Art auction addendum: A piece that disgusts me

Typically, I don’t do back-to-back auction posts but there are extenuating circumstances. Some of the galleries at Christie’s were vacated after an auction last week so they put more pieces on display from this week’s Post-War and Contemporary Art auction. Here are a few more high (low?) lights and one piece that I found deeply offensive and depressing.

This frivolity is by Maurizio Cattelan.


Frank and Jamie. $1,500,000–2,500,000
Sold for $965,000. What a deal!

This was good for a laugh but, again, I have to wonder about the practicality of a piece like this. Where would you put it? In the foyer? The estimate may provide the biggest laugh.

But this isn’t the one that offended me.

This beauty is by British bad boy (no, not Banksy) Damian Hirst


Inviolability. $900,000–1,200,000
Sold for $1,205,000

I saw one of these in the Cleveland Museum of Art over the summer. A security guard yelled at me for taking a picture of it. You know what is is made of, don’t you? Butterfly wings.


Thousands and thousands of butterfly wings. He breeds them specifically for these pieces. Here’s the center.


The materials used are listed as “…butterflies and household gloss on canvas mounted on panel.” Here’s another piece that’s smaller.


Psalm 28: Ad Te, Domine. $150,000–200,000
Sold for $305,000

And the detail.


They’re beautiful but cruel. Yet, they didn’t offended me.

This sculpture is by Antony Gormley and I loved it.


Domain LXVI. $400,000–600,000
Sold for $545,000

There’s something about the way it stood in a pool of light and glistened when you walked by that really worked for me. It somehow manages the trick of being both slight and powerful at the same time. Obviously, this isn’t the one that offended me.

I was offended by this.


3-Meter Girl. $2,000,000–3,000,000
DID NOT SELL. Of course, it didn’t.

Horrible. This ugly objectification of women is courtesy of Takashi Murakami. Do you know how you’re supposed to respect other cultures and not criticize what they might consider art? That it’s okay to not like something, but to condemn is it in poor taste? Well, in the words of Le Clown, fuck that noise. Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with Japanese men? They seem to have a proclivity towards sex-up little girls. Do they feel threatened and intimidated by adult women?


All I kept thinking was that I’ve got two beautiful daughters at home and how, no matter what age, I wouldn’t want them looking at this. I wondered what it would do to their body image and self esteem.


Or, do I just need to lighten up? Go ahead. You can tell me. I can take it. I do like how this last photo came out, though. Good composition and shadowing.


46 thoughts on “Art auction addendum: A piece that disgusts me

  1. That’s too grotesque to damage anyone’s self-esteem. I think the submissive, confused look on her face is another peculiar fetish of Japanese men. It says nothing about women and plenty about the artist.

    • It’s so over-the-top that I actually didn’t recognize what I was looking at when I entered the gallery. It was revealed to me when I got closer. You are correct. I twisted it around. It really DOES say more about the artist than the subject. I stand corrected.

  2. I still have mixed feelings about the butterfly wing art-while beautiful I think is horrible to raise them for this purpose. But when you actually see a piece close up it really is breath-taking!
    Guess that is the way I feel about the zoo-it’s great for kids to see animals that are not “normally” part of ones family; I feel bad for the animals that they are being held captive.
    The circus, horse and dog races are definite no-no’s for me anymore….I get choked up just thinking about the animals being detained and trained for human amusement. I mean isn’t that why we have children?

    • You have to admit, the butterflies are beautiful. Let’s hope they were already dead when they had their delicate wings pulled off. Zoos are pretty awful but would you or I have ever seen a tiger or lion otherwise? I guess they have value but it’s too bad for the animals, although the improvements made to the Cleveland Zoo are pretty impressive. Large, open spaces for them to roam. It’s not the planes of the Serengeti but it’s better than cages with iron bars. You should see the documentary currently running on CNN about the Orca whales in captivity at Sea World. You’d scratch that off your list, too. I thought we had children to take care of us in our retirement. Isn’t that the case?

    • I still think this could do some damage if viewed at a young, impressionable age. It hardly matter to me in my personal life. I’m sure not going to buy the damn thing. Wouldn’t even if I could.

  3. I get the impression from reading your blog for the last, however many years, that your daughters are pretty well grounded when it comes to telling the difference between dumb “art” and the other kind. You’ve got to let them fly like a butterfly, oops!, hold on, maybe in light of this exhibition that’s the wrong metaphor.

    • Well, one is about to reach that stage when they start to break away from their parents and try to find their own person and all that nonsense, and I don’t need her seeing shite like this during those impressionable years.

      Ah ha. Nice work on the butterfly comment. I see what you did there.

  4. All of these things except that one sculpture seem like they are from a different world if “ART”. I don’t even understand why these things are up for auction at Christies……I find the Butterfly things painfully horrible on every level. And that last thing? Well, it is just crap. Just horrific crap in every way…..Your photograph of it—that last one—-is wonderful

    • The butterfly art is pretty repulsive when you consider how it’s constructed, but if you stood in front of one you’d see that it’s actually quite beautiful. And let’s remember…when the Impressionists were first shown, they were derided and laughed at. Look at poor van Gogh. He only ever sold a painting to his brother. Now, you can’t touch a good one for under $10M.

      • Oh, Please….I know all that.
        Raising Butterflies to kill them for paintings is just horrible to me, I don’t care how Beautiful the paintings are…..I’m sure some of the Nazi Lampshades were beautiful, too. .Maybe not quite the same thing, but to me, it’s a close second. As to the rest of it…..Well, I hope I won’t be around when any of those things become as valuable as a Van Gogh

    • It’s gross, right? It’s not even seductive, although I can’t imagine the artist’s intent was to titillate. Who knows what was in his head?

  5. I cannot even begin to tell you how obscene I consider the entire art world. I do not honestly believe I would give so much as $100 for ANY art work you posted in your blog of 11/06/2013 (except for the Monet). The suggested auction values are so non-real world as to boggle my imagination. I guess I can consider the average Monet, Picasso or Van Gogh worth 1 or 2 million, but these hacks being supposedly valued at anywhere from $20 or $30 million on up violates everything I hold dear. Really, upside down policemen are worth 1.5 to 2.5 million. You have to be kidding me! That Warhol shit must have taken him, what an hour or two to create, and it is supposed to be worth millions……Have these people lost their minds? Really? Don’t misunderstand me, the butterfly works are pretty…..but worth a million or more? Really? You have got to be kidding me……

    And that leaves me with the work of Murikami…….Don’t get me wrong, they are very pretty, but any 8 year old can glue butterfly wings to a palate……That makes them worth anywhere from $100 K to $1 Mil? Really? I think they have lost their minds……..As far as I am concerned there is not a piece of art worth $50 million in the entire world…….But that is just my opinion. What the hell do I know?

    • Thanks for that thoughtful commentary, Jim. Here’s the funny/sad thing about the Warhols; he probably had gallery assistants make most of those. You’d be surprised how much of that sort of thing goes on. The artist “envisions” the idea and a bunch of kids working for nothing execute it. Can you imagine having such a mind-boggling amount of money at your disposal? And, further, can you imagine spending it on any of these? Even if I could, I wouldn’t. The pre-auction estimates are part of the shock value of these posts. Not only is some of the art astonishingly bad, but it commands these obscene prices. I’ll come back with the prices realized next week. You might consider skipping that post!

      • Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Bacon…….$142.4 Million…….The world has gone MAD! Seriously? And painted in 1969, so you cannot even give it the cachet of old age (300 years old for instance). Let me repeat that:
        $142,400,000.00 Mighty big number for such as that! Are they CRAZY??????

      • You’re kidding? YOU’RE KIDDING!?

        I just checked. You’re not kidding. How in the world did that happen? And I’m still employed as a consultant. It doesn’t seem fair or logical or sane.

  6. There is something very strange going on within Japanese culture; there was a programme on not so long ago about how Japanese men were more likely to want a relationship with an animated cartoon figure than a real woman… unfortunately I can’t find the link to that… but I found this link HERE, which is very sad.
    Takashi Murakami’s 3 metre girl is probably more understandable to the Japanese… and it is probably a comment on how grotesque their popular culture is becoming.
    Fascinating, I think.

    • I’ve been reading those very same articles and they came to mind when I saw that piece. There is definitely something going on with men in Japan. Many of them (not ALL) seem terrified of personal relationships. They’d rather become attached to dolls and inanimate objects. Maybe Japanese women are really, really mean?

    • Well…let’s say you don’t like to chat after sex. That your preference is to just go to sleep. A virtual girlfriend might be right for you!

  7. I can’t pretend to be disgusted by any of the exhibitions featured above. They are not necessarily to my particular taste, especially the galligantus plastic anime-esque horror show, but obscene? Nah. I don’t personally think so. Liking a Monet, now that probably is pushing the boundaries of a true art lovers taste. As for the butterflies wings, I prefer to see them in their natural environment and still very much alive. In a nutshell, each individual has an eye for different kinds of artwork, all be it by way of a sculpture, a piece of music or even an engraved Romanian slate with a tacky Ceaușescu gold inlay. The Domain LXVI, yes, I’d give it floor space in the corner of my study. It is inspiring in a funny L.S Lowry kind of way. I’d perhaps pay somewhere in the region of €300 to have someone steal it for me, but that’s about it.

    • Perhaps, in hindsight, disgust is too powerful a word to use for this purpose. A typhoon that wipes out an entire village is disgusting. A bad painting? Merely annoying. To assuage any queazy feelings I had about the butterflies, I’ve chosen to believe that although raised in captivity, they were allowed to live to a ripe, old age (for a butterfly) and then died of a natural cause, after which they had their wings torn off and mounted on board. I’m not familiar with L.S Lowry and had to Google him. Industrial art. Very urban. Quite nice. Peculiar that there isn’t a full stop after the “S” in his name. I thought you committed a typo.

      • I do not think I was very clear earlier. What is obscene to me is not the art work per se, but the PRICES for them. As Chef said, most are not my cup of tea…….But rest assured that I don’t think any of the works you posted, including the Monet, are worth tens of millions of dollars. And the Bacon triptych worth $142, 400,000. It is beyond belief. Yes I recognize the power and glory that a fine piece of art can have, just seems to me that that 142.4 million could be used in better ways. Just my opinion…..

      • It’s not just your opinion. This morning, the New York Times front page featured the Bacon sale below the fold. Right above it was a story about the devastation in the Philippines and how desperately in need they are. The juxtaposition between the two was lost on no one. The comments sections on the web were choked with condemnation.

  8. I was initially repulsed by the price tags on these things, but when I got to that hideous sculpture I was more repulsed than I’ve been for a long time. Art? WHY??? What’s it supposed to represent? What about a grotesque sculpture of a man with a massive flaccid penis flopping out from under a huge beer gut??
    I’ll calm down by looking at the butterflies. HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF MUTILATED BUTTERFLIES.
    Just discovered your blog and am very glad I did (if not a little unsettled right now) 🙂

    • I wonder if anybody finds that grotesquerie to be even remotely seductive? Do you suppose? I can’t imagine that was the artist’s intent. She’s certainly not my type! I’m no prude but this is made to offend. As far as the poor butterflies…it’s one of your guys who did this, not ours! Remember, Hirst is the same bloke who put a dead great white shark in a giant tank of formaldehyde and set it up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What does he have against the animal kingdom? They finally had to remove the shark because it was decaying. He looked just awful the last few months he was there.

      You’re a hell of a writer. You should post more often.

  9. in a particularly foul and dark mood tonight, carrying an abundance of disgust for the general state of humanity when i read this… afraid that my current mood does not allow me to craft a thoughtful response.

    the highest level thought i can conjure for the moment – ‘the more you pay, the more it’s worth’. not a sentiment i hold, mind you, but it can be the only explanation for the prices commanded — AND RECEIVED — for things others consider a monstrosity.

    to put it in perspective, however, i can look at the work on my wall that i commissioned two years ago. i paid $500 for a custom bit of art work. this amount would pay the rent for a family just scraping by during a rough month.

    what did i buy? three canvas panels. i requested a rough color pallette. abstract. the artist? a 60 year old man that i’d never met. the program? art/vocation for developmentally disabled adults. Carl (the artist) has a vocabulary of about 7 words, lives in a small housing unit with several other severely disabled adults.

    is it beautiful? i think so. and i honestly don’t care what anyone else thinks of it.

    art. deeply personal and completely subjective.

    • What rotten timing. I wish I had written something more uplifting. Something that could have saved you from your mood. I’ll send you a funny picture.

      While true in most instances, “you get what you pay for” does not count for shit when dealing with the arts. Oh, excuse me, I mean The Arts. I’ve paid a pile of cash to see things on Broadway that were so dull I couldn’t wait until it was over. Conversely, I’ve seen things off-off Broadway for a fraction of the cost that were pure genius. Same goes with all things wall-hangy. It’s all subjective. Any chance you could post a pic of your canvases?

      • It’s a wise, and content, gentleman who knows when, and how, to take down an angry woman. It’s an unfortunate chap who misses his timing by a fraction of a second…

        i’ll get some pics of the art to you via e-mail over the next few days. It looks best with the sunlight coming through the skylights…

  10. The Gormley is the only one I really care for.
    Re the monstrosity I suppose the ‘artist’ would get some sort of satisfaction at causing such waves of repulsion?

    • Regardless if you or I care for any of these pieces, I can’t wrap my mind around what they sold for. Even if I had the wherewithal, I’d never pay these prices.

      It’s impossible to crawl inside the artist’s mind and see what he was thinking when he created this. I find it satisfying that nobody wanted to buy it.

  11. Yeah, I can see why you were offended by that. As a woman so am I. Vulgar.
    I love the Hirst and also the butterfly canvas but I’m not sure I could cope with the fact it’s actually made of butterfly wings. It doesn’t sit comfortably with me.

    • In addition to the butterflies, one of Hirst’s dot paintings was up for sale, too. I think Hirst said he was never making another dot painting again but then, years later, said he changed his mind and made a bunch more, thereby diluting the value of the existing ones. Did I get that right?

  12. That final one certainly is grotesque! Often if I’m offended by something, or find it hideous, I can at least see why some people might find it appealing, but this one?! Sometimes though artists just want to create something deliberately to shock, or disgust or whatever just to get people talking about it don’t they.

    The thing we need to keep in mind with those huge price tags is that a lot of the time when people spend those kinds of sums on art (and when I say “people” I’m referring more to individuals than galleries and museums here because they obviously have different reasons), they don’t necessarily like it, they’re often just speculating as an investment, hoping it will be worth more in the future. So while we might say that we would never spend that sort of money on art, if we did have vast wealth, who knows where we would choose to invest it? It’s always a gamble, whatever choices are being made about where to invest.

    • I guess even negative publicity is better than none at all, but Murakami’s piece is so repulsive that I can’t imagine its appeal to anyone. He’s done other work that I like but he really dove off the deep end with this one. Didn’t sell. Figures.

      That’s a very astute observation regarding buying art as an investment. Many of these pieces are purchased by hedge fund managers. They become part of a portfolio. They also afford bragging rights. Whether or not they actually have an appreciation for the work is in question.

  13. The Murakami piece is grotesque, but we don’t know the artist’s intention. Perhaps that’s what he was going for. There have been so many artists in so many genres over the years that strive for grotesque; it’s abject, cariciatural, creative and destructive all at the same time. And we, the viewers. are left with feelings of fear, or anxiety, or disgust, or even desire – which, in the end, is what art is about. At least we feel.

    • Who knows WHAT his intention was?! But as the viewer, I have the right to call bullshit when I see it. You are generous with your assessment of his supposed intentions. I would caution you not to over think this stuff. I believe it all springs from sexual frustration. At any rate, it didn’t sell so it’s probably sitting in a garage somewhere in Paramus.

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