asked me to submit a comment in response to the question "
What is Contemporary Art in South Africa worth?" for their newsletter. Not having the foggiest idea of how to even begin answering this, the first thing I did was ask my Twitter network, and
shot right back with the answer: "
". I loved that. But my response needed to be 300 words, so I came up with this longer version. I'm not very art savvy, though I'm getting into it, so I'd like to know what you think:
Our society is increasingly distracted and our attention is fragmented. Everything is information - from the colours of cars, the adverts all around us, shows on television, and the textbooks we never read. If Attention is the Amount of Information we can process in a moment, then Contemporary Art is an incredibly efficient way for us to invest our Attention. This idea of an Economy of Attention helps explain the value of Contemporary Art for me.
The basic idea with Attention Economics is that Information consumes Attention. It might sound inconsequential until you consider the overwhelming amount of information we're exposed to every day.
As consumers of Information, we have to make choices about where to invest the relatively scarce Attention that we have. Our choices are generally informed by where we think we'll get the most reward for our investment of our Attention - where we'll get the most information, experience, or insight for our time. Those who are able to attract us can create value simply by lending their Reputation to anything we can engage with.
You can see this in effect with artists, like
, who are able to make a decent living off the Attention they get for their creations. The value is not in the objects they create, but the Attention and Reputation they are vested with. In Hirst's case at least, Reputation is as good as the
, one of the world's first show-biz millionaires, once said: "No publicity is bad publicity".
Since I'm a Marketer, and Marketer's love lists with P's, I use
to assess the enduring value of contemporary art:
For me, the value of great Contemporary Art is its ability to invest a creation with the experiences, insights, and reputation and information, not only of the artist, but of everyone who participates in the work - whether by creating, viewing, critiquing or buying it. The more we discuss it, the more Attention we give it, the more valuable it becomes.