A hand darkened with soot struggles to grab falling lead ingots in Richard Serra’s three-minute film Catching Lead (1969). Sometimes the hand is victorious in capturing the commodity, but often the hand snaps shut, only grasping air. Many authors have suggested the film is about the limits of the artist’s intentions.
Understanding art production today, or of the last three years, requires getting a handle on art as a commodity among the complex market of other commodities – from steel to timber, microchips to acrylics.
The action an artist takes with a material is the first step to achieving an idea, thus what it’s made from is as important as the inspiration and result. However, when China shut down manufacturing and shipping ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many artists felt it before US cities followed suit.