The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Art Market:
Toxic Speculation

May 23, 2022

This article is translated from the May 13 issue #2806 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

One of Andy Warhol’s five portraits of Marilyn Monroe was sold at auction for 195 million dollars in New York on May 9. That price would buy five leading hospitals in Europe. The portrait became the most expensive piece of modern art.

The price shows nothing about the quality of the work, its maker’s potential for genius, or its subject’s flair. But it does expose the vast amount of capital seeking profitable investment, and the tendency of the super-rich and multi-billionaires to overreach. Because these few thousand people’s desire to dazzle, together with the sordid need to accumulate, drives up prices on the art market. It’s speculation like in any other market, and like everywhere else, the biggest sharks snatch up the greater part.

For one single billionaire to write a check for 195 million dollars requires how many rotations of the millstone that grinds up workers around the world?