With artists like Damien Hirst earning the sort of 'fuck you' money that would make a media or tech' mogul envious – his recent, self-promoted, stock clearance sale at Sotheby's in London, entitled Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, grossed him more than 95 million quid over just two days – it's inevitable that art itself is now covered with the sort of gelid, journalistic detachment applied to other speculative commodities, like gold or pork bellies. This week's dour review of the global art market prepared by the online resource, Artprice, is no different in tone to an investment market round-up in, say, The Financial Times or The Wall Street Journal: "2009 looks set to be a year of price contraction throughout the entire market. During the last art market contraction of 1990-1992, prices fell 44% in just 2 years. A correction of that magnitude is perfectly conceivable, especially considering the speculation to which the market has been subject over recent years: in the United States art prices rose 67% between January 2005 and January 2008. At an international level, art prices rose 48.9% over the same period, a stronger growth rate than the progressions recorded on the world's principal stock markets (CAC40:+46.9% - Dow Jones: +24.5%) over the same period. Stock markets tend to react immediately. Announcements by the Fed or the ECB can impact prices on international financial markets in seconds. The art market functions with a completely different rhythm. Like the real estate market, the art market has a natural 'interval' between cause and effect with transactions often taking several months to conclude."In other words, the art world is being heavily buffeted by the current economic crisis. A few of my own, monied collectors have spoken of their deep unease and a reluctance to part with cash and there are rumours that some well-established Australian dealers will have to shutter their bricks-and-mortar operations if the outlook doesn't improve over the next 12 months. According to Artprice, things are bleak everywhere: "Prices have contracted in New York, Paris and London – i.e. at the heart of the market – and in the new art market growth zones around Hong Kong, Singapore, and Dubai."I'm not sure this retrenchment is such a bad thing. Although I'm pessimistic about how my own work will fare at auctions in Sydney and London, next month, I'm looking forward to this recession enforcing a long-overdue re-evaluation of the emotional, social, political and inspirational function of art – a realisation that it has meaning and value beyond that of just another arena for investment. Maybe artists themselves will become less focussed on their media profiles and market performances and more engaged with the idea of their work reclaiming a place within the lives of people other than those who are merely looking to diversify the risk in their portfolios. If they don't, they might just... disappear.It happened when the buoyant New York art scene of the '80s went bust. Back then, only the dead, like Warhol or Basquiat, made it out of the wreckage with their reputations intact (although the survival of Jeff Koons is an enigma). Shrewdly, Julian Schnabel sought redemption as a film director. But who remembers – let alone collects – Kostabi, Robert Longo, David Salle or Sandro Chia anymore?