Part 2: Bad Art for Sale

[Edit]: I misidentified the Tomato man sculpture below. It’s called Tomato Head (green) by Paul McCarthy. The estimate was $1,000,000-1,500,000. It sold last night for $4,562,500. My feelings about the piece have not changed. I’ve added the prices realized. Prices include buyer’s premium.

Last week’s Impressionist auction at Christie’s met with limited success. Degas’ Little Dancer failed to sell. The experts feel the $25 million estimate was too aggressive. Many of the lots didn’t sell. It’s the economy, stupid!

So we move from the sublime to the ridiculous. The Contemporary Art auctions will be held this week. There are a few interesting lots but I have chosen to focus on the pieces that I simply don’t understand. They strike me as preposterous and the estimates make me dizzy.

It’s the old kitchen sink argument I can do that myself. It’s a silly thing to say. One can retort well, then, why don’t you? But logic has never been welcome on this blog and I’m not about to start now. So take a walk with me. This is the kind of self-indulgent junk that makes people dismiss art and shun museums.
This is Driftwood by Richard Long. It’s 48 pieces of driftwood laid out just so on the floor. That’s it. Chunks of wood on the floor. If I brought 5-Year Old Daughter to this, she’d immediately start picking them up and stacking them, thereby ruining the aesthetic of the piece. Estimate: $100,000-150,000. Did not sell.
sticksI’m probably going to catch some hell for this. This is Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat who I cannot stand. This is a terrible piece. It’s infantile scribbling. Basquiat helped legitimize graffiti as an art form. The people who deemed graffiti “art” lived uptown and didn’t have to look at it every day while walking to the corner bodega for a quart of milk. It got old. Take my word for it. And stupidly throwing your successful life/career away on a heroin overdose is inexcusable. Estimate: $900,000-1,200,000. Sold for $2,546,500.

This is 6765 by Mario Merz. 85 stacks of aging newspapers with glass plates and neon tubes. Actually, I saw something just like this last weekend at the town recycling center. Estimate: $750,000-950,000. Sold for $1,426,500.


Flowers, Mary’s Table by de Kooning. I don’t like ANYTHING de Kooning did. It’s noise. This piece gave me a headache just by walking past it. Ready for this? Estimate: $8,000,000-12,000,000. Totally worth it. Did not sell.


Another head-scratcher. One and Three Coats by Joseph Kosuth is a photograph of a leather coat, the leather coat and the definition of coat. Again, I ask, where is the artistic merit in this? And where would you proudly display it? Estimate: $140,000-180,000. Sold for $146,500.


Finally, a Jeff Koons I can appreciate. Two Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J. Silver Series, Wilson Aggressor). Two basketballs suspended in sodium chloride reagent and distilled water. You’d have to see this in person to really appreciate it. It’s bright and clean with sharp edges and it’s funny. I love it. But not for $2,000,000-3,000,000. Sold for $4,226,500.

41 thoughts on “Part 2: Bad Art for Sale

  1. Wasn’t paying attention, so I don’t have details…but apparently some fabulous artwork, a pan-with-something-in-it sitting on the floor was given a good scrubbing by the janitor. Nice and clean and no longer worth $100,000!

  2. sodium chloride reagent and distilled water? salt water. talk about pretense…i would like to purchase the “Carrot Rapes Tomato” statue, then make a big deal about donating it to a small town – to be in the central playground area. but if i had half a million, that’s about the last thing i’d do with it…

  3. Nana: You’re not far from the truth. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of gold on the floor. I turned to face it and it was an electrical outlet! I actually had a laugh out loud!daisy: I wonder how the balls are suspended? It looks like they’re encased in solid lucite. It didn’t look like salt water. You could buy ‘Carrot Rapes Tomato’ and put it in your front yard as a neighborhood beautification project. Hem: Art is so subjective. That’s kind of the fun of it, I suppose. I tend to get angry when it’s beyond my understanding, which is most of these pieces here.

  4. Just as I was cheerleading behind you with your choices, you say you don’t like de Kooning. I love de Kooning, always have. There’s something joyful about his use of paint, a pleasure in its physical properties. The Merz one is too similar to Carl Andre’s bricks – “Equilibrium” something, I think it’s called, without Googling.

  5. I like de Kooning’s colours though not especially in that order.For the rest I would echo the art connoisseur who muttered:”yer ‘avin a larf!”

  6. looby: Clearly I’m in the minority on de Kooning. The Museum of Modern Art just opened a huge de Kooning retrospective and it’s packed. I simply don’t get it. Maybe someday.nurse: Maybe he was being ironic. Or funny. Or he changed his mind about not wanting a title. Who knows. Pat: This stuff is beyond my understanding but SOMEBODY must get it. Otherwise these pieces wouldn’t command these prices.

  7. I’ve always wondered what kind of prices these pieces of dreck would draw if the potential buyers could somehow be hypnotised into not knowing who any of the “artists” were. Bid for the piece, as you see it, not the artist.

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