Nathaniel Kahn The Price of Everything

Nathaniel Kahn The Price of Everything

Exploring The Labyrinth Of The Contemporary Art World

Cast: Amy Cappellazzo, George Condo, Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Director: Nathaniel Kahn
Genre: Documentary
Rated: M
Running Time: 98 minutes

Synopsis: Paintings by Basquiat and Gerhard Richter sell at auction for tens of millions of dollars; a multi- story inflatable ballerina by Jeff Koons dwarfs visitors at Rockefeller Centre; a solid gold toilet by Maurizio Cattelan is installed in the Guggenheim Museum for all to see and use. Today, art is spectacle, big bucks and front-page news. As a society, we have become less concerned with the aesthetic and social values of art, and more concerned with brand names and the business of it all. Many feel that art has become a pawn of the ultra-rich"an exclusive investment class with perks and loopholes out of reach to the average citizen. High-end art fairs are springing up all over the world and collectors flip works at auction and squirrel away their trophies in high security warehouses.

Are we in the midst of an art crisis? Can the value of art really be measured in dollars and cents? How are these values assigned and who assigns them? Does the art market have a chilling effect on our great museums and the ability of the public to engage in the art of our time? Most importantly, what does this new consumerist approach to art mean for artists themselves?

The Price of Everything explores these questions and demystifies the rarefied world of contemporary art in a dynamic and entertaining way. With unprecedented access to artists, dealers, collectors and auction houses, the film takes us deep into a hidden world where nothing is what it seems. In revealing scenes and interviews, we come to understand how the art market actually works and we confront the challenges of being an artist in the current environment" where success can come at lightning speed, only to evaporate next season, and where even the most revered creators must find ways to block out the temptations of the market if they wish to remain in control of their creative process.

The Price of Everything offers a complex portrait of a late capitalist society confronting itself. While holding a funhouse mirror up to our consumerist culture, the film ultimately reaffirms the transcendent power of art itself and the deep need we have for it in our lives.

The Price of Everything
Release Date: March 7th, 2019

Director's Statement – Nathaniel Kahn

Growing up in a family of creative people, I saw firsthand how difficult it is to live life as an artist. Of course, there are great rewards for pursuing one's artistic passions, but along with those rewards, come demons. Every artist has them, some from without, some from within, but one demon all artists seem to share is money: it's hell when you don't have it and, ironically, it can be hell when you do have it. Money explores an artist's weaknesses"chase it and you can lose your way, disregard it and you can end up with nothing.

Then there is the opaque and bewildering world of the art market. The market has always been a capricious beast; favouring, ignoring, loving, withholding, elevating certain artists one moment only to drop them the next. But in recent years the market has captured the public imagination as it has soared to dizzying heights, with contemporary works going for a hundred million and more and a painting, supposedly by Leonardo da Vinci, fetching 450 million at auction in the fall of 2017. In spite of these newsy items, however, the fact remains that most artists"even great ones"struggle mightily and most of them never generate much money in their lifetimes, if ever. Does money corrupt art? Is it a necessary evil? Is there such a thing as intrinsic value that transcends the world of commerce, or is this just a comforting myth, promulgated by hopeless romantics and idealists?

The relationship between art and money has always fascinated me and I've wanted to make a film exploring that relationship since making My Architect over 10 years ago. But, "a film about art and money" is an absurdly broad topic. There could be a million ways of doing it. Where do you possibly start? In this regard, I was extremely lucky to work with producers who allowed me to approach the particular demon of "too many options" the only way I know how to deal with it: start shooting.

It is very much the record of the odyssey we took through the art world over the period of a couple of years. It evolved organically and it is populated by remarkable characters from all parts of the art world, and by artists with many different trajectories through it. It is a film composed not of interviews, but of scenes"encounters"through which we explored a world vastly more puzzling and contradictory than I ever imagined. In the end, it seems to me the art world holds a much-needed mirror up to our contemporary society, allowing us to glimpse ourselves for a moment and to question where we are going as individuals and as a civilization.

If there's one thing I'd like audiences to take from this film, it's to open their eyes to seeing art again on their own terms. The people in the film taught me to do that, each in their own way, and I am very grateful to them for it. They also taught me, whether they intended to or not, that in spite of what the market may say, there actually is very little intrinsic connection between value and price. The idealist and hopeless romantic in me believes, now more than ever, that there really is something in art that transcends money, that twists free of commerce and that, at its best, points the way towards some kind of enlightenment. Most artists pay a high personal price for what they do, but they are bringing things into being that we human beings cannot do without.
– Nathaniel Kahn

The Price of Everything
Release Date: March 7th, 2019