Understanding Visual Culture- Part 1- Art as Commodity

This exercise asked us to read “The fetishism of the commodity” by Karl Marx and answer questions on it. I must admit I did have to read it a few times to begin to understand what it was getting at.

Initially, when I started reading it, I thought that it was mainly about looking at the selling price being based on labour and materials or being based on the finished art being a product of the artists imagination and that you are buying a piece of the artist (their social characteristics). However after a few more read-throughs I started to wonder if it is the artists themselves that are the commodity, not their work. Objects become commodities if there is an association with a particular brand, celebrity or fashion. In our celebrity obsessed world there seems to be a new breed of artist who have become celebrities themselves. Through this, people hang on their every word and wait with bated breath for their next piece. Most of these celebrity artists such as Jeff Koons, Tracey Emin, Banksy, Damien Hurst and Tyler Shields to name but a few have risen to these heights mainly due to their sometimes controversial work.

Jeff Koons












Jeff Koons was born in the United States in 1955 and after studying at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago he met artist Ed Paschke and became an assistant in his studios.He then received notoriety through sculptures such as his floral puppy in 1992. One of greatest successes came in November 2013 when his sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at Christie’s in New York for $58.4 million.    








Banksy rose to fame in the late 1990’s stencilling graffiti around Bristol and London. He courts controversy by engaging in political themes, satirically critiquing war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed. Originally, his work was thought to have been vandalism but they have since become very sought after, this may be down to the illusion and mystery surrounding who Banksy actually is as his identity is always kept hidden.

Damien Hurst






Damien Hurst’s most infamous work has been ‘Natural History’ where he preserved animals in formaldehyde solution and displayed them in glass tanks for people to view. He then went on to produce ‘For the love of God’ in 2007 which was a skull covered in 8,601 flawless pavé-set diamonds.












About kunsworthphotography

I am currently studying towards a BA (Hons) in Photography with OCA and I have 2 children, Evie(4 years old) and Connor(3 years old)
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