In 2008, sociologist Sarah Thornton came out with the book Seven Days in the Art World, which was a pretty softball look at segments of the art world. Now she's done something quite different, something like a manifesto, for curator Francesco Bonami's magazine TAR. She's written a piece called "Top 10 Reasons NOT to Write About the Art Market."
As an arts journalist, it's often difficult to figure out when to bother writing about what's going on in the art market. Another $100 million Damien Hirst provocation? Another Scream sale? Good blog fodder, maybe, but the truth is that I could not possibly care less about the bizarre activities of billionaires. I'd rather pay attention to artists. (Nevertheless, here's my opening to send you, if you do care about the bizarre activities of billionaires who don't tell reporters anything, toward a recent "profile" of Paul Allen by Blake Gopnik for Newsweek.)
The number-one reason Thornton provides that I can relate to is this one:
You end up writing about paintings by white American men more than is warranted. You appear to endorse works you dislike and artists that you consider historically irrelevant because the day’s financial news dictates the shape of your narrative.
I would go further. Art market reporting is not financial news. It's financial-news porn. It's a voyeuristic, vacuous distraction from the facts of the finances, and certainly from any analysis of how that wealth was amassed in the first place, how much of it there actually is, how it is used, and how that stratospheric activity affects the atmosphere down here on Earth.
There are also these good reasons: "Oligarchs and dictators are not cool." "It enables manipulators to publicize the artists whose prices they spike at auction." "It never leads to regulation." "It amplifies the influence of the art market." And "the most interesting stories are libelous." Go read the whole thing.