neil cummings



I wrote a short text, commissioned by katya Sander for Circulation, a special issue of Printed Projects.


I assembled some of the research I did around art auctions........

Markets are a brilliant bundle of technologies, assembled to circulate things. All kinds of things. The most visible form of market, is the competitive market. A neo-classical economic model of a competitive market, pictures rational individuals pursuing their own self-interest - without regard for others - as the motive force for markets. The laws of supply and demand at play amongst these rational individuals, extrudes the values - often represented by a financial price – exchanged, in any transaction. These fundamental elements; rational agents, supply and demand and price mechanisms function in all markets everywhere; like natural laws.

Except of course competitive markets don’t actually work like this. Or at least, only in ideological models.

Principally this is because, the neo-classical model is spectacularly under-socialized. Enabling values to be made, and made present is part of the work that markets do. And every value expressed as a price, is a nexus of myriad social processes. Markets are meshworks of embedded desires, needs, rules, technologies, rituals and obligations, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the markets for the circulation of contemporary art.

Outside of public museums, and some secretive private collections, artworks circulate through competitive markets. But how does this circulation take place? What are these embedded desires, rules, behaviours and obligations? The bankruptcy of art history, the public failure of criticism and art theory, the lack of consensus over the relevance of art, has enabled the values of competitive markets to dominate our recent evaluations of contemporary art. And markets mark the things that circulate within them. [......]



A version of the text (without footnotes) is here. I used it as the basis of a presentation at Wysing, and it's related to Bouvard and Pecuchet


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