How has capitalism influenced art

Art and market thinking"Capitalism and modern art come from the same root"

Stefan Koldehoff: And with art and business, things go a little further, just under a week before Christmas. With art and capitalism, to be precise - after all, you can give pictures and graphics and sculptures and and and yes, really great.

In any case, nobody has been able to hear the eternal give-or-not-give debate for years - because there simply cannot be a correct answer. The Cologne artist Ralf Peters initiated or revived another discussion for this and in this context. Namely, how artists can actually still find their own position beyond the capitalist system. Mr. Peters: Why is that an issue at all?

Ralf Peters: First of all, it was a very personal topic for me a few years ago, when I was just artistically at a point where I wanted to position myself again, and through these attempts at self-positioning, the topic then came about once developed in a more general direction for me. I think that the artist in our fully capitalized system may already have a few important functions, and some of these functions are not affirmative, to put it that way, but could perhaps pull the artists themselves out of too tight a grip this capitalist thinking.

Koldehoff: You approach the subject historically. You start with Friedrich Schiller and the letters on aesthetic education. Schiller wanted to counter the alienation of people from work and products and the world as a whole with a concept that should come from art, that should lead to a more humane existence again. Wasn't that a bad thought at the time?

Peters: Yes I believe that too. That was a good thought then and that would still be a good thought today. But the situation is no longer the same.

"A system that turns counter movements into goods itself"

Koldehoff: What has changed?

Peters: What has changed is that capitalist thinking, the spirit of capitalism, as I then call it in this book here with Max Weber and Max Scheler, has gotten so out of hand that it has to be more about it, for the artist in general to find any niches in which something like an artistic existence could still be possible.

Koldehoff: That means not adapting to this system, which, if you follow you in your book, actually has a firm grip on all areas of society.

Peters: Yes exactly. Not adapting, or at least knowing when to adapt. To find a position in which it is possible to decide the distance to capitalist thinking yourself, to determine yourself.

Koldehoff: That sounds a bit black and white. Is capitalism per se a form that always strives for affirmation, for reassurance, for confirmation?

Peters: I would say that capitalism is definitely a system that always seeks to be appropriated. Everything that there is in a society that functions capitalistically wants from capitalism - whatever that means; this is of course not a subject that actually acts. But in this system there is a tendency that the various counter-movements to capitalism are also appropriated and made into commodities themselves, made into products that can be resold on a market.

Koldehoff: Has that ever been different in the history of being an artist, of being an artist?

Peters: I think so. It was of course always the case that artists had to live in some way and had to be paid for what they did. But I don't think that was so important in early or pre-capitalist societies. There were completely different reasons why artists made art, for example religious reasons, and of course that had a completely different context than is the case today in capitalism.

Koldehoff: The price for this was, of course, that you had to please back then - be it the church as the client or the royal houses as the client. Private collecting and with it private taste and freedom did not exist at first.

Peters: That didn't exist back then - exactly. In other words, it is also very important to see that the form of art that we have today has also developed within a cultural history to which capitalism also belongs, and one could even say that capitalism and modern art as we understand it today, come from the same root, namely the renaissance of modernity, if you will. In this respect, of course, there are not only negative aspects; there are an incredible number of possibilities and chances that opened up for modern art in the first place, that did not exist before.

Koldehoff: One of the central questions you keep asking in your book is integrity and demeanor.

Peters: Yes.

Koldehoff: How can one develop a position of integrity as an artist in a fully capitalized society? - How can you, Mr. Peters?

Anyone who wants to survive as an artist has to compromise

Peters: Yes, it's a big question and I don't know if I already have the answer to it. That is only (this little book) a step on the way to thinking further. An important aspect for me at least would be what I have already said in principle, that one tries to keep the distance to capitalist thinking or at least to know how I can keep it. As an artist, I can't completely pull myself out of our society. If I want to survive, I have to compromise in some way on this economic level, or in some way bring what I do into the market. But for my own thinking, for my self-image, I may succeed in finding a position again and again and again in which I remain with integrity for what I am actually about in art, for the word again to use.

Koldehoff: Is that a question that is posed above all to young artists? If you ask a Gerhard Richter, a Georg Baselitz, a David Hockney, do you paint for the market or for the capitalist system, then they will vehemently deny it.

Peters: Yes. But I think they don't deny it primarily because they are relatively old and experienced, but because they no longer have to earn any more money to survive, but they are successful artists on the one hand Are so respected in the market that on the other hand they can also do what they want - great for these artists and an incredible amount of good art happens as a result. But most artists, regardless of whether they are younger or older, experienced or not so experienced, are in a completely different basic situation in which the question of how can I survive as an artist is repeatedly asked anew.

Koldehoff: Are these assertive artists we are talking about now that you accord a certain level of integrity in your canon?

Peters: In any case. I believe that someone like Gerhard Richter really managed to do it for himself - and that speaks for him as an artist and really also as a mature person - not to allow himself to be influenced in any way by what the art market does to him that he wants to serve this market. But of course he has now also had this status in which he, no matter what he does - and that's always interesting, challenging, stimulating in some way, I don't want to say good - he just does what is possible for him and what is necessary for him as an artist. In this respect, it is very honest.

Koldehoff: We have just already talked about the fact that in Schiller's time capitalism did not exist in its present form. When do philosophers and artists themselves start thinking about the topic, how do I position myself in this society?

Peters: That certainly begins in the era of emerging socialism in the 19th century. There would be Marx, there the early socialists in France could certainly be named. In what I have written and what I am still writing about, I tend to refer to a somewhat later representative, Max Scheler, a philosopher who was not an artist himself, but as a philosopher to a great deal, sometimes for us today too strangely concerned with art and also with the importance of art and artistry for a society which, in his opinion - these texts to which I refer - were written at the beginning of the 20th century shortly before the First World War played for this capitalism.

Koldehoff: Also from his own biography or why did he deal with it?

Peters: Not based on his own biography to the extent that as an artist or intellectual creator, as he calls it, he would have suffered from capitalism in this way. It also took him a long time to get a permanent position at a university, but I don't think that was a purely personal reference, I think it was about that in a really classic and typically philosophical way As a whole and in this question about the whole, he saw that capitalism is a very important aspect.

Koldehoff: If you go to art colleges today or take part in these tours that take place once a year and talk to young - I have just learned, it's not because of their age - artists who are not as asserted as yet, then you will hear that it is meanwhile there are seminars on the subject of artists and marketing, how do I become successful, how do I position myself at least mercantile in the art market. Does that contradict your demands?

Better quality through distance to the market

Peters: I don't know if that's a contradiction. It can't hurt to know how to get feedback in the world for what you do as an artist. The danger, of course, is that if you learn to use marketing in this way, you will then fall into this spirit of capitalism more than it might be good for your own art.

Koldehoff: Does that contradict a quality concept?

Peters: That at least contradicts the idea of ​​a certain artistic integrity and I would also say a quality thought, because if I start too early to consider in my art how I bring this art into the world, successfully bring it into the world, that has an influence on what I do as an artist. Probably what I do, if I keep it a bit at a distance, is at least qualitatively more interesting.

Koldehoff: Do you give art for Christmas? Do you take part in the art market?

Peters: If you counted books as art, yes. Otherwise not.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt the statements of its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.