Olivier Vilaspasa is a French illustrator, web designer, teacher and artist living in Paris. He appeared in our very first Six Pack. His body of work addresses a dissatisfaction with how the modern-day artist is marginalized by those with the power to influence the value of an artist's work. On one of his websites, he shares a manifesto, with supporting media, suggesting that the art market has become too much of a stock market. While he offers no solution - which might leave you feeling unresolved by the end of this post - his illustrations are a great reflection of his frustrations with exploitation at large [more artwork below].
For anyone who is not an artist, consider the artist as a musician being exploited as a product by labels or media. Or the reality tv personalities that have been inaccurately portrayed to benefit a dramatic storyline for marketing purposes - of which the personality sees no gain and, sometimes, their reputation is scarred. Hopefully that helps you see through the window into Vilaspasa's frustrations. Not a new frustration, but one that continues to seek balance between art and commerce.
By rather comedic means, Vilaspasa encourages artists to question their need to sell in the art market by (jokingly) charging them up to 6,000 Euros for a valuation of any given piece. The paying artist also receives a Certificate of Authenticity signed by Vilaspasa so they may begin selling their work. The joke, in itself, becomes a work of art.
Due to our language barrier, our email exchanges were limited, but he did ask that I read through his manifesto. I gladly dove in. It outlines his current take on the art market. Originally in French, I've done my best to abbreviate the manifesto's key principles.
A summary of Vilaspasa's manifesto from BiennaledeParis.com:
The current art market now follows the same logic of the stock market, which should not be the case. Wealthy patrons and art dealers use financially-driven tactics to increase or skew the value of artwork to their benefit. Examples of this could be the acquisition of art distribution channels and leveraging scarcity of work to control the price of artwork. However, the manipulation of that price comes at the cost of the artist, collector or gallery owner. Often, these skewing tactics (sometimes having little to do with the artist) leave a reputation on the artist and/or the work across the market - not necessarily a positive thing. And any illicit gains made by dealers or patrons are free from consequence. In all of this, he suggests that passion for art has become a game rather than being a sacred appreciation for the arts.
He provides an example of a wealthy individual taking measures to the control the market in the full version of his manifesto here.
- - - INTERVIEW - - -
BEN: Obviously, you have a strong opinion on the art market as you see it. Do you intend on your manifesto being a solution?
VILASPASA: No. Every artist must supply the questions and insight. The solutions must be implemented in politics, economy and philosophy. Remember that Hitler was a watercolorist and Mao Zedong was a poet. We should pay attention to political artists to offer solutions.
What do you mean "pay attention to political artists"?
Questions and demonstrations of an artist are probably more interesting and less destructive than the actual politics. Maybe the only solution comes from Marguerite Duras. [see embedded video - English subtitles]
Marguerite's idea sounds like a nice utopia. Do you think starting from scratch is possible?
Perhaps, in her words, the idea of "everyone on the beach" is just attractive. ;-)
On your website with the manifesto, you charge artists up to 6,000 Euros in exchange for a Certificate of Authenticity and the opportunity to begin selling their work.
This is the game. The Certificate of Authenticity is a part of the art world. It's a guarantee. An object for future speculation.
But a joke in this case.
I bet it gets artists thinking.
If you want to be an artist, you have to pay the price...
- - -
To sum up our conversation, his work on S6 and his manifesto, he hopes to see a healthier market for artists to thrive in. And again, while he doesn't offer any particular solution beyond telling artists to think for themselves, it's clear he's happy to spark the conversation. As an artist and teacher, he surely understands that art can be a powerful agent for change.
Discover more Olivier Vilaspasa: