WHAT PRICE GRAPHICS?
Now graphic design is being sold at auction on Artcurial alongside original plates by Hergé, famous issues of the periodical Merz, art deco furniture and…contemporary art. Just where we didn’t expect it. Looking at the selection of work at Artcurial there is no doubt about the work’s value. It reads like an anthology of contemporary French graphic design: deValence, Frédéric Teschner, Fanette Mellier, Pascal Béjean and Nicolas Ledoux. The posters testify to new directions in graphic design, as well as confi rming the singular talents of their makers, and the appropriation of an art form already two-centuries old.
However, selling them at auction raises some questions: Who is responsible for putting a value on graphic design? Its public? History? National institutions? Financial markets?
While contemporary art loses all touch with reality, puffing up price bubbles indiscriminately, does graphic design really have to dip a toe in? Is this really a good direction for a profession that is seeking an identity and legitimacy? The event may confirm the artistic qualities of graphic design, but it might also emphasize a distinctly French division: the persistent separation of public and private added to a destabilizing disparity between cultural orders and commercial orders.
Against this background, the cultural sector gains preference and is more attractive to designers because it gives them greater freedom, steering young graduates away from working with companies. Consequently, the cultural graphic design market becomes saturated and highly coveted. In parallel, the overall quality of street posters remains largely in the hands of agencies that are ready to make huge compromises to maintain their financial viability. As a result, there is a lot of room for improvement in independent, commercial graphic design.
The visual education of the average person in the street depends on it, and the question of images in public space is important enough to start a debate and initiatives focused on quality and a graphic designer’s responsibilities.
It is not a question to be brushed aside, but something we all need to address.