Wednesday 26 April 2023

Kows and Cats

CATPC and Renzo Martens will be the Dutch entry for the Venice Biennale of 2024. In light of this announcement I'm reminded of something their gallerist Alexander Koch wrote in the book 'CATPC' from 2017: 'it is becoming clear how different the social, economic and contentual dimensions of these sculptures appear when looked at from different points of view. Our gallery KOW is one of those locations where social and economic inequality can be critically reflected on from a position of privilege.'
He goes on to say that: 'any such attempt to reorganise the art world's ideological parameters, symbolic capitals, material resources, and social privileges so that they actually reduce inequality rather than increase it will inevitably involve pitfalls. This particular model has a number of economic aspects, one of which is that 50 percent of the profits from the sale of the CATPC's sculptures flow to Lusanga, while the other 50 percent remain, as is usual, with the gallery in Berlin. This is not about creating an exception to the rule, but rather a different constellation of actors and relationships.'

The particular phrasing of 'as is usual', reminds me of another text from about sixty years earlier. Marcel Broodthaers speaks about his gallerist on the invitation to his first-ever exhibition, saying: 'if I sell something, he'll take 30%. These are, it seems, normal conditions.' We can sense Broodthaers' indignation at the workings of the gallery system and by explicating that this high commission is business as usual, he reassures us, and perhaps himself, that he isn't being exploited.

If sixty years ago the mention of a thirty percent commission was still something that could rattle an audience, Alexander Koch assures us today that a fifty percent commission on all sales is a non-negotiable proposition. For all its focus on social issues and reduction of inequality, Koch and friends don't seem to wish to question the accumulation of wealth, and power, in the gallery system that has quietly occurred over the last decades and which has done nothing but deepen the links between art and capital.
Simply proclaiming such self-serving business choices as inescapable truths is about as far from facilitating any 'attempt to reorganise the art world's ideological parameters' as one could get.