Wednesday, September 16, 2009


It's a year today since the global economy teetered on the brink of calamity. Over three days (15, 16 & 17 September 2008) Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, the global insurance giant AIG was taken over by the United States Government and a failing Wall Street icon Merrill Lynch was absorbed by the Bank of America in a deal brokered and financed by the US Government. Panic set in, credit stopped circulating and the world watched in disbelief as Wall Street's Masters of the Universe threatened to send us all to hell in a handcart.

Ironically the 15th (the day Lehman's declared itself insolvent) was also the day Damien Hirst abandoned the traditional method of selling art, going straight to Sothebys instead where the auction smashed top estimates to reach a record total of USD125m.

Today we appear to have weathered the worst of the economic storm. There's talk of the recession bottoming out and green shoots appearing, but uncertainty lingers on as the debate shifts to the stimulus spending of the US, Europe and China - whether it is right to press on with aggressive economic stimulation, or listen to the voices calling for an exit strategy to avoid a damaging round of inflation caused by the injection of trillions of liquidity into banking systems. Clearly we are not out of the woods yet and even more worrying is the fact that nobody seems to know what to do about the banking system, its greed-is-good bonuses and the excesses that caused the credit crunch in the first place.

The art world was also caught in the storm. Over the past twelve months the international art market has been in free-fall, prompting doom and gloom reports in the world's art press. However, as signs of an economic recovery appear (and because we are a glass-half-full kind of blog) we think it is time to look back on the recession, with an eye to the future.

Over the next few days we'll publish posts from people in the art world who can see an upside to the recession. We begin today with Jim Barr and Mary Barr, independent curators, writers, collectors and bloggers (go to overthenet) and Gregory Burke, director of The Power Plant / Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto.