The Denial of the Economy Why Are Gifts to the Arts Praised, While Market Incomes Remain Suspect?
When you enter a commercial gallery and you want to know the prices of
the exhibited artworks, you're in trouble. If you're not familiar with galleries,
you'll probably look for a price tag placed near the artworks. Anywhere
else, from the supermarket to the car showroom this procedure will get you
the information you want. Not so in a gallery. If you're clever you'll look in an
odd unexpected corner to find a sheet of paper with a pricelist. But often
there is no pricelist and so you muster up a little courage and approach a
desk somewhere in the back of the gallery. There you'll find the owner or an
assistant busy on the phone, trying to make the fax work, typing or just look
ing bored; anyway, she pretends you are not there. Almost annoyed, she
hands you the list. Meanwhile, you will have noticed that there is no cash
register anywhere. You wonder if there is some old cigar box with money in
it somewhere hidden in a cupboard.
When artworks are sold, you may find that red stickers cover their prices on
the list. For an instant you're tempted to lift up a sticker to find out the price.
After all, like most shoppers, you like to make price-quality comparisons.
But then you feel the eyes of the assistant on you and you decide not to.
You remain much longer in this gallery than you had intended. Since it was
such a big deal to get the list you feel you cannot hand it back too soon.
Anyway, you will certainly think twice about entering a gallery ever again.
Sacha Tanja runs the art collection of the ING Group, the second largest
bank in the Netherlands (and one of the largest bank-insurance companies
in Europe) and as a result she oversees the highest private budget spent on
visual art in the Netherlands. Sacha Tanja visits the Alex's studio together
with two assistants. They stay for about one and a half hours. They drink tea
and chat about everyday matters. There is no exalted discussion about high
art. In the meantime, she and her assistants sort through Alex's work. They
make selections and sub-selections. They do it efficiently. Within the first
quarter of an hour, one of the assistants — not Mrs. T! — casually asks for