Art Amok: Fall Auction Sampler

My fascination with these semi-annual big-ticket art auctions continues unabated. It’s where commerce collides with integrity. The appreciation of art is so subjective. How are they able to convince wealthy folks to spend these astronomical sums? I know from collecting books that values are ephemeral. A book I paid $950 for three years ago, same variance and issue, just sold at auction for $550. Imagine that happening on a grand monetary scale. I hope they like what they buy. They could be stuck with it.

Here are a few early results to whet your appetite. Some big, interesting pieces are being sold tonight. I’ll lump those results in next time.

This is the one that’s causing palpitations in the dealer/collector community. Previously, the high watermark for a Hopper was $40.5 million. What made them think to double that in the estimate?

Edward Hopper
Chop Suey
Oil on canvas
Est. $70,000,000–100,000,000
Sold for $91,875000

Hopper is the master of sunlight. Just look at her. Beautiful. But $91M? Can you imagine the good that could’ve been done with that?

Here’s the obligatory Monet. There’s always a Monet. This is a big, important one. I mistyped “Monet” and it came out “Money.” Ha.

Claude Monet
Le bassin aux nymphéas
Oil on canvas
Est. $30,000,000–50,000,000
Sold for $31,812,500

Poor Jackson Pollock. Only did one thing. Dripped paint onto canvases that were spread across his studio floor. They’re beautiful (esp. this one) but after that, no one was much interested in his output. I think it’s what drove him into that tree. I wish I’d have done just one thing. Harper Lee only wrote one book. I’d be content with that.

Jackson Pollock
Composition with Red Strokes
Oil, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas
Est. $50,000,000–70,000,000
Sold for $55,437,500

So many Picassos. There are always so many Picassos. How many pieces did he create? Unlike Pollock, who did just one thing, Picasso changed and morphed his work over the decades. Constantly reinventing his output resulted in his dying of old age instead of plowing his car into a tree. This, from his multiple-perspective phase.

Pablo Picasso
Femme au beret orange et au col de fourrure
Oil on canvas
Est. $15,000,000–20,000,000
Did not sell

Here’s an ugly gray owl.

Pablo Picasso
Le hibou gris
Painted earthenware
Est. $1,500,000–2,500,000
Sold for $2,412,500

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I am home convalescing from a successful back procedure. I made the mistake of reading my surgeon’s detail Operative Report. I found it both fascinating and revolting. Here are some highlights. I don’t understand most of it but it sounds horrific. To think these things were done to me and I walked out of the hospital THE SAME DAY is a miracle to me.

This isn’t for the squeamish. I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this. Is anyone else fascinated? Now I know how the frogs in biology class felt.

The incision was made with the spinous processes of L4, L5 with the incision being carried down to level of thoracodorsal fascia. Then, a right-sided subperiosteal dissection was completed, exposing the bottom half of the L4 lamina top of the L5 lamina. Deep retractors were placed. 

The bone piece was removed en bloc exposing the ligamentum flavum. Ligament flavum was opened bluntly and then resected using Kerrison rongeur. There was a large focal disk herniation compressing the L5 nerve root. The L5 nerve root was gently mobilized off of the disk herniation and a nerve root retractor was used to hold it in place.

Using a 15 blade, a cruciate incision was made in the annulus. Then, very soft fragments of disk were easily removed.  The sac where the disk herniation was, was probed with a nerve hook.  A few small fragments were removed.

The patient tolerated procedure well, was brought to recovery room in stable condition with plans for discharge.

Presto. Nothing to it.

Secrets of the Wealthy

I used to work in the Private Wealth division of JP Morgan. I designed marketing material that enticed the well-heeled to park their net worth at JP Morgan. Prior to my employment there, I was aware of High Net Worth investors. But what was revealed to me was a second, more exclusive and enigmatic category; Ultra High Net Worth investors. That’s a real thing. It’s old family money. I used it as a new benchmark and a club to beat myself up over my mediocrity.

JP Morgan doesn’t just sell banking services. It sells lifestyle services. There’s a secretive world that exists beyond the bounds of your weak, middle class imagination. Ultra High Net Worth investors don’t wait to board planes. They’ve never seen a baggage carousel. Everything is done for them. Their lives are scrubbed and sanitized. And why not? Who doesn’t want to avoid conflict?

There’s one thing that galls me. Not only have Ultra High Net Worth investors never seen a baggage carousel, they’ve also never seen the inside of a hospital waiting room. There are underground teams of doctors who work on-call exclusively for wealthy families. They don’t treat the unwashed hoi polloi. If there’s a medical need, it’s attended to post haste. If you’re regular, you’ll have to wait your turn. In the meantime, please fill out these forms.

I sought treatment for a disk extrusion to my lower spine. Each night, each morning, anytime I’m awake, there’s a knife plunged into my leg. I have been tormented since the first week of August. It has robbed me of my sleep and appetite. My weight has gone from a robust 178 pounds to a sniveling 161. It’s not a good look. I’m so sleep deprived that on more than one occasion I’ve hallucinated at my desk.

After a panoply of failed treatments I decided to go nuclear and do the thing I swore I’d never do; get surgery.  Back surgery sounds scary, dangerous and painful. But I’m told microdiscectomy is a small incision and then an extraction. 80-90% success rate. Outpatient.

Prior to setting a date for surgery I told my pain management MD I was worried they’d make me wait until December to slot me in for the procedure. I had to wait two weeks just to see the surgeon. I’m cracking up in a very real way and am genuinely worried. Dr. Pain Mgmt said, kind of sheepishly, “Oh, you don’t need to worry about that. You’re a big number for him. You’ll get in right away.” What does that MEAN? I’m a big number? Does that mean I have proper healthcare and the bill will be paid promptly so I’ll get favorable scheduling? If that’s true, then the economically disadvantaged are made to wait (i.e., suffer) longer for treatment. Not Ultra High Net Worth but sill advantaged.

Surgery is Tuesday. That’s Election Day. If the returns are not what I’d hoped, I’m leaving instructions to keep me under for two years.

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I understand this is repetitive but I’m getting great shots of the Chrysler Building. It’s the time of year when the sun is coming up just as I get to work. As added texture, the Chrysler Building is getting a new neighbor. 1 Vanderbilt.

Think about this for a minute: They dismantled an entire skyscraper, carted away the iron and debris and are building a new skyscraper on its footprint. It’s RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Grand Central Station, one of the densest, busiest pockets of Manhattan. I’ve driven through that neighborhood dozens of times. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to navigate. How are they able to do all that construction? Project Management Superninja skills.

I remember after 9/11 walking up to the remains of the World Trade Center. It was a gigantic mountain of twisted metal. I thought it’d be YEARS until they were able to clear it all out. Not so.

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Asleep.

Lana Turner portrait.

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My previous post touched on some concrete barricades that ring my building. They sprung up suddenly. I was told they were in anticipation of the election, which seemed odd, since the election was 2+ weeks away. Several days later, a bomb was sent to CNN, which is just up the street. Election, my ass. They knew something was about to go down.

Blockade

I don’t work for The New York Times but I do work in Times headquarters. It was designed by the charmingly-named Italian architect Renzo Piano. He also designed the Whitney Museum of Art and The Shard in London.

The Times HQ is a high-prolife address. We get protesters out front on a semi-regular basis. Various fringe groups hang banners on the building adjacent to the main entrance demanding The Times pay more attention to their special obsession.

Occasionally, like, for instance, yesterday, an NYPD flatbed semi will roll up 8th Avenue with a load of concrete barriers. The kind that’ll prevent a truck ladened with explosives from driving through the main entrance.

They’ll set up a ring around the perimeter.

It’s a little unnerving to wonder what prompts this. Who are they trying to keep out? Later in the day a company-wide email was circulated stating the barricades were being installed in advance of Election Day. Are they worried about violence and destruction of property after the results are announced? What have we become? A third-world banana republic?

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I bought a lottery ticket, which is something I never do. It’s humiliating. I fancy myself a sophisticated student of the odds. I like casinos and craps tables. Even slot machines, the bastion of blue-haired old ladies, have more dignity than lotto. Barely.

I took this shot when no one was looking. They don’t like you taking photos inside the casino. They’ll throw you out if they catch you.

What I didn’t realize until later was that I inadvertently caught, in a blur on the left mid-photo, the dice flying through the air. A six and a five. That’s yo-11.

The state lottery is a tax on the desperate. But if you’re going to jack that pot up to $970,000,000 then deal me in. An incomprehensible amount of money. I could finally buy a Rothko!

If I win I’ll get rid of the few friends I have and surround myself with sycophants and boot lickers. I’ll get a girlfriend half my age. Japanese. Barely understands English. Named Yum-Yum.

I hope I don’t win. I couldn’t handle it.

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I was down at Astor Place in the East Village last week. Long time gone. It was different and the same. I wasn’t bothered by the changes. It’s a waste of time to complain about gentrification. It’s the oldest bitch in the book.

“In twenty years, or thirty at farthest, we shall see here nothing more romantic than shipping, warehouses, and wharves. Every noble cliff will be a pier, and the whole island will be densely desecrated by buildings of brick, with portentous of brown-stone, as the Gothamites have it.”

Edgar Allan Poe in a letter from 1844

I had a shawarma pita at Mamoun’s. Still cheap and good. Saw a play at The Public. Glenn Close plays Joan of Arc’s mother. My two friends loved it, as did the reviewers, but I thought it was simply okay. It was disjointed. The dialogue toggled between contemporary and period language. It was either funny or they were describing how Joan was burned. The cast was strong but the actor playing Joan was a weak link. And if your play is about Joan of Arc, that’s a problem.

I should’ve waiting until after the reviews were out to see it. Then I would’ve known how to react. I’d still take a night of middling theater over a night of epic TV.

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We are moving to the part of the year when the sun is rising just as I arrive at work. I’m hoping the new construction to the left of the Chrysler Building won’t obstruct my view when it’s completed.

Hallucinate

I’m enjoying my first genuine health crisis. That I made it this far in life without one is my luckiest break. I, literally, haven’t slept through the night since mid-August. I wake up two or three hours after I go to bed with stabbing pains. I move to the floor next to the bed so as not to disturb my bride. I curl up like the family dog and try to go back to sleep. The floor is hard so I’ve set a couple sleeping bags and blankets down and that helps. I usually fall back to sleep around 3:30.

I wake up shortly after that with terrible dreams. In one, the cure to my ailment could be found if I gathered one million gallons of water. I called everyone I know to help me gather water but nobody had the time to pitch-in. Another was a work-nightmare (of course). An excel spreadsheet with indecipherable numbers, endless tabs and an impossible deadline. One morning, the pain was worse than usual. I was scared and dreamt I’d better call someone in case I was dying but there was no one to call. I didn’t know my doctor’s number and knew he wouldn’t pick up at that hour anyway. Who else could help me? Who had the knowledge to alleviate the pain? No one. That’s who.

These other-worldly dreams would be interesting if they weren’t accompanied by the very real pain. I think it might be the meds. None of the pills I take do a damn thing for me but I keep swallowing them anyway. They’re about as effective as eating M&Ms for medicinal purposes.

The fall theater season is underway. I’ve had to eat two previously-purchased play tickets because the thought of sitting for 2+ hours in one of Broadway’s Marquis de Sade seats is unbearable. I couldn’t do it. This Friday I have a ticket to a production starring Glenn Close down at The Public Theater in the village. It’s a tough ticket to get so I’m going to try and suffer through. I can always bail out at the interval.

I used to have remarkable recuperative powers. I can’t imagine what’s happened to compromise them.

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The Alberto Giacometti exhibit at the Guggenheim surprised me in the bad way. I’m a fan of his work but seeing the rotunda filled with it was numbing.

I’ve always loved seeing one of his slender man pieces at an auction or museum. I love that they sell for tens of millions. That shouldn’t have anything to do with the aesthetics of the piece but it all factors in.

It was too much. Half as many pieces would’ve been fine.

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I’m genuinely sad to see summer end. I like the longer days, the life in my backyard, the beach. But I won’t miss the overly-air conditioned venues. My office and bus are like meat lockers. My bride keeps the thermostat set to Pluto. Plus, I look forward the the aforementioned theater season. And football.

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How to enjoy unemployment

[Note: I didn’t lose my job. This is from 1994. A bit risqué but I sanitized it.]

bins

January 11, 1994

I haven’t worked for over a month and am falling behind on the bills. I wrote a letter to the student loan vampires and asked for a six-month reprieve. I threw the utility and phone bills in the garbage. I made the minimum payment on the credit cards but I have to pay the rent IN FULL. I went to an interview today and have five more lined up. They made me take a typing test. 65 words per minute with two errors. Champion.

I visited Ann. It was 10:00 at night on Sunday and bitterly cold so I took a cab uptown. $7. That son-of-a-bitch came off the FDR, turned onto Third Avenue and drove right past Laura’s apartment. I craned my neck out the window to see if her light was on and was desperately looking for her on the sidewalk.

Ann keeps a case of Veuve Clicquot in the spare bedroom and she’s always got a few cold so we popped a cork, took our clothes off, got into bed and watched reruns of Get Smart, House of Buggin’ and The George Carlin Show.

I always feel kind of bad when a woman goes down on me. That can’t possibly be any fun, can it? I don’t feel bad enough to stop them. It takes very little to bring Ann to complete and full satisfaction. It often occurs more than once. I don’t take any credit for this. She is so in tune with her body that she’s able to practically do it all on her own. Sometimes, the glorious event occurs before we take our clothes off. Good for her! There was an unusually large wet spot. I slept on the edge of the bed and woke up with a sore back.

The next morning I was going to launch a new assault but my breath was bouncing up off the mattress and back into my face. It was so horrific that I lost interest. Ann tried to coax me but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I stank. That reminds me…Laura used to leave in the morning without brushing her teeth. And she smoked! I can’t abide by poor dental hygiene but I miss her terribly.

Ann made a pot of tea and some whole wheat toast with raspberry preserves. She put a little honey in the tea. It was good. I confirmed my interview with Prudential Bache. Ann was in the kitchen rinsing our tea cups. I walked up behind her and put my hands under her T-shirt. I told her I wanted her and she shouted, “OKAY!” and said it with such unintended glee that we both laughed. We stumbled into the bedroom and did it. We laid there for a bit and then I got up and washed. It was the first time I had to wash my genitals prior to an interview.

I went to that David + Amy Sedaris play in the East Village by myself last week. Today, The New York Times gave it a good review. That guy is on his way. The Times said he’s developed a cult following. Can you believe it! It said he’s a “social satirist” and that’s an accurate description of what I remember him being like. I went to the library and read his pieces in Harper’s and they seemed like elaborate diary entries. Is that a type of writing? Maybe I can do that?

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Adieu to summer. Summer is the coldest month. My office and commuting buses are like meat lockers. My bride keeps the house thermostat set to Pluto. Here are some bugs courtesy of my iPhone.

Hot moth love.

Butterflies are beautiful from a distance.

Pollen party in my backyard.

The whites are a bit hot in this pic but I don’t know how to fix that.

Game of Thrones dragon.