In a commentary on the art market, Lexander reveals how the Damien Hirst worldwide exhibition at Gagosian, “The Complete Spot Paintings: 1986-2011,” prefigures the rise of the emerging avant-garde of the 21st century.
“There is an elephant in the room, and the Emperor is clearly not wearing any clothes. When you dare to mention the existence of this specter, there is a deafening silence of such magnitude that no one wants to hear the name they already know,” says Lexander, an internationally active art dealer principally based in New York and Los Angeles.
The name of the specter he is referring to is the blue chip contemporary artist Damien Hirst, who is currently being featured in an exhibition at all of Gagosian’s eleven galleries around the world. The title of that exhibition is “The Complete Spot Paintings: 1986-2011″ and solely consists of a large series of paintings involving simple dots of many different colors and sizes. Lexander has identified this exhibition as signaling a significant turning point in the global art market. “We no longer hear much mention of the ‘art world,’ but we certainly hear quite a bit about the ‘art market.’ This exhibition of the Spot paintings of Damien Hirst is not only a perfect example of why this is so, but the fact of the existence of this exhibition illustrates in the most resoundingly clear fashion why the blue chip contemporary art market is on the decline. It is on the decline because it is all about the market. It has ceased to have anything remotely credible to do with art. The work of Damien Hirst is the greatest example of that. I can think of none better.”The wide interest of blue chip collectors displayed at last month’s Art Basel Miami Beach art show in the work of emerging and undervalued artists also prefigures this downturn, according to Lexander. “There were many collectors at last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach who normally would never give much thought to the idea of investing in art below the blue chip range, and we would see them buying the work of emerging artists and established artists who remain undervalued and under appreciated. We’re talking about art below even the $50,000 mark. For some, this was an incredible thing to witness, but we’ve been discussing this cyclic phenomena for years. When the contemporary art market becomes too saturated with the same old thing, when it becomes too absurd, when it has become so overtly corporate to be completely senseless, the collectors will react against it. And they’ve been reacting against it for the last couple of years. Even Damien Hirst, as an art collector, has reacted against it. It would be interesting to see if Damien Hirst, the collector, would be willing to make a significant investment in the work of Damien Hirst, the artist-technician.”What changes may we expect to see occur in the art market in 2012? Lexander believes that as serious collectors become increasingly disillusioned with the state of the blue chip contemporary market, we will witness the recognition of the emergence of the new avant-garde of the 21st century: “We have been seeing serious collectors resist the trends of the contemporary market, investing instead in the art of previous eras. The work of the Pop artists, most notably Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, continue to command incredible sums at auction. The most serious and educated collectors seek after those voices that were original and unusual enough to get their names detonated into the annals of the art world. In terms of the avant-garde, there was little of interest occurring after the 1980s. Given the turbulent state of the world today, this is starting to change. The avant-garde always thrives best when the tragic absurdity of day-to-day reality becomes all too real.”
Beginning 2012 with an exhibition of East German political poster art, opening on January 20th in Downtown Los Angeles, a week following the opening of “The Complete Spot Paintings” of Damien Hirst at Gagosian, and organizing exhibitions later in the year for contemporary artists he views as critical to the emergence of the new avant-garde, such as G. B. Jones, Lexander is confident the changes in the art market will be for the better: “We will see the shift towards a return to an art world centered around the artist, rather than around the financial whims and dictates of an ever changing and turbulent market. The artist is the center of the art world. Without the artist, we have nothing but a glorified market of commodities. We are part of that generation of dealers and gallerists who for years have been working tirelessly and ceaselessly to make this fact known, that we fight for the artists, to make their voices heard. We are finding now, in the midst of all the chaos and confusion, that their voices are being heard, loudly reverberating across the spectrum. It is an extraordinary time to be alive.”