All art these days is conceptual art. Content and style are no longer relevant to an artwork’s value. It doesn’t matter if that art is mass market or “fine.” Look at the wing panels of this altar of art first…

Mass market art, typified by blockbuster movies, is all about target markets, focus groups, and box office receipts. With it the elites monetize our hopes and desires. OK, for an hour or two we save the world, fall in reciprocated love or just get laid/even. When its over we still have nothing we hoped for or desired, but less money. We’d be better of staring at blank screens lost in our private dreams.

Fine art, as well, is nothing but a concept. For the elite who owns it, all that counts is its pedigree and potential. Art’s values to him are only the status he gets by owning it and the money he’ll make when he sells it. He get nothing from experiencing it, it might as well be in a vault and usually is.

How did all this happen? If this altar’s wings were closed you’d see images of Saints Maurice (Duchamp) and Edward (Bernays) high fiving in the afterlife, pleased how their ideas have come home to roost in today’s art worlds, in both toney penthouses and homes near yours.

St. Maurice of “Fountain” fame rejected paint on canvas as art early in his career disparaging it as merely “retinal.” He hated the way modern art downplayed the content in favor of form. While I like his content heavy and ironically aesthetic post-painting work, I blame him for opening the gate for all that post-pop investment-grade “art” that infests our world today.

Then there is St. Edward, nephew of Freud, father of public relations, who brought classical conditioning to the marketplace; Happy Meals® equal happy families and so on. He thought that enlightened CEOs, wise politicians and other mythical creatures were better at running our lives than we were. Art for them is just one of several means to an end, a currency, and as such that end is usually increased wealth.

The center panel shows where it all happens, a factory where false equivalences masquerading as art are cranked out to order, and hustled off to marketplaces high, low and in between where they are sold for highest price that that market will bear. For us. these formless content-less objects reflect our desires but they do little to fulfill them. Are they as useless for the elites? I’d like to think so, but who knows.

And it seem talent has little to with success in art worlds. Fame and fortune go to the few who’s egos have survived the near continuous rejection of it all. Some are very lucky; they get their break before they are worn to dust. Others seem to be sociopaths who can beat the sick systems at their own games. I ‘d like to think that this fine art is not marketed as ironic because irony is marketable but because the perps are embarrassed by the sincere greed behind its production, but I’m probably wrong.