Gavel banging for the 1%

The spring Post War and Contemporary Art auction is about to be sprung at Christie’s. I present to you my semi-annual post of jaw-dropping and head-scratching multimillion dollar offerings. Here’s proof positive that judging art is, at best, a subjective sport and that beauty truly is in the eye, and the pocketbook, of the beholder. These works are not for you or I to consider owning. We are left to wonder what it would be like to have this kind of discretionary income. If nothing else, these auctions serve to reiterate a point we’ve known all along—that wealth is not a barometer of good taste. I ran down on my lunch hour and took these pics. Check back on Wednesday and I’ll post the prices realized for each lot.

I’ll start off with the works that I like. The estimates are uniformly insane for ALL these lots. I can’t imagine what I’d do with an extra $15 mil but I wouldn’t blow it any of these. However, if I were to bid at this auction, these are the works I’d raise my paddle on. Feel free to disagree but remember, this is my sandbox.

I like Andy Warhol. I always have (see banner up top). He’s fun! The photo doesn’t do this painting justice. The flowers are so bright that they’re almost luminescent. A fantastic piece. Flowers. Est. $800,000 – $1,200,000.

Sold for $1,202,500. See. I told you they were nice.

aw21
What do you suppose the guy who actually designed this Brillo soap pad box thinks about this? Warhol must be laughing is ass off. Brillo Soap Pads. Est. $400,000 – $600,000.

Sold for: $812,500.

aw31

Here’s one of Andy’s iconic soup cans. Cleverly titled Small Campbell’s Soup Can (Chili Beef). Est. (ready?) $5,000,000 – $7,000,000. It’s a SOUP CAN!

Sold for $7,362,500. It’s a SOUP CAN.

aw41

There are a few of Warhol’s celebrity portraits for sale. Here’s a painting of a very young Meryl Streep that was executed in 1984. Meryl Streep. Est. $900,000 – $1,200,000.

Meryl Streep: Did not sell. Poor Meryl.

aw51
This gargoyle is, believe it or not, Dolly Parton. Also pained in 1984. Dolly Parton. Est. $600,000 – $800,000. Totally worth it!

Sold for $626,500.

aw11
Every time I say I’m not a fan of Daimen Hirst I stumble across something by him that I really like. Have you seen the shark in the tank of formaldehyde? Or the skull with diamonds? They’re great! This beauty is vibrant, bright and alive. (Again, the photo is a miscarriage of justice.) But the really cool thing is…

dh11
…this piece is made from butterfly wings! What a pain in the ass this must have been! Eternal Life. Est. $550,000 – $750,000. Is that all!?

Sold for: $662,500.

dh21
There are a bunch of mobiles by Alexander Calder for sale. I love all of Calder’s stuff and can actually picture one of these hanging in my home. (Just so long as they’re hung far enough away from the snapping jaws of Coco.) On the left is Snow Flurry (Est. $3,500,000 – $4,500,000 and on the right is Untitled (Est. $3,000,000 – $4,000,000).
Snow Flurry sold for: $10,386,500. Well north of the high estimate.
Untitled sold for: $6,354,500. Ditto.

ac11
This is kind of the granddaddy of the show. It’s what greets you as soon as you walk in the gallery. Mark Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow. Est. $35,000,000 – $45,000,000. I really like it, although I’m not sure it’s worth $40 million bucks. That’s seems a bit excessive.
Sold for $86,882,500. BWWAAAA! Eighty-seven million dollars! Good thing they didn’t give that money to poor people They would have just wasted it on stupid stuff like tuition and shelter.

rothko
Jackson Pollock! Number 28, 1951! Est. $20,000,000 – $30,000,000! What do you think of that, bitches?
Sold for $23,042,500. I was knocked out of bidding early.

pollock
Display this beauty in your window and it’ll keep the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormon Missionaries off your front lawn. You won’t have anyone for Halloween, either. Spider III by Louise Bourgeois. Est. $2,000,000 – $3,000,000. I remember she did a fantastic exhibit of gigantic spiders in Rockefeller Center a few years ago. They were so sinister looking  that I was a bit surprised they allowed it.
Sold for: $4,562,500. HER work did well. [For nursemyra.]

Bourgeois
Here is a section of works that I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND. Again, this is all subjective and the fact that I can’t see the merit in these is utterly irrelevant. Especially to Christie’s. We’ll start with a real belly laugh. This is Mr. Watson—come here—I want to see you by Urs Fischer. It’s a light bulb on a long cord that swings back and forth, accelerating and decelerating in a 12-minute cycle. Est. $300,000 – $400,000. The statue to the right is NOT part of this lot. that’s an entirely separate piece. That’s also by Mr. Fischer. It’s Untitled (Standing), which is kind of dumb since he says it’s untitled but then calls it Standing. He must be a deep thinker, that one. The light you see at the top of the man’s head is a candle burning. Est. $700,000 – $1,000,000. Yeah, that’s right. One million dollars. It’s almost as shocking as paying $400,000 bucks for a bulb swinging on a cord. And those Ikea shelves on the left? That’s Untitled by Robert Gober. Est. $500,000 – $700,000. Suckers.
Untitled Standing sold for: $1,314,500.

Untitled (the Ikea shelves) Sold for: $782,500.

Mr. Watson—come here—I want to see you

for: $266,500. Get yourself to Home Depot and you can put this one together for a lot less.

Cindy Sherman scares me just a bit. I can’t imagine hanging any of these in my home, although I have a friend in San Francisco who knows someone who has Sermans in their house. She said her friends try too hard to be irreverent. I recently attended the Sherman retrospective at MoMA. Something like that can have a profound effect on the monetary vale of an artist’s work. Everyone wants their taste validated by MoMA. The clown on the left is Untitled (#423). Est. $300,000 – $500,000. On the right is Untitled (#215). Est. $400,000 – $600,000.
Untitled (#423) sold for $578,500.

Untitled (#215) sold for $578,500. 

cs11
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown). Simply awful. Looking at his work makes me wonder if I’ll ever like art again. Est. $9,000,000 – $12,000,000. I’ll just die if it sells for that much. 

This piece either did not sell or was withdrawn. It’s just as well. It would have ruined my evening.

basquiat
Warhol’s Basquiat on the right but up on the wall near the ceiling is Antony Gormley’s Stay. Two years ago there was a fantastic outdoor exhibit in Madison Square Park where he placed 31 of these statues along building ledges and roofs. While I admired that exhibit very much, I can’t imagine why anyone would hang one of these in their den, with his ridiculous uncircumcised penis dangling down at you. Est. $400,000 – $600,000. 
Sold for $422,500.

gormley
de Kooning. This guy is consistently bad, recent major sold-out retrospective at MoMA notwithstanding. Untitled I. How lazy. Give it a title! Est. $8,000,000 – $12,000,000. Another one that will make me hurl if it sells for that much.
Sold for: $14,082,500. Barf.

de+kooning

16 thoughts on “Gavel banging for the 1%

  1. have to agree – for half a million dollars, they can give it a freakin’ title! saw the play Red not long ago – and developed a bit of an appreciation for Rothko, and his work. but if i had a million dollars? i’d be on a beach somewhere, sipping an endless supply of umbrella drinks and reading trashy novels…

  2. I can’t stand Basquiat. I think he’s a fraud. It’s ugly. As are the Shermans.Disagree with you about de Kooning though! There’s a joy in his work that comes through the violent brushstrokes.Favourtie of the lot here for me is Warhol’s flowers. The rest of Warhol is just too familiar now, it’s dull. Whereas the effect of Rothko stays the same, decade after decade. Expensive yes but I still think they’re some of the most beautiful artworks of the last century.Now to see if this signal will let me post this from this train carriage.

  3. Oh I love the Shermans. And the Rothko. PS: I think you’ve made a typo with Louise Bourgeois. You’ve referred to her as “he”, maybe your finger slipped off the “s” key darlin’

  4. OK, here we go.I know art is subjective to a certin extent, but WTF?There’s nothing, absolutely nothing on display that I’d even give my lunch money for ($3.95)Are these people insane?And what about Hirst.I thought we taught our kids not to tear the wings of flys, and this f*cking idiot rips them of the prettiest insects in creation.I honestly think he shoukd get put away somewhere safe. Maybe the Château d’If would suit.What ever happened to good taste, accurate representation and sheer artistic skill.?Sometimes I weep.Sometimes my fingers hunger for the feel of a well-oiled Ithaca Model 37.

  5. Wonderful post. Thanks loads.I read someone the other day lauding Hirst and saying he ‘showed us the way.’Make of that what you will.

  6. daisy: I saw Red as well and as much as I liked Rothko before, I like his work even more after. The show added a dimension. Perhaps if they do a bio play of de Kooning or Basquiat I can stop hating them so much.looby: I’m going to have to concede your point about the familiarity of Warhol’s work. You’re right! It’s tired. Rats. Thanks for pointing that out, pal.nurse: Was it a typo or was it a subliminal commentary on contemporary women artists? I’ll never tell. Fixed.TSB: Yes, sir. Money seems to have an effect on the way your brain process information. Wealthy people are crazy. And what is a butterfly wing when it sacrificed for a $600,000 work of art? I’m sure the butterfly doesn’t mind being immortalized. All is in jest, of course. You should have seen some of the JUNK I left out of this post.

  7. I do like early de Kooning. and I like Basquiat too although i’m not planning to buy one, LOL. and I happen to love Louise Bourgeous, i find her rather radical. eccentric and original.luckily my pocket money for buying art fits into a change purse so i shan’t be tempted by any of these.

  8. suki: Actually, there’s an early de Kooning in this auction that I think is quite lovely. But the preponderance of his work doesn’t do it for me.map: Wy bother with messy paints? If you can screw a light bulb into a long cord, hang it from the ceiling and swing it, you might find yourself $400K richer.

  9. Rothko, de Kooning, Pollack, you could argue for or against all of them (read a good bio on de Kooning by the way) now Jean-Michel, well i’ll admit i’ve seen bathroom graffiti that rivals some of his work but as you said about Hirst, one part talent on part press and sometimes that talent is marketing your ass (i think your boy Warhola knows a bit about that now doesn’t he)

  10. kono: I’ve met some great artists who never got anywhere only because they didn’t know how to market their work properly. That’s why galleries are so powerful. They take care of the dirty work.map: I took care of it. Thanks for the heads-up.

  11. That sort of spending money? I’d spend it on a lot more things (some early Japanese prints would be nice and some Picasso) before I started buying those pieces.But this is a good post;thanks for giving us the opportunity to vent spleen from afar.(And, yes, do come back and tell us who spent how much for what.)

  12. dinah: Some can get the Japanese prints, a Picasso or two AND the beauties here. It all depends under which cabbage leaf you were born.cats: You are a person who thinks with a clear-headed logic that the rest of us can only admire and envy. Are you wealthy? Well done. Wink.

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