Monday, June 25, 2012

A need for art intelligence

The evolving political economy of art suggests a need for specialized intelligence on the significance of artworks to markets, foreign relations, and security.  As one dimension of the political economy, the expansion of the art market illustrates the need. The art market has expanded in financial volume to $60 billion worldwide, by some reports, and geographically, in that, by other reports, China has surpassed the United States in expenditures on collectibles and now accounts for 30% of the global market. As emerging nations, such as Bangladesh, hold contemporary art fairs, the economic implications of art continue to develop.
Resources such as the Mei Moses Index serve as a source of intelligence on the art market, and enterprises such as Artnet have added data and analysis resources for objective assessments of the art market.  In the dimension of foreign relations, precedents for repatriation of cultural property serve as a source of intelligence for future claims, and on-line catalogs of museums, auction houses, and galleries increase the ability of “source nations” to discover lost cultural artifacts. In the third dimension, security, ICOM “Red lists” raise awareness of risks to cultural property and thereby provide a degree of deterrence from trafficking and facilitate protection from looting.
The above examples of accessible information on the markets for artworks and cultural artifacts suggest the potential to devise a specialized methodology for assessments in the political economy of the art. Specialized “art intelligence” would enable collectors to factor the politics of artworks into decisions on acquisitions, inform foreign policy with the political significance of cultural property, and facilitate interdiction of trafficking and looting of cultural artifacts.

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