The central question at the core of Nathaniel Kahn’s The Price of Everything is how importantly, or inherently, is money connected to art? The answer reveals itself through the understanding of artists, historians and dealers, with that importance going higher as monetary power does. In other words, this documentary ultimately makes two points: art is inherently financial, and capitalism will slowly but surely cause the demise of it.
This documentary consists of a lot of interviews, most of them taking place in the workplaces of those interviewed. There are some interviews conducted with the actual artists themselves, discussing how they feel about money, how their careers as artists allow them to make a living and, in relation to the interviews with Larry Poons, what happens when you are no longer the golden boy. However, the majority of the screen time is devoted to the dealers and collectors; people who look at the works and don’t see meaning, but rather dollar signs – people who know the ins and outs of art as commodity. The most boring artists are valourized, due to their price, while the idea of museums is looked down upon as “socialism.” This way of thought also leads to the artists themselves giving into excess, creating boring works that cost a lot with the knowledge that they can sell for a lot—think of the visual art version of a James Cameron film—and progressive politics themselves finding themselves sucked into the whole trendy zeitgeist.
The best way to describe this documentary is disgusting. The minimalization of art to the monetary figures is absolutely awful, but that is the entire point. While the interviewed individuals are not in on the cultural commentary, it is pretty obvious what side the filmmakers stand on. So, with this in mind, the doc is certainly successful. However, if you are an art lover, this may be a difficult watch.
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