Everything is Art

ARCO art fair, Madrid.

In September 2012, the fiscally and socially retrograde People’s Party governing Spain raised the value-added tax on most items to 21%, breaking one of its most-repeated election promises and causing damage to a culture industry already battered by the economic crisis, not to mention impoverishing even further the “working” and middle class. Well this past week, not even one and half years later, the same government announced a reduction in the VAT charged on sales of works of art to 10%.

This is obviously good news for art galleries, art collectors and white-collar criminals, for whom art collecting is an effective method for laundering cash. It is also encouraging news for the dying entertainment arts sector, which could be next if this policy is expanded to other arts. But is it good news for architecture? Well, building materials are still taxed at 21%, and there is no expectation that the “building art” might enjoy a similar reduction. The artisans who know the arts of plumbing, masonry, carpentry, welding, or “painting”, must, in theory, still charge 21% VAT for their services. Other, more essential art-forms such as clothing, shoes, bicycles, or flatscreen television monitors are also still charged 21%, without likelihood of any break in sight.

But there’s an easy solution for every Spanish retailer who wishes their goods would similarly be charged less VAT: rebrand their store as an “art gallery” instead. If art can be anything, then anything can be art, right?

Thus, a hardware store could simply become an art gallery specializing in “sculpture and installation art”. In such a scenario, fluorescent lighting would be displayed on the floor, with a lot of space around it, and urinals would be displayed upside down. In the back shed where building materials are stocked, lumber would be strewn all about, as if a tornado had struck.

Similarly, a fashion retailer might merely add the word galería to their shopfront, since fashion boutiques look so much like art galleries already. HiFi shops would become sound-art galleries, while stores selling TVs would become galleries specializing in video-art.

Every month or so, new exhibitions would be installed, invitations would be sent out, and cava would be served to smartly dressed, highly discerning but vacuous snobs engaged in chit-chat and vicious gossip while completely ignoring the art as well as most of the rest of the people in the room.

Every single Spaniard would become a gallery-goer. Not just on Thursdays after work, but every weekday as well as Saturday. And if enough of us could actually land a steady job and start buying at these galleries, instead of just looking, then we might even become the country with the most art collections in the world.

About Rafael Gomez-Moriana

I am an architect, writer and educator. rafagomo.com chronicles my architectural making, writing, teaching and curating activity, while criticalista.com is an archive of my writings as well as a platform for venting personal rants and observations. I studied architecture at the University of Waterloo (Canada) and at the Berlage Institute (the Netherlands). I direct the University of Calgary’s architecture term-abroad program in Barcelona and teach at CIEE, and have previously taught in the Metropolis Masters Program in Architecture and Urban Culture as well as at Carleton University and the University of Manitoba.

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