This is the first time the full 95 minutes of the film has been shown in the UK. Buy the DVD here
Well-respected as an art critic and film-maker but not unfamiliar with controversy himself, Ben Lewis was banned from Damien Hirst's £120 million auction, in which Hirst by-passed his dealers, Jay Jopling in London and Gagosian in New York, and put 300 lots of his art for sale through the auction house Sotheby's. Ben Lewis was banned because he had written previously about the art market, so citing that article, Matthew Weigman, the head of sales publicity at Sotheby's, wrote to him: “In the ordinary course of things, your impressive credentials as a journalist, film-maker and commentator would have provided easy entrance through Sotheby's doors. But these are not ordinary circumstances. The frank bias, even contempt, you have expressed in your commentary about the world of contemporary art, which is an important part of our business, is impossible to ignore … Therefore … we have taken the virtually unprecedented decision not to allow you to film during our upcoming exhibition and sale of works from the studio of Damien Hirst, nor to allow access into the press area for the print media.”
|Ben Lewis, Three Card Monty or art investment?|
Ben Lewis objects to the lack of transparency and accountability in a market in which millions of pounds of public money is spent. The dealers and their clients the collectors who basically back the dealers create false markets which ordinary people buy into and lose money on. In the Saatchi -infested YBA generation of artists, artists became the gladiators of ancient Rome and stars on a level with Premier League football players.
"I don't think there is a disconnect—there is rather an over-connection. The money splurged on these big-name artists generates headlines—the money and the headlines make the artists into stars. The museums want attention and to increase footfall, so they exhibit the work of these new stars"
~ Ben Lewis
Presently prices in contemporary art sales are down by 40%, in what is described as a top-end meltdown and scary stories of art remaining unsold or bought in by artists or their gallerists (remember the Hirst diamond encrusted skull pictured above which sold for over £9 million,which Hirst later admitted he had bought a 1/3 stake in himself, later) are doing the rounds, similar to those which precipitated the crisis in the art market in the early 90s and two years ago.
But then again, the never risk-averse Gagosian opened a new gallery in Calvin, Switzerland this week, perhaps so he can race his money to the banks more quickly. Come and ask Ben difficult questions in the Q + A after the film premiere,what he thinks of the contemporary art market and whether the recession has changed the two-faced art-world forever. Tickets available here
Buy Art Bubble and Ben's other notable art documentaries, Art Safari, here.