PRINT April 2008


OVER THE PAST DECADE, popular interest in contemporary art has soared to greater heights than at any other moment in our history; at the same time, the market for the art of today has broadened and deepened, becoming global to an extraordinary degree. In this special issue, Artforum seeks to tease out the root causes—and diagnose the symptoms—of this radical expansion. Calling on contributors from a variety of backgrounds, from critic to collector, artist to fair organizer, we set out to consider the state of contemporary art in light of the economic realities that underwrite it.

In his keynote essay, art historian Thomas Crow traces the origins of today’s art market from early-modern patronage systems to contemporary relationships between artists and megacollectors like Eli Broad and Charles Saatchi, arguing that recent fi n-de-siècle spectacles—be they glistening balloon dogs, monumentally scaled Cor-Ten steel geometries, or a diamond-encrusted vanitas—should trouble us less than certain shifts in attitude among the philanthropic class. In the pages that follow, more than a dozen essays, case studies, and interviews build on these and related themes, responding to a set of conditions that, historical parallels notwithstanding, seems, finally, sui generis.