Little Bo Peep lost her sheep and now it’s floating in a tank of formaldehyde

The spring Contemporary and Impressionist auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s just wrapped up and now that they’re over, none of these pieces will ever be seen in public again. In many cases, that’s okay. I saw someone describe this season’s offerings at a solid B+ and I’d have to agree. Aside from a Rothko, nothing really blew my sox off. I’ll keep my pithy remarks to a minimum. As always, feel free to heartily disagree.

Damien Hirst
Away from the Flock
Glass, painted steel, silicone, acrylic, plastic, lamb and formaldehyde
Est: $4,000,000 – 6,000,000
Sold for: $4,412,500

It’s a lamb. Floating in a tank of formaldehyde.

He’s pulled this sort of thing before. He did it with a great white shark and even a cow cut in half. Art as a spectacle. $4.4M. Hirst is currently at his estate laughing his ass off.

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Flesh and Spirit
Oil stick, gesso, acrylic and paper on canvas
Estimate Upon Request
Sold for: $30,711,000

A huge piece. I am slowly coming around to Basquiat. I still hold him in contempt for throwing it all away on an O.D. but am beginning to see some value in his work. It’s the same urban Lower East Side environ I spent so many years in.

David Hammons
Maternity
Wood mask and cotton nightgown
Est: $1,400,000 – 1,800,000
Sold for: $975,000

A nighty tacked to the wall. You can’t see it in the pic but there’s a chunk of painted wood underneath. What does it mean? Can anyone tell me? $975K would put both my daughters through school with enough left over to buy myself a snow cone machine.

David Hockney
Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30)
Est: $5,000,000 – 7,000,000
Sold for: $11,743,800

A vivid, beautiful piece. Interesting for its construction. Made from colored and pressed paper pulp. Much more tactile in person. I liked the deckle edges of each section.

Arman
Grande Poubelle (Large Rubbish Bin)
Plexiglas box, painted wood, accumulated studio refuse
Est: $60,000 – 80,000
Did not sell

It’s garbage from the artist’s studio. I think I took about $2,000 worth of art to the curb last night. Didn’t sell, which fills me with hope for the human race.

Jackson Pollock
Number 32
Est: $30,000,000 – 40,000,000
Sold for: $34,098,000

Magnificent (to me). Nice and bright. Pollock’s color displacement is better in some works than in others and this is one of the best I’ve seen.

Jeff Koons
Play-Doh
Polychromed aluminum
Estimate on Request
Sold for: $22,812,500

It’s an aluminum mountain of Play-Doh. My sweet Lord. Where would you put something like this? Playful, yet, dumb.

Robert Gober
Untitled
Bronze, wood, brick, beeswax, human hair, recycling pump, water, latex paint
Est: $6,000,000 – 8,000,000
Sold for: $7,287,500

Gober is my bête noire. A fake. A charlatan. What’s with all the drains in his work? This includes a pump that circulates running water. He is also currently at home laughing his ass off.

Mark Rothko
Untitled
Oil on paper mounted on canvas
Est: $7,000,000 – 10,000,000
Sold for: $18,856,500

I like Rothko and my fondness for his work has grown over the years. This was beautifully lit. It glowed. I could live with this. Forever. A shame about the $18M+.

Robert Rauschenberg
Sacred / Universal No. 7/3 Times (Cardboard)
Cardboard and tape on plywood
Est: $250,000 – 350,000
Sold for $225,000

Cardboard boxes affixed to the wall. What’s the appeal? Perhaps it’s the way they’re arranged?

Vincent Van Gogh
Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole (Saint-Rémy)
Est: $35,000,000 – 55,000,000
Sold for: $39,687,500

Thick and juicy. Mainstream popularity be damned; I’m still enamored with his work. That poor bastard died broke. He’s not at home laughing.

Jeff Koons
Balloon Rabbit (Red), Balloon Monkey (Blue), Balloon Swan (Yellow) [Three Works]
Est: $20,000 – $30,000
Sold for: $81,250

Adorable. Easier to display than his monstrous balloon dog. More affordable, too (relatively speaking).

Mother. Oh, God, Mother. Blood. Blood.

November 13, 1993

Karen took the train up from Philadelphia. I never thought I’d see her again. I picked her up at Penn Station. She is my type. Same as Laura. I’m a sucker for girl-next-door. Those corn-fed thighs wreck me. She wore a blue denim button-up shirt the same color as her eyes.

I took her to the Rivera Café in the Village but neither of us ate. We pushed the food around our plates. I gave her my weepy rundown of being fired and robbed and not having anyone to get me through the night.

Then it was her turn.

I could see she was shaking. Being a raging narcissist, I thought my close proximity set her a-quivering. She talked about her abortion. She doesn’t regret it but she’s haunted by it. She got it the same day I was fired. Her boyfriend is dead broke so she had to pay for it herself. She put it on her credit card. We both found that macabre and dark but not without its humor and laughed.

Then she started crying. Tears fell into her barley soup. The Monday after, she had some residual bleeding that got so bad she thought she was hemorrhaging. She couldn’t go to the hospital because she’s got a new job and her healthcare hasn’t kicked in yet.

He’s not convinced it was his child but she swore through her tears that it was. I asked why she didn’t call me and she said if he saw a 212 area code on the phone bill he’d assume the pregnancy was because of me. Ha. If he only knew. Apparently, he found the letters and read them. She said he hates me and if he ever sees me, etc. [Note: I used to write love letters to all girls I dated.]

I paid the bill and we left. Once outside, we hugged briefly and she was still shaking. Over lunch she said she’d put on 10 pounds and I could feel there was more of her than what I remember. I liked it. Her breasts were bigger, too. She’s just a kid, really. I feel awful for her.

We went to my apartment but, of course, nothing happened. We sat on the sofa and talked. At one point I was in the kitchen making a pot of coffee and she came up from behind, put her arms around me and rested her head on my back. I turned around and we kissed briefly. Her hair was stiff with hairspray and it scratched my face. I asked her what train she needed and she said 3:30. It was 3:00 and I told her we needed to leave immediately. I don’t know why she bothered making such a long trip for such a short period of time.

We stood in the train station and talked a bit. Her demeanor suddenly changed. She told me she likes to be tied up. She said she likes being blindfolded because she can’t see what’s coming next. Then she told me about a client she recently had lunch with and how the girls at work are encouraging her to date him. I was out of my mind with desire and envy. What does she want from me? I spent so much money on lunch and cabs that I can’t go out this weekend. When am I going to learn to steer clear of these unhinged girls?

Fired by Morgan Stanley on a Friday and back to the grind 10 days later at Lehman Brothers. I hate it but I need the money. They have Mac Quadras so the hardware is new but the physical environment is punishing. Office cubes that are intended for one have been retrofitted for two. Slide your chair back six inches and *bang*.

I’ve never hated a group of people so quickly. If anyone leaves at 5:00, someone yells out, “Only working a half day?! Haw-haw!” So unoriginal. It’s a good gig for building skills but I don’t know how much longer I can keep the fake smile plastered on my face.

I saw Mimi at the gym. It looked like she’d never been inside a gym before. She was unsure of how to use the equipment. I mentioned it to Klinger and he said she told him not to speak my name. Good Lord. I wonder what I did to her?

~~~~~~~~~~

Sunrise over Queens.

10. X. Ten. Dix. Diez.

Last month this blog celebrated its 10th anniversary. 10 years! The totality of my 11-year old’s life. Most of my 16-year old’s. Half my marriage. I didn’t notice the blessed event. It passed by like a rainy Tuesday. I can only surmise that it didn’t matter to me. If it had, I’d have seen it coming and made a big deal out of it.

10 years ago I suppose I had some vague notions of minor fame and financial gain but they were crushed pretty quickly. At one point, I gathered my journal entries into a “book.” 75,000 words! I paid to have it professionally edited. The editor said the good news is that I might have some raw talent. The bad news is that there’s no narrative. She said I needed a plot thread to tie all the entries together. I’ve always been cursed with a fatal lack of ambition and an anemic work ethic, so I made her grammatical edits and sent the thing out to a dozen agents. The response was a deafening silence. Glad I got that out of my system.

Once I started posting I couldn’t stop. I’ve tried to quit several times, fearful that my daughters would stumble upon the dark and embarrassing secrets in my journals, but I can’t. It’s the only creative outlet I have. And I use the term ‘creative’ in its most broad sense. I crawl the theaters, galleries and museums as an audience member. That’s all I’ve ever been. The audience. But this idiot blog allows me to be a participant.

I guess this is a genuine addiction. It could be worse. It could be whiskey and whores. And gambling. Some guys go that route. But anniversaries? They don’t mean a thing if they ain’t got that swing. Doo wah. Doo wah.

~~~~~~~~~~

Taken from my office, Friday, April 20, 7:30 a.m. The Lincoln Tunnel bus conga line.

Only the rush hour hell to face
Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes
Contestants in a suicidal race

That tiny hole in the upper left corner of the pic is the Lincoln Tunnel entrance. It spits out into New Jersey. These are Thoreau’s men (and women) who lead lives of quiet desperation.

~~~~~~~~~~

There are some agonizingly long plays this season on Broadway. Where is the line that separates artistic vision from overindulgence? For instance, Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane headline in a revival of Angels in America. It’s one story, but two plays. Part 1: Millennium Approaches is 3:30. Part 2: Perestroika is 4:00 From entry, through intermissions, to the end you’re in the theater for eight solid hours.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opened last night and it, too, is one play in two parts. Part 1 is 2:40. Part 2 is 2:35. I took my daughter and we were there for six hours. It was super but, honestly, it didn’t need to be that long.

You can see Angels and Potter on consecutive evenings or see both parts in one day on Wednesdays and Saturdays. You can’t see Part 1 of either and not see Part 2. Part 1 of both ends with a cracker of a cliffhanger. In this way, they charge you DOUBLE because you have to buy a separate ticket to each part. Clever. Insidious.

Denzel Washington is starring in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. 4:00. Four hours! At least it’s one shot. You don’t have to purchase two tickets. In a NY Times fluff piece, they asked Washington about the grueling demands of a four hour play.

“Listen, this is what I love: acting on stage. And I don’t have to do anything else. Just be in this play. So, don’t feel sorry for me compared to most workers in America.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Feline pin-ups of the week. I make no apologies for posting cat photos. I’m going to continue to insist they have genuine artistic merit. Like reality TV. Or overstuffed theater.

Robbed. Fired. Dumped.

binsOctober 30, 1993

The junkies next door were finally evicted. On their way out they broke into my apartment and robbed me. They took my stereo, all my CDs and the laptop. They left the speakers. They took Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding bands. Those rings weren’t valuable but they were important. They bought them in Italy long ago. I’ll go to my grave and never mention it to anyone. I was entrusted with an important family heirloom and failed. Thank God they’re both dead. They’ll never know.

The laptop contained my journal entries from June through October. I didn’t back anything up onto floppy disks or print anything out. It’s all gone. The entire summer and autumn of ’93. I’ll never remember it all.

The coppers dusted for fingerprints. One of them was complaining the whole time saying, “This is stupid. It never works.” The other cop said I had the worst lock on the market. He said it’s easy to pick. I had to shell out $140 for a new one. I told him about the wedding bands. He said the same thing happened to him years ago and he’s still not over it. Great. It’ll take me forever to replace all the CDs.

I replaced the laptop with a Mac PowerBook 145. 4MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. Ridiculous! When will I ever need 40MB of space?!

I got fired from Morgan Stanley. One of the executives, someone powerful and irritable, complained about me and they let me go. He said I had a bad attitude. I don’t know. Maybe he’s right. It was a fantastic job. I loved it. The week before I was canned Cabrina said, “Mark, how did we ever get along without you? You can stay here as long as you want.” Several days later I was standing in her office getting sacked. I can’t write another word about it. It’s so painful.

While at Morgan Stanley I struck up a healthy flirtation with Debbie, who’s Norwegian. A hell of a designer and so pretty. A blonde nordic goddess. I got a condolence call from her immediately after I was fired. That day, we walked from 42nd St. down to 18th St. I didn’t get home until after 2:00 a.m. She took me out for drinks a couple of times. I was a complete wreck but she built me up. She’d ply me with Dewar’s and tell me I was good at what I did and would find work easily enough. She’d lean in and rest her hand on my arm so, naturally, it didn’t take long for me to become attached. It never does. I was certain what I felt was reciprocated.

She called and made plans to see me again but before that happened I went to a Bryan Ferry concert at the Beacon Theater. I went by myself because I couldn’t find anyone to go with. While sitting there, Debbie walked by with some dude. She was hanging all over him. It was obvious they were a couple. I scrunched down in my seat, praying not to be noticed. I was too humiliated for being there alone to say hello. It turns out I was just a charity case to her.

I started therapy. It’s going well enough, I suppose. It’s dark. For years I thought complaining about a difficult childhood was just a sad cliché. Fashionable yuppie angst. Move on. But I’m beginning to believe that things have a way of implanting themselves early on that aren’t so easy to dismiss. She called Laura a myth. I disagree. Laura meant a lot to me.

I stopped at Barnes & Nobel after therapy last Wednesday and bought two software manuals and a copy of Dante’s Inferno. I wonder if I’ll be able to tell the difference between the three?

~~~~~~~~~~

The many moods of Oliver.

Melancholy

Wistful

Cheerful

Bittersweet

Romantic

~~~~~~~~~~

Daughter the Second and I visited the Silverball Museum in Asbury Park, just down the boardwalk from Madame Marie’s. Hundreds of working pinball and video games, a few dating back to the 1930’s. It’s paradise. I saw these two old grannies jamming on these machines. They were really kicking the hell out of them, taking their play seriously. God willing, that’ll be me when I’m that age.

Everyone’s a little bit racist. Apparently, even me.

Everyone’s a little bit
Racist, sometimes.
Look around and
You will find,
No one’s really
Color-blind.

My bride and I were having a discussion and to an opinion I expressed she said, “You’d better keep that to yourself. It’s racist.” I thought I had progressive attitudes about race but she might have a point.

So, naturally, I need to tell everyone.

I took my daughter to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. I found a discount for the first preview and it’s good thing I did. I couldn’t afford to take her otherwise. She’s crazy about those books and when she asked to see it I had to say no, which broke my heart. It worked out in the end but my inability to afford tickets makes me feel wholly inadequate as a father. But that’s for another post.

It’s an extraordinary piece of theater but it helps if you’re a die-hard Potter enthusiast (my daughter) or interested in the mechanics of theater and acting (me). Your ass is in a chair for about six hours. Plus, the aforementioned cost.

You can look elsewhere for reviews. They’re all glowing. My problem—the one that landed the accusation—lies with their decision to employ color-blind casting.

The principle actors playing Harry, Ron, Draco and Ginny all look very much like adult versions of their movie selves. It’s easy to imagine these fictional characters transitioned into adulthood. Hermione Granger is played by a black actor. She’s more than capable and an extraordinary actor. I’ve been attending theater for 25+ years and know talent when I see it. She can command the stage and has a genuine presence. I just never saw her as Hermione. Throughout the play I had to occasionally stop and remind myself, “Oh, that’s Hermione.” My brain simply refused to make that leap. It proved to be a distraction. I respect their intentions but the plot flow was interrupted for want of a progressive agenda.

Perhaps it’s the indelible image of Hermione Granger as a young white girl. Or perhaps I have dormant racist attitudes that were inflamed. The wrong kind of woke.

I can’t tell you how alarming this is. It’s heartbreaking. I thought I was more evolved than that. I hope this doesn’t rub off on my daughters.

~~~~~~~~~~

Prior to the play I took her on a gallery hop in Chelsea. At Dia: Chelsea is Rita McBride’s Particulates, a fetching and photogenic industrial laser installation.

The gates keep you at bay because you can really hurt yourself if you try to break the beam, which I desperately wanted to do.

The room is kept cool and clammy. The air is misted so the beams are visible. It might be fun after a few bong hits. I imagine. I wouldn’t know.

There’s a low hum and the beams reflect off the wet floor. Best of all, free admission! Thank you, Dia Chelsea.

I liked this one as well although it was more stark. Dan Flavin’s in daylight or cool white at the David Zwirner gallery.

Flavin construct geometric shapes with neon tubes. Neon on a ceiling reminds me of cold, dreary office lighting. I find it a wholly acceptable medium for art, though.

Unfortunately with these gallery hops, you have to take the sublime with the ridiculous. These were fruits and vegetables nailed to a wall.

I thought they were plaster sculptures but, no, it’s real food. I chatted with the gallery rep and he is charged with replacing the food when it starts to rot. This is why some people laugh at contemporary art.

~~~~~~~~~~

Sorry, everyone, but there are going to be cat pics. There just are.