The Valuation of Art vs. Performance

Just got back from the Intersections with Art and Performance panel discussion at MESTC.
It was a really fascinating panel and discussion but we didn’t get to the one thing that always gets my goat, which is the disparity in valuation of live art performance and theater-as-performance. There is a huge infrastructure around museum culture specifically designed towards creating economic value around art objects. And when that infrastructure is brought to bear on live art performance it creates disproportionate valuation. Is Tino Seghal’s work intrinsically worth more than a similar dance performance or the work of Radiohole? I don’t think so.

The NY Times just ran an article on how much it costs to be on a board:

Looking to join the power set at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Be ready with a check for as much as $10 million. The price of admission can reach that high at the Museum of Modern Art, and remains roughly $5 million at the New York Public Library, according to people involved in the process.

It probably costs about that much at the Guggenheim, MoMA or the Whitney. The average give/get for a contemporary performing arts organization is probably, oh, $5000. I mean, I don’t have a lot of knowledge to draw on but I can tell you there’s a pretty significant difference. It is ironic because contemporary performance that happens in a theatrical setting is often exploring many of the same ideas as contemporary performance in a gallery/museum setting. It is certainly as rigorous and thought-out. It is certainly, often, of as high or higher quality. But there is no apparatus for creating economic value. A board member that shells out millions expects a concomitant ROI in status and cultural weight thus there is incentive on the parts of museum professionals to insure that everything they do has high value. Not so in the performing arts.

What do you think?

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