Arte documents “Is this art?” ask big questions

sRomantics should be warned: anyone who dreams of the world of art as a haven for misappreciated geniuses who allow their visions to become untouched by the ignorance of their contemporaries should instead browse a picture book on Van Gogh rather than watch the documentary “Is This Art?” on Arte. In four and a half hours, director Felix von Bohm and art critic Silke Hohmann of “Monopol” magazine invite you on a tour of the world of art and the multi-billion-dollar business of the global art trade. At its center, the world’s largest art gallery Art Basel in its original location, exploration begins with seemingly simple questions: Who makes art? how much does it cost? Who buys it? And what constitutes art anyway?

Stars such as German-Polish sculptor Alija Kwade, Giessen-born performance artist Anne Imhof and Ghanaian painter Amwako Boava appear as heroes. Young, feminine, postcolonial: the contemporary selection represents different artistic genres, temperaments and career paths with their own challenges. This creates a variety of ideas.

Boafa, who is watched over his shoulder creating his finger-painted portraits of black people, owes his Instagram fame as the appeal of non-white artists has grown. His work is so widely traded on the auction market that he and his gallery owner are happy to limit their speculation. Alicja Kwade is presented as an artistic entrepreneur on a mega project produced in Berlin by her great team and presented in the California desert: Impossible without the capital to back it. Anne Imhoff, winner of the 2017 Venice Biennale Golden Lion, thinks out loud about the limits of art. She runs a real company, both creatively and financially.

Collectors like Karen and Christian Borus, gallery owners like Johann König, auction houses like Christie’s, spoken about by Dirk Paul, and art and museum critics. Well-lubricated machine elements become visible, as supply and demand determine each other, which increases production and prices and creates fashion. Much is touched upon only hastily – the controversial Kunsthalle Berlin’s “United Diversity” show, for example, remains neutral. Is the art market a business like any other market? No, that’s what makes this documentary, which looks out over the world from Berlin, so appealing. Ultimately, what is dealt with is an ideal, as collectors like Manuela Alexgio-Brandel seek to express themselves, while artist Alija Coady, who ends up alone with her work in the desert, feels something like eternity. The machine spins, but its essence is art.

Is this artSunday 12:30 p.m. at Arte and at the Media Library

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