Thursday, May 11, 2006

tulip mania in Rockefeller Plaza

Warhol Campbell'sNews accounts say the art market has blossomed as has the real estate market and the market for gold and other precious metals. Well, he said cynically, the Bush administration is obviously putting so much money into the pockets of the rich that they're falling over each other to spend it. Art, real estate, and gold are all investments, of course. But it's arguable that In the case of the art market, buyers are competing not just to increase the amount of their absurd wealth, but also to own and enjoy the beautiful, powerful, emotionally rewarding works they acquire. Or maybe not.

Take, for example, this week's auction of contempory artists at Christie's. One of the priciest items sold was this one -- Warhol's Small Torn Campbell’s Soup Can (Pepper Pot). Produced in 1962, it's historically important, but I don't think most of us would say it has twelve million dollars worth of beauty, power, and emotional rewards.

I don't mean that Warhol's work isn't good. As everyone says, it's iconographic. I mean that it's interesting for its bold embrace of a world driven mad by consumerism and adoration of celebrities (to indulge in a little hyperbole).

Bennett Lorber 2005Though both have geometric elements and both place value on surface. My friend Bennett paints circles around Warhol. His work is much more than surface event. It's richly textured and deeply rewards concentrated observation. A measure of the difference, for me, is the ability of reproductions to convey. A Warhol reproduction isn't the real thing, you can tell that pretty well, but it isnt' that far removed from the real thing. In contrast, reproductions of Bennett's works give you only a general idea of their richness.

On the right is a Bennett Lorber work from his most recent show. You can click to enlarge this and the other images in this post. Viewed full-size, you can see brush strokes, interplay of colors, and foreground/background layering. You may have to click twice for greatest detail (depends on your browser settings).

Says Art Market Watch:


Tulipmania! That one-word definition of irrational market exuberance came to mind during Christie’s New York sale of post-war and contemporary art on the evening of May 9, 2006, as lot 25 came to the block. A galvanized metal box, roughly two feet square and six inches deep, covered with a blue plastic lid -- an untitled Donald Judd sculpture from 1985 -- the work carried a presale estimate of $300,000-$400,000, and followed the sale of two dozen similar boxes for similarly high prices. $300,000 for a shallow metal box? The mind reeled. But then auctioneer Christopher Burge knocked it down to a phone bidder for $450,000 ($531,200 with the auction-house premium), and the art world snapped back into focus.

Christie’s unusually long sale of 91 lots -- 60 lots is a more typical number these days -- totaled $143,187,200, with 83 of 91 items finding buyers, or 88 percent.

The sale set new auction highs for ten artists: David Hockney ($3,600,000), Damien Hirst ($3,376,000), Brice Marden ($2,984,000), Lucio Fontana ($2,704,000), Eva Hesse ($2,256,000), Piero Manzoni ($1,920,000), Morris Louis ($1,808,000), Richard Prince ($1,360,000), Mike Kelley ($688,000) and Dirk Skreber ($496,600). New records for work on paper were set for Robert Rauschenberg ($1,360,000) and Alberto Giacometti ($1,584,000).

Elements VIn this list of auction highs, Marden's name was the one that caught my eye. Reproductions of his paintings, such as this one, are useful for identification, but, as with Bennett's, for little else. He grew up in the same town as I and our families were close. His older brother baby sat me and my sibs when we were that young. It was Bennett who taught me to love Marden's paintings and I'm happy that his (Marden's) one painting in the sale fetched a record amount. Here are the details:
lot# 71
Artist Brice Marden
Title Elements V
Year 1984 -
Medium oil on linen
Size 47.5 x 36 in. / 120.7 x 91.5 cm.
Misc. Signed, Inscribed
Estimate 1,500,000 - 2,000,000 US$
Sold For 2,984,000 US$ PREMIUM

Read Wikipedia on tulip mania.
overpriced tulip

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