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Arts

Art for everybody, or is it a luxury?

The art market is booming, though not everyone appreciates it. Yet art and the marketplace belong together and the hype will carry on, Christine Vogt, director of the Ludwig Gallery in Oberhausen told DW.

DW: Art and commerce have been connected for centuries. Do you think this is more a marriage of convenience or a fatal affair?

Vogt: Here you have to differentiate: There is "art for everybody," and there is art for a very exclusive group. That is where the prices explode. It has nothing to do with the pictures; those stay the same. But it has to do with the fact that some people have too much money and art belongs to the luxury goods market.

In the meantime, an extreme situation has taken over the art market. On the one hand, artists like Damien Hirst can attain the highest prices while, on the other hand, just one to three percent of graduates from art academies can afford to live from their art. It is these polar opposites that the exhibition is trying to showcase.

In the exhibition, you are showing Gerhard Richter, one of the most expensive living artists today. He has sharply criticized the market by saying it is only about the price. Will the bubble burst?

That's a good question. During the financial crisis, people prophesied that the art market would fall apart, but that didn't happen. It appears to be quite stable. That has something to do, in my view, with players on the art market that are passing the ball back and forth at the highest level.

Is artists' criticism of the market a bit hypocritical? They could very well just remove themselves from it. 

You could theoretically take yourself off the market, but then you wouldn't know where the rent will come from next week. To do that, you would have to have additional sources of income. The art historian Wolfgang Ullrich came up with the term "Siegerkunst," or "victor's art," which says that in order to be successful today, art needs to fulfill certain criteria: It must be international, global, easily understood, and available in a large quantity. And when someone creates art that doesn't meet those standards, which is, for example, too flighty or difficult to retain, then it is avoided automatically.

The British graffiti artist Bansky tries to do just that.

But Bansky is a good example of how the art market works. Bansky sprays something on a wall and people come there at night, knock it out of the wall and sell it. In that case, you can see quite transparently that the market does not adhere to what the artists want or do.

"Let's Buy It!" is the title of the exhibition at the Ludwig Galerie in Oberhausen. That's a clear directive to buy. Has the art hype hit you as well?

We are an exhibition hall; we don't usually purchase art. For this exhibition, however, friends of the Ludwig Galerie offered to make a bit of money available in order to acquire a few new things. That belongs more to the "art for everybody" segment, but the buying is quite fun.

For the museum, you personally bid on a print by Felix Droese that was offered for sale on eBay, but which originally was part of a collection of 10,000 pieces sold at Aldi for 12.99 euros. What did you pay for it?

Thirty euros, including postage. Even here you can see that it's doubled in value and it will continue to increase.

The exhibition "Let's Buy It!" is on show at the Ludwig Galerie in Oberhausen through May 14, 2017.

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