Intelligence Squared Asia Debate


Ahead of the Intelligence Squared Asia debate on the relationship between the market and art quality, Edmund Lee asks: ‘Should a good artist ever pay attention to the market?’

Since 2009, the art-focused Intelligence Squared Asia debates have proven one of the highlights of the Hong Kong Art Fair. This year, it returns with the latest instalment, tackling the subject: ‘The Market is the Best Judge of Art’s Quality’. Ahead of the debate, which brings together critics, curators, academics and writers from the world of art, we conduct a mini-debate of our own with the five participants – on a slightly different question: ‘Should a good artist ever pay attention to the market’. Here’s what the respected panel had to say...

Matthew Collings, British art critic, writer, broadcaster and artist
Against the motion in the IQ2 debate
“Responding to the question ‘should a good artist ever pay attention to the market?’, I think if anyone should pay attention to it it’s those who provide product for it. What would it mean to avoid it? Either they’re out of the market because they’re unsuccessful or so successful they can pay someone else to pay attention on their behalf. That servant or set of servants is an extension of the artist, so the artist really is paying attention, even though she or he is able to enjoy the luxury, because of great wealth, of pretending the market doesn’t exist. In reality, of course, no one ignores it, unless they’re nothing to do with it, but no artist is, they’re always part of it in some way. Being ‘good’ or not has nothing to do with alertness to it but to factors involved in the particular concerns the artist has.”

Amy Cappellazzo, chairman of post-war and contemporary development at Christie’s
For the motion in the IQ2 debate
“You could re-write this question to read ‘should a wise person ever pay attention to the weather?’ One can never control it. It should never inhibit one’s plans, but it is unrealistic, even quixotic, that one not pay attention to either the weather or the market of an artist – their market. A good artist should think about ideas and make work in the most expansive and creative way possible. That is surely top priority.”

Charles Guarino, publisher of Artforum International Magazine
Moderator of the IQ2 debate
“Artists are ever mindful of their audience, of which the market is a logical extension – some might say synonymous. The notion of the lonely artist pursuing his or her vision in defiance and isolation is romantic but absurd. Creative acts are by nature meant for sharing. Artists may act driven largely by their inspiration, they may prize originality, and they may be willing to make great sacrifices to create their work but they rarely act without the intention to share their vision and garner approbation. Selling work may not be the primary motivation, but it’s surely there before brush touches canvas. The real question is ‘do good artists ever ignore the market?’”

Rirkrit Tiravanija, contemporary artist and professor of visual arts at Columbia University School of the Arts
Against the motion in the IQ2 debate
“No artist should not pay attention to the market.”


Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
For the motion in the IQ2 debate
"The politically correct answer to this question is ‘never’! The practical answer is that the market is an essential element in our cultural communications system. Successful artists do not just make artworks for themselves. They create in order to share their vision of the world. In order to disseminate that vision and have a dialogue with other artists, most take advantage of the communications structure provided by the art market. Artists who pay too much attention to the market sometimes dilute the strength of their vision by turning out work that is more ‘product’ than art. Sometimes artists who deliberately drop out of the market because they oppose what they see as its negative influence end up dropping out of the art dialogue as well."

The five speakers are set to tackle the motion The Market Is the Best Judge of Art’s Quality at the Intelligence Squared Asia Debate at HKCEC on May 24 at 6.30pm. For tickets and additional information, visit


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