Cell phones had been commoditized and within 15 years had gone from a luxury item to a commodity as ubiquitous and as cheap as corn - this was effect that Adam Smith and Karl Marx never could have imagined. The first time anyone fingered the effect was in 1965 when Gordon Moore pointed out that a dollars worth of of computer processing speed had been doubling every 18-month for at least a decade. Moore was the first to observe an effect that is now observable in almost ever aspect of the global economy. This is not a variation of Adam Smith's pin factory observations. The exponential rates that Moore first observed are not aspects of the division of labor. The postwar consumer economy is built on the commodity trading and specialization of capitalism that Adams and Marx would have recognized, but it is it's own beast. While critical theorists continue to focus on "specialization" and "commoditization" of pin making, like computer chips and cell phones, art has been commoditized - but "art" has changed in ways as different from cell phones as cell phones are different from pins.
If I had tried to explain to the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Barr, in 1936, that hundreds of people would line up for hours, every day for weeks outside of his museum, just for the chance to stare into an artist's eyes, and that would be considered art he would have thought I was being silly. If I had tried to explain to him the contortions Tino Sehgal puts museums and collectors through to "acquire" an "encounter", Barr would have thought I was mad. I936 was the year Barr mounted, Cubism and Abstract Art, a show of abstract painting and sculpture - a form of modern art now seen as "corporate" ie commodified. "As this volume goes to press" Barr wrote in that show's catalog, "the United States Customs has refused to permit the Museum of Modern Art to enter as works of art nineteen pieces of more or less abstract sculpture under a ruling which requires that sculpture must represent an animal or human form." The effect of the commoditizing on art is not that art became cheaply available to everyone, it is that everything, no matter how cheap, has became art.
There were structural differences, of course, the principal one being that, since production was dissemination, the custom-model came first in this economy. It was clear, however, that the large institutions of the art world, like the Whitney Museum uptown and the art school out at Yale, functioned like General Motors, establishing brand names, institutional agendas, and hierarchies of value out of materials provided by the auction markets."
The fashion industry continually tries to generate the symbolic and potentially 'priceless' value (which allows art prices to rocket into orbit) and always has to settle on an absurd, yet laughable price compared to high-end art... Is art a commodity? Yes, one with a limitless (priceless) valuation in theory, but you can stop at the highest auction record ever practically speaking, versus other commodities like a fucking handbag that would LOVE to have that possibly limitless valuation, but doesn't, because handbags aren't considered to have any symbolic value (unless it belonged to a celebrity and accrues other sentimental value).