Artists work within a series of communities. Even those at the high end of the monetary power of the art system, meet and work for plutocrats, old aristocratic families and corporations while being protected from everyone else by agents and various offices.
Those who work in the regions and towns of their countries grow their base from within their living spaces, where buyers enjoy the frissance of hanging on their walls someone who is ‘known’ because if three people talk about you, to those three people you are famous.
This idea of known is interesting. Because the buyers themselves are working within their communities and they will see work on the walls of their friends, hear of work or up-coming artists at their gatherings in the same ways wherever those friends and gatherings take place with whichever segment of society.
‘I knew *** before (he or she) was famous’ is a badge of insight worn by many art collectors. Then again, meeting the artist is a talking-point. Describing them, their studio, repeating their jokes, quoting them … all these elements of knowledge are community intensive and speak not only of the community you are working within, but your place in it. And the community and the artist manipulate each other.
The work is nowhere as independent opinion never goes beyond ‘I liked his other pieces’ ‘I own some of her drawings’ ‘I would buy that if it wasn’t sold already’ ‘This is all very different from her work two years ago’ … and so on. You will not hear, except in very refined and informed company, discussions of where the artist fits in art history. You will hear how well-respected they are in their region/city and how they accord or otherwise to the taste of the individual talking.
This is alright, artists have to live somewhere and in olden days people travelled to cities to meet those artists but today artists are itinerant and you can meet them on their tours and through their social media accounts. But many regional artists get stuck where their income exists like all other employed people, and many high-end artists only go where the high-end money is.
While artists have to live, art was never a capitalist venture, but it has become one. Just as nature was evolved and never a capitalist venture but has been made into one, where it does not fit and the cracks and breaking points of that are as real and as dangerous as those for the artists.