By Craufurd D. Goodwin
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Additional info for Art and the Market: Roger Fry on Commerce in Art, Selected Writings, Edited with an Interpretation
For this explanation of consumer demand Fry gave thanks to Thorstein Veblen's "remarkable book on the Theory of An Interpretation 2I the Leisured Class [sic]" (7). The contemporary opifact was, he agreed with Veblen, merely the modern equivalent of the tribal chieftain's bangles or the medieval lord's livery. In fact, the opifact is primarily an advertisement. Societies of all kinds no less than individuals have recognized this fact. They behave, indeed, almost exactly like individuals in this respect.
In the market for opifacts, in which An Interpretation JJ the average size of enterprise seemed to be increasing, places of refuge for the true artist were disappearing and the forces of corruption that led the artist away from true art increasing. Fry's favorite example of this kind of market corruption was John Singer Sargent, whose considerable talent, Fry thought, had been diverted by market forces of snobbism into the production of trivial society portraits. But the same corruption had occurred at earlier periods too.
At one extreme craftsmen who work in gold are most likely "to sacrifice the higher qualities of design for mere ostentation" and their results tend "to degenerate into a confused efflorescence of glittering and insignificant forms" (Fry I901, 28I). Here he used the term significant form more than a decade before it was made popular by Clive Bell in Art (I9I3; see also Fry 19II, 867, for another early use). An exhibition of works in iron, by contrast, revealed very clearly the presence of the aesthetic emotion.
Art and the Market: Roger Fry on Commerce in Art, Selected Writings, Edited with an Interpretation by Craufurd D. Goodwin
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