The World’s Most Expensive Urinal

I don’t imagine this will be of interest to everyone but I find the subject endlessly fascinating. This is my fall contemporary art auction report. These auctions were held two weeks ago here in New York at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Prior to the auctions, you can visit the galleries and view the lots for free. It’s important to take it in because after the auction, they pass into private collections, never to be seen again.

My last post ended with a cliff-hanger so why don’t we address that first?

Robert Gober
Three Urinals
Estimate: $3,500,000 – $4,500,000
Lot Sold: $3,525,000

gober_urinal_sm I checked my local hardware store and you can get three urinals for about $1,000. I should have peed in one and said I was making an artistic statement and demand payment for my “work.”

I really like Francis Bacon. I came around to him rather late in life. Better late than never. It doesn’t say so explicitly in the title but this is a Pope. Or a Cardinal. I forget which.

Francis Bacon
Seated Figure
Estimate: $40,000,000 – $60,000,000
Lot Sold: $44,965,000

baconWarhol + Harry = LOVE IT. Warhol used metallic paint for many of these celeb paintings and the accent colors really POP when you see them in person. This was also signed by Debbie Harry. I wonder if that played into its value? [Fun fact: Debbie is performing her first show as a cabaret artist in the legendary Café Carlyle this spring. Yup. It’s come to that.]

Andy Warhol
Debbie Harry
Estimate: $2,500,000 – $3,500,000
Lot Sold: $3,077,000

Warhol_harryFor a long time, my least favorite artist was Jean-Michel Basquiat. I still don’t like his work (I’ll keep trying) but Robert Gober is my new least-favorite artist. He’s a charlatan, a fake and a flim-flam man. See that piece on the wall next to his urinal? Guess what that is?

drain1It’s this.

Robert Gober
Drain
Estimate: $300,000 – $500,000
Lot Sold: $293,000

drain2aThat’s it, folks. A drain stuck in the wall. A $293,000 drain. What a fraud.

Here are the two monsters. The ones that made it to the front page of The New York Times the next morning.

Andy Warhol
Triple Elvis [Ferus Type]
Estimate Upon Request
Lot Sold: $81,925,000

Andy Warhol
Four Marlons
Estimate Upon Request
Lot Sold: $69,605,000

warholEstimate Upon Request means they ain’t fucking around. There was a bench situated in front of these and I sat and stared for a while. Little did I suspect that I was looking at $150,000,000 worth of artwork.

This one was in the paper as well because it sold well beyond its pre-auction estimate. The peculiar thing is that unlike the oversized, big-ticket Warhols and Rothkos, this was a relatively small piece measuring just 11 5/8″ x 17 1/2″ (29.5 x 44.4 cm). I don’t mind it. It was vibrant. But not for that much.

Jasper Johns
Flag
Estimate: $15,000,000 – $20,000,000
Lot Sold: $36,005,000

johnsThis piece is huge. It measures 112 x 142 x 66 in. (284.5 x 360.7 x 167.6 cm). You don’t think this is supposed to be a gigantic…naaaa…no way.

Robert Morris
Vetti V
Estimate $150,000 – $200,000
Did Not Sell

morrisAnd speaking of Did Not Sell…this piece is from Damien Hirst, the fella who brought us a giant great white shark in a tank of formaldehyde and paintings made from butterfly wings.

Damien Hirst
Dog Days
Estimate: $500,000 – $700,000
Did Not Sell

hurst1Would you like to know what’s on all those shelves? It’s these:

hurst2I consider El Anatsue a bit of a genius. He’s a Ghanaian sculptor who makes these beautiful, flowing wall pieces. The Brooklyn Museum exhibited his work a couple of years ago and I still haven’t caught my breath.

El Anatsue
Man’s Cloth II
Estimate: $700,000 – $1,000,000
Lot Sold: $989,000

anatsui1Here’s what his pieces are constructed of:

anatsui2He collects thousands of aluminum bands from wine and beer bottles and painstakingly connects them using copper wire. He’s very intentional about the distribution of color and texture. His work shimmers.

I’ve always been a fan of Mark Rothko and this is one of the best pieces I’ve ever seen by him. I stood there and just let it wash over me. Sometimes, bigger IS better.

Mark Rothko
No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)
Estimate Upon Request
Lot Sold: $44,965,000

rothkoPart of what fascinates me about these auctions is just how subjective they are and how some super-wealthy people can be talked into liking works with questionable merits. This is by Chinese artist/dissident Ai Weiwei, who I’m actually a fan of, but maybe not so much in this instance. It’s a pile of…

Ai Weiwei
He Xie
Estimate: $600,000 – $800,000
Lot Sold: 605,000

wiwi1…porcelain crabs, of course..

wiwi2I’d been indifferent towards Adolph Gottlieb’s work, neither liking nor disliking it, but I turned a corner and was gobsmacked with this. The photo is inadequate. It’s the perfect balance of color and shape, one playing off the other. I love when this happens. When an artist’s intent is suddenly revealed to you. I’ll have to reconsider my indifference.

Adolph Gottlieb
Red and Blue
Estimate: $2,000,000 – $3,000,000
Lot Sold: $2,165,000

gottliebI’ve got a few more but I’ll stop with this lot. I think it’s an appropriate coda. It’s by Christopher Wool and even though he didn’t title it, I think we can surmise from the content, what someone paid for it and the overall spirit of these auctions what the title should be.

Christopher Wool
Untitled
Estimate: $12,000,000 – $18,000,000
Lot Sold: $14,165,000

fool


Bonus Track. I accidentally took this while walking through Sotheby’s. I flipped the pic 180° and like the effect. I look like I’m walking towards myself. How meta.

Estimate Upon Request.

feet

Isn’t this how they found Elvis?

It’s been a while since I stripped back a layer of skin so here’s another entry from my journals. In this painful episode, I get sick and then sign the lease that changed my life.


January 5, 1993

I drank half a bottle of white wine by myself and woke up the next morning violently ill with a pounding headache and a terrible stomach cramp. I couldn’t even get out of bed to put the stereo on. Finally, out of necessity, I got dressed, crawled to the bathroom and sat on the commode for a long while. That’s when things got much worse. I was overwhelmed with a fever and BLACKED OUT. I came-to on the floor with my pants and underwear around my ankles and the cats staring at me. (No, guys, not dead yet.) I had pitched forward and fell off the toilet. I’m lucky I didn’t crack my head on the tub.

There was feces everywhere. I peeled off my clothes and took a scolding hot shower. Afterwards, I cleaned the bathroom, carefully placed my clothes in a garbage bag, double-bagged it and set it in the hallway. I looked at myself in the mirror and my skin looked like alabaster.

Kay phoned. I was supposed to go to her place but I told her I was too sick. I left out the pretty details. She said she was sorry and told me to call later if I felt better.

I went back to bed and fell into a deep, deep sleep. Woke up a half day later and still had a pounding headache but the stomach cramp was gone, thank God. I made a medicinal bacon/fried egg/cheese sandwich, phoned Kay and was at her apartment by 7:00. We sat on her sofa, made out and watched the college bowl games. White wine tastes and smells like a headache to me now. [Note: Miraculous recuperative powers are long gone, but I still never touch white wine.]

I’m signing the lease on the Lower East Side apartment tomorrow. Cindy is going to boil two lobsters in celebration, the poor things. What the hell am I DOING?! Am I insane? It’s affordable but Clinton Street is nothing but junkies, whores and gunshots. It’s nighttime, 24-hours a day. The liquor store on the corner has a thick, Plexiglas bullet proof booth that you step into. You tell them what you want, they fetch it and put it on a turntable. That’s AFTER you give them the money, of course. I can’t invite anyone over!

The building was built in 1939 and is in great shape. Many art deco flourishes. The apartment is remarkable. Two bedrooms, 900 square feet with hardwood parquet floors and a step-down living room. And it’s a real two bedroom. They didn’t construct a plywood wall in a bedroom and call it two. There’s an unobstructed view of the sky out the front and you can see the tops of the World Trade Center towers from the bedroom. The rent is $511.20/month and it’s rent stabilized, so it’ll only go up 3-4% annually. Howard said I should take all the money I’m saving and invest in a cemetery plot.

The previous tenant died of AIDS. The refrigerator was stocked-full of medications and concoctions. There was box of hypodermics in the cupboards. I wonder how much I can get for them outside?

Everyone at work is talking about their upcoming vacations. One is going to Colorado skiing. Another is going to Margarita Island. My life is so slow and hopeless. I can’t say I envy those guys because they practically live at the office. Their hours are brutal and their work seems insufferably dull to me. But they make up for it when they’re off. Michele is worried because her career is on an upward trajectory but John is complacent and not professionally motivated. It bothers her. I should warn him that he’s about to be dumped.

Does complacent and not professionally motivated sound uncomfortably familiar? Bonnie said we should sit down and talk about “the career thing” (her words) after my move to Manhattan. I don’t know what to do with myself. I never went to school. I’m ashamed of where I live. Who’ll have me? I’m scared.


Epilogue: On January 22nd of this year, the apartment below mine sold as a condo.

Asking price: $990,000
Sale price: $1,085,000

I couldn’t afford to move back there if I wanted to. It’s an interesting arc; what once was to what now is. For Clinton Street and for me.


Here’s a tease for my next post. It’s time for my semi-annual Christie’s contemporary art auction report. My favorite! Wanna guess whether or not this lot sold?

Robert Gober
Three Urinals
Est.: $3,500,000–4,500,000

gober_urinal_sm


Bonus Track

Apartments in the iconic Dakota on 72nd and Central Park West never come on the market. They’re held by families for generation after generation. (Though still referred to as “apartments,” that’s a misnomer. They’re actually co-ops.)

Well, almost never.

Take a look at this fantasy. The description states: “Retained by the original owner since the 1960’s…” That original owner was Lauren Bacall, who passed away in August. This, brothers and sisters, is how I would choose to live, if the choice were mine to make. Apartment 43 in The Dakota.

Take that hideous thing outside

I was going to apologize for this being a “lazy” post because it’s mainly photos but then I remembered that photography is a legitimate art form. So I withdraw the apology that I have not offered. If you’ll allow me a moment of bloated egoism, I think some of these pics are fetching.

Winter approaches and it’s time to bid adieu to outdoor art exhibits. I love the monstrosities that some artists create and I’ll miss them. Here are the last two works until spring.

Our old pal Jeff Koons will be selling another balloon animal at Christie’s fall contemporary art auction. This time, it’s Balloon Monkey (Orange), estimated to sell for $20,000,000-$30,000,000.

koons8

It doesn’t look much like a monkey at all, whereas his balloon dogs look like…well…dogs.

koons7

Before each auction, they hold free previews in the gallery. If a show of that caliber opened at MoMA, the line would stretch down 54th Street to 5th Avenue. I don’t understand why more people don’t take advantage.

koons1

This isn’t the first Koons sculpture to appear in front of Christie’s Rockefeller Center location. A while back, there was a balloon dog and some tulips.

koons3

Admiring the art deco frieze.

koons2

Selfie!

koons5

I like the reactions. Tourists and New Yorkers alike scrunch their faces into fists of incomprehension. Can you blame them? The real fun starts when they see the auction estimate. I find these pieces tremendous fun but am depressed that someone would (and could) pay that kind of money for something like this. Rich people are certifiably insane. It’s a FACT.

koons6

 Another day at the office.

chris2

Cop scopes bad asses and robbers.

chris1

I’ll follow-up with my semi-annual auction post in mid-November. Y’all come back now! Ya hear?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This piece is in the plaza at Lincoln Center. It’s in front of the fountains.

solar5 solar4

I had to double-up on my pics because the exposures were so different. Due to the inherent limitations of my iPhone, I could only take a picture of the image on the screen OR the plaza, but not both simultaneously. I think each result is equally interesting.

solar7 solar3

Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) 2014, by Irish artist John Gerrard, is giant LED wall that re-creates a Nevada solar thermal power plant and the surrounding desert.

solar6

The image situates the sun, moon and stars as they would appear at the actual Nevada site over the course of a year. The view slowly morphs from ground to satellite image every 60 minutes. The view is constantly, albeit, very slowly, changing throughout the course of the exhibit. It might be more interesting if they sped up the movement a bit. You don’t see much change just standing there.

solar1

Interesting aside: That sign you see at the bottom are LED lights embedded into the steps leading up to the Plaza. There’s a whole series of them. They scroll upcoming Lincoln Center events and the word “welcome” in multiple languages.

solar2

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My colleague at work saw The Ramones at Vassar when she was a teenager. I’d pay a significant amount of money to watch The Ramones play in front of an audience of Vassar co-eds. Who wouldn’t?

Potpourri!

Here’s a gaggle of thoughts rattling around inside my head. Instead of using a straight line to separate each subject, I’m using pics from Moveable Type, a sound and vision permanent installation in the lobby of The New York Times building. Two walls of digital screens pars the Times archive and randomly display sentences.

Moveable Typescreen5If mobile phones detonated every time someone sent a text while driving, NOBODY IN NEW JERSEY WOULD HAVE HANDS. Glove sales would plummet.

screen9One-stop shopping, New York City-style. Hell, yeah!

signs

screen8

Recently, an acquaintance told her boss she had an appointment and would be a few hours late for work. He assumed it was related to the new baby, but it wasn’t. She attended a Fashion Week event in Midtown. Her boss saw the selfie she posted to Facebook and promptly fired her. Social media fail.

Either keep that shit off Facebook or DON’T FRIEND YOUR BOSS

screen6

The dog and I don’t like each other very much. To me, dogs are needy, dirty and expensive to maintain. They’re like having a bad boyfriend/ girlfriend. Plus, they’re mentally dull. They eat poop.

But last Saturday morning I walked downstairs and saw Coco curled up on the sofa. She looked all fluffy and sweet. I got a warm pang in my chest that felt like genuine affection. I approached to give her a scratch and make friends. Here’s how I was greeted:

screen1

My Bride was a little tired so Daughter and I volunteered to do the weekly grocery shopping. Can someone tell me what the hell this is?

spotted

Is there a big demand in the New Jersey suburbs for this? It could be scrumptious for all I know but I won’t eat it because it’s got the word “dick” in it. To each his (or her) own.

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Daughter-the-Eldest is attending her first boy/girl party at her friend’s house tomorrow night. I am almost catatonic with anxiety. All I can think about are the many suburban bacchanals I attended. I know what goes on in those wood-paneled basements. My two sisters have successfully talked me down off a window ledge. Told me to trust her. It has helped but that doesn’t change the fact that men are scum. I’m still praying that both daughters are GAY.

screen10

I work with a hypochondriac. By all appearances she seems fine, but every conversation revolves around what’s currently ailing her. What aches. What’s robbing her of her sleep. Why she needs to leave early to see another doctor. It’s endless.

Our company nurtures its employees. To that end, she’s convinced them to install a “standing” desk (at a cost to the firm of $500). The keyboard and monitor are on a platform that can be raised and lowered, allowing her to stand and work. But oftentimes, after standing for a spell, she’ll sit down but not lower the platform because she’s LAZY. It results in this:

desk

Well, that can’t be good for her perpetually achy back.

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I saw this at the local fall festival. It’s exactly what my quiet, lily white, middle class New Jersey hamlet needs: a military grade, armor plated attack vehicle with a cannon-mount turret.

policeYou never know. ISIS might be paddling up the Passaic River as I type this. Thank you, Department of Defense overstock program! Feeding the egos of pencil-pushing weekend warriors and chubby suburban cops since Operation Desert Storm.

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