Commodity Fetishism in Art – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Theory Glossary

What is Commodity Fetishism in Art?

Commodity fetishism in art refers to the phenomenon where artworks are valued not for their intrinsic artistic qualities, but for their perceived monetary or exchange value. It is the idea that art objects become commodities to be bought and sold in the art market, rather than appreciated for their artistic merit.

Commodity fetishism in art can also refer to the tendency for artists to create works that cater to market trends and consumer demand, rather than expressing their own unique artistic vision. This can result in a homogenization of artistic styles and a focus on commercial success rather than artistic integrity.

Origins of Commodity Fetishism in Art

The concept of commodity fetishism in art can be traced back to the rise of capitalism and the commodification of art in the 19th century. As art became increasingly commodified, artists began to create works that were designed to appeal to a mass audience and generate profits for art dealers and collectors.

The Industrial Revolution also played a significant role in the development of commodity fetishism in art, as mass production techniques allowed for the replication of artworks on a large scale. This led to a proliferation of art objects that were valued more for their marketability than their artistic merit.

Examples of Commodity Fetishism in Art

One example of commodity fetishism in art is the phenomenon of art fairs and biennials, where artworks are displayed and sold in a commercial setting. These events often prioritize marketability over artistic quality, leading to a focus on works that are easily marketable and commercially viable.

Another example of commodity fetishism in art is the rise of art as an investment asset, with collectors and investors buying and selling artworks as a means of generating profit. This can lead to inflated prices and a focus on artworks that have a high resale value, rather than artistic significance.

Critiques of Commodity Fetishism in Art

Critics of commodity fetishism in art argue that it devalues the artistic integrity of artworks and reduces them to mere commodities to be bought and sold. This can lead to a loss of artistic diversity and innovation, as artists are incentivized to create works that cater to market trends rather than pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

Critics also argue that commodity fetishism in art perpetuates inequality in the art world, as artists from marginalized backgrounds may struggle to gain recognition and success in a market that prioritizes commercial viability over artistic merit. This can result in a homogenization of artistic styles and a lack of diversity in the art world.

Impact of Commodity Fetishism on Art Market

The impact of commodity fetishism on the art market can be seen in the skyrocketing prices of artworks by popular artists, as collectors and investors compete to acquire works that are seen as valuable commodities. This can create a bubble in the art market, where prices are inflated beyond the actual artistic value of the works.

Commodity fetishism in the art market can also lead to a concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few elite collectors and dealers, who have the resources to acquire and control valuable artworks. This can further marginalize artists from underrepresented backgrounds and limit their opportunities for success in the art world.

Contemporary Perspectives on Commodity Fetishism in Art

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the negative impact of commodity fetishism in art, with artists and critics calling for a reevaluation of the values and priorities of the art world. Many artists are pushing back against the commercialization of art and advocating for a return to a focus on artistic integrity and creativity.

Contemporary artists are exploring alternative models of art production and distribution, such as artist-run spaces and cooperative galleries, that prioritize community engagement and artistic collaboration over profit. These initiatives seek to challenge the dominance of the art market and create spaces for artists to create and exhibit work outside of commercial constraints.

Overall, the concept of commodity fetishism in art continues to be a topic of debate and discussion in the art world, as artists, critics, and collectors grapple with the implications of valuing art primarily as a commodity. By critically examining the role of market forces in shaping artistic production and consumption, we can work towards a more equitable and sustainable art world that values creativity and artistic expression above all else.