen) in the market for art.

The proposition that money corrupts art is absurd, and the contention that the link between the two is anything new is simply ignorant. Clement Greenberg long ago observed that advanced art has always been attached to society's ruling class by an umbilical cord of gold; I have previously written abo...

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