Art and Value – Museum Collections as Commons

A Review of Art and Value: Art’s Economic Exceptionalism in Classical, Neoclassical and Marxist Economics by Dave Beech

In: Historical Materialism
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  • 1 School of Art, College of the Arts, California State University, Long Beach

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Abstract

Art and Value: Art’s Economic Exceptionalism in Classical, Neoclassical and Marxist Economics reveals the irreconcilable differences between the Marxist economic definition of the term ‘value’ and its other uses in relation to the art object. It corrects the faulty assumption, symptomatic of a capitalist worldview, that rare or historic objects bear intrinsic value. Beech’s analysis of art’s value-form is critical to unpacking the double ontological condition of art as both an object of collective symbolic value and as a hoard of monetary value, since the two operate in mutually exclusive spheres, yet function to constitute one another. The book can help us understand the capitalist sleight of hand that allows art to flicker between two forms of being, making profit appear as value, and value appear as significance (and vice versa), the toggling between the two facilitating the transfer of commonly-held symbolic value in support of the individual accumulation of wealth.

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