Academy-Award nominated Director Nathaniel Kahn offers unprecedented access into the contemporary art world through The Price of Everything, which the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center is screening at Guild Hall in East Hampton as part of the Center’s Present Tense series on Saturday, January 26.
“Art is always a reflection of us, and who we are and our times. So art and how art is being used right now is showing us this intensely commodified world that we live in. And I do think we have to take a really hard look at that,” Kahn explained. “Because the world we have gotten into right now is a world in which we are confusing the price of something with its intrinsic value.”
“The Price of Everything takes on the increasing commodification of visual art and the impact of this phenomenon on all of us, but most especially on artists themselves,” Carla Solomon, Producer of the film, relayed.
The documentary brings together collectors, dealers, auctioneers and artists, including Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and Larry Poons, who offer their unique perspectives on the dynamics of the art world.
“I’m not here to pass judgement on the people who are in the film,” Kahn said. “But I am absolutely here to bear witness to what’s going on. Having seen the intense commodification of art over the last decade, and feeling alienated by it, it seemed like the sort of thing that should be looked at more closely.”
The film, which premiered at Sundance in January of 2018, was acquired by HBO.
“Kahn traces the boom in the contemporary art market to 1973, when taxi fleet owner Robert Scull and his wife, Ethel, unloaded more than 50 works by Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg at Sotheby’s Parke Bernet auction house in New York. Today the prices seem laughable—Rauschenberg’s Thaw went for $85,000—but at the time they were astonishing, signaling that money could be made trading such previously outré fare,” Devin Leonard of Bloomberg reflected.
“Kahn is a quiet filmmaker, and he gently prods his sources to go beyond the typical art world hyperbole of ‘gorgeous’ and ‘wonderful.’ And in a cool, clear-eyed way, he reveals how the $400-million sausage is made, how capitalism has turned art from idea into inventory,” lauded Carolina A. Miranda of the Los Angeles Times, while A. O. Scott of The New York Times said, “This colorful and inquisitive cinematic essay on the state of the art world is occasionally skeptical and consistently thoughtful.”
Kahn, Solomon, and artist John Alexander will take part in a Q&A following the screening.
“Artists have always been at the core of life on the East End, and I expect that Saturday’s Guild Hall screening will resonate with this audience in a special way,” Solomon noted. “Also, a number of the characters have had personal ties to this place. One of my favorite moments is an elegant soliloquy Jerry Saltz does on Jackson Pollock towards the end of the film.”
Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. The screening will commence at 6 p.m.
“Finally, as a Sag Harbor resident I am thrilled to have SHCAC as the film’s screening partner,” Solomon added. “There are no better champions of art in every form, and no better examples of the truth that artists make all communities better— than April and The Sag Harbor Partnership team!”
Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For tickets or more information, visit www.sagharborcinema.org.