PRINT May 2016

Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, editorial photograph for “Stranger in Paradise,” W, September 2000.

I AM, BY MOST STANDARDS, a successful artist—not up to auction-house metrics, but I survive, which is some sort of achievement. There are many ugly stories to tell about the art market, but I will begin with just one aspect: my experience with the top fashion houses of our time.

The owners of these companies are also big art collectors, as we all know. Their net worth is in the billions, but they make nothing of any real value. Sort of like an artist. I’m sure this all just sounds like the sour grapes they sell in fancy champagne bottles. Maybe with a Koons label?

To be up-front, I will state that I have worked for many of these companies. As clients, they’re not bad. They have the budgets. Some companies just waste the money on a few fashion photographers’ redundant predictability. They certainly don’t spend it on the quality of their goods. An Hermès bag isn’t any better made than most other bags. The knockoffs are proof. The difference is the price. As with art, when you see a product from one of these houses, you know that someone spent a lot for that display of taste. Some like their champagne astringent, some like it sickly sweet; they all want the bubbles. Remember Bubbles, the character in The Wire? Remember Bubbles, the Jeff Koons sculpture? Remember that income disparity is at an all-time high? Remember the economic bubbles? Remember who floated their boats on the bubbles?

There is, like the logo that “luxury” companies ensure that you cannot miss on their products, a relationship between these companies’ choice of art and a market. I was asked to do a project for Valentino. I was never told that the “curator” of that project was a friend, Francesco Bonami. You can look him up. There wasn’t much money—less than editorial. I used the production money for something personal during the shoot. People trusted my credibility and I bartered for their efforts. (The venue was secured with two free prints, one for the owner, one for the location scout. The principal model was also paid with a print of her from the shoot. Others, including two children, were paid small amounts.) It was all about promoting Valentino, but I never knew that Valentino is owned by a firm based in Qatar—the profligate emirate that denies women’s rights and supports Islamist insurgencies while enriching the so-called liberals who build showcase museums or sell art that hardly even amounts to self-regarding décor.

I was also given a great opportunity by Dior, who assisted in the production of my first-ever attempt at cinema. Even if the end result only lasted one minute, I learned a lot. I am grateful to those who enabled those encapsulating sixty seconds.

Now I’m trying to understand a few things, without getting angry with these superrich luxury companies, who, I think, pose their art investments purely as cultural enhancement instead of money in their already enormous bank accounts.

Artists hardly even qualify as whores. Contemporary art is a cock ring on a giant erection pumped up by capitalism and keeping the masters of that game from cumming. I think they like it. I think the artists like it, too. They get to pretend to be profound. Some are. Most are hemorrhoids waiting to happen. The blood that pumps it all up is money. Green blood.

Who has a problem with that? We all want some of it. Just please don’t take it seriously. No, actually, do take it seriously. If you did, I would be impoverished, and maybe my life would have been worth more.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia is an artist based in New York.