Art Auctions

Occupy Sotheby’s

Damien Hurst work being auctioned at Sotheby’s

Here’s a very different take on the intersection of activism and art. Protesters aligned with Occupy Wall Street disrupted an art auction at Sotheby’s, because the company has locked out its art handlers in an attempt to shrink its numbers of unionized workers and curtail benefits — despite record profits. As reported on, a number of activists stood up during the auction and shouted out facts about this unjust lockout, before being escorted out of the building.

Most of the organizing discussed on this site sees art as a vehicle for marginalized voices and social change. But Sotheby’s represents the other side of the art world, and this dispute reminds us that art is not inherently disruptive or radical — it all depends on how it is made and, in this case, how it is understood, bought, and sold. Whatever the original artists had in mind, in the context of Sotheby’s corporate auctions, which sell art to the very rich for extremely high prices, art becomes a commodity and an integral part of both economic and cultural hegemony. (more…)