Autumn for Sale

I work in an office tower on 6th Avenue in the middle of Manhattan. As you might expect, there aren’t many residential buildings nearby. It’s almost exclusively pencil-pushing, paper-shuffling edifices. Other neighborhoods—Chelsea, the Upper East and West Sides, the Villages—are more resident-oriented. But that’s not to say there aren’t ANY residential buildings in Midtown.

Directly across the street from my office is an apartment building. Architecturally, it’s a quiet affair; not at all like the soulless glass and steel structures that surround it. Its facade is brick with some flourishes.


Central Park, which is on fire right now with autumnal splendor, is just three short blocks away. Aside from immediately after a gigantic snowstorm, fall is when the city is at its most pastoral and beautiful. People come from all over the world to stroll through Central Park in the fall. These fortunate few, these denizens of the better addresses, can simply walk out their door, turn left, and in a matter of minutes be enveloped in Manhattan’s rustic beauty.

But sometimes, you don’t want to make that three-block walk. It may be too early in the morning. You might not look your best. In that case, you take your coffee and your iPad and sit outside on your sun-drenched terrace.


And that’s no reason to miss out on the splendor of autumn. You can always spend a small fortune to have a landscaper haul autumn up the service elevator and reconstruct it right outside your terrace door.


*     *     *

Within a 48-hour period last week:

  • At a jewelry auction in Geneva, the Pink Star diamond fetched $83,000,000, a record price for a gemstone. At the conclusion of the auction, the auction house played The Theme from the Pink Panther by Henry Mancini. Get it?
  • Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud sold for $142,000,000 at Christie’s, the most ever paid for a work of art. Wild applause broke out after six minutes of frantic bidding.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both achieved record highs.

Those first two points are intrinsically linked to the third. I wonder what it’s like to inhabit that ionosphere? Do you think they’re aware of the rare air they breath? Do they possess the proper depth of appreciation for their circumstances or are they blissfully blasé about it? I’d like to be blissfully blasé.

I’ve entered the prices realized from last week’s Post-War Modern Art auction at Christie’s (scroll down). It was a phenomenally successful event. The results far exceeded their wildest, sugarplums-dancing dreams. I read an excellent commentary on how it was difficult to actually see the art through all the dollar signs. The author found the auction

“…painful to watch yet impossible to ignore and deeply alienating if you actually love art for its own sake.”

 *     *     *

Here’s an interesting little doodad by Camille Norment that was on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art recently.


Triplight. 2008

It’s an old-timey Shure microphone—the kind that Sinatra and Billie Holiday used—with the guts replaced by a small, slowly pulsating light.


The shadow cast is supposed to be a “luminescent rib cage” that calls to mind the absent performer; the pulsating light reminiscent of breathing. Well, I don’t know about all that but it was mesmerizing to look at.


Museum of Modern Art, Wednesday, October 30, 12:55 p.m.

22 thoughts on “Autumn for Sale

  1. That’s amazing. I also wonder if those people have any idea how fortunate they are. It’s so cool that you take advantage of all the culture NYC has to offer you. You rock : )

    • Thanks, Molly. If you don’t mind my being blunt, anyone who lives out here and doesn’t take advantage of the cultural cornucopia is an idiot. Otherwise, you’re putting up with the expense, dirt, noise, expense, attitudes, crowds, break-neck pace, expense and inconveniences for nothing. Did I mention it’s expensive?

    • I’m an idiot. I should have taken a video instead of a still pic.The slow pulsing of the light was a clever conceit. I wondered what something like that would have sold for at the Christie’s auction last week? It was on display at MoMA, so it’s a high-profile piece.

    • That’s an excellent point. I’ve found many, many ways to circumnavigate the expense. I get into all the museums for nothing (or close to it) and get theater discounts all the time. The longer you live here, the more you learn how to game the system.

  2. The colours of the roof terrace garden are superb. There is something unique about the vibrancy of the reds and the browns that gives me an urge to walk, wrapped up in a warm coat and enjoy the seasons as they are offered to us all.

    The microphone stand… simplistic, but so effective in creating a fantastic shadow design. I love it. I want one!!

    Excellent post sir.

    • I enjoy the beach and nothing wakes your ass up better than a big snowstorm, but I’ve always said that autumn is where the palette meets the brush. It’s the ultimate cheap thrill.

      I was standing in front of that microphone thinking it’s probably not a difficult thing to assemble. It wouldn’t be the first original idea I commandeered.

  3. I LOVE that Garden right in the middle of Everything! The Best Of Both Worlds…..
    I agree with the person you quoted….About loving art for arts sake…..There is something truly obscene about the money involved with “art” now…..
    I love you sharing your views of the city…..
    Someone I know had a Studio Apartment on 6th, between 56th and 57th, for a good 35 years…..It was a perfect location for just about everything—especially for an actress…..Sad to say, she gave it up because of age related problems and moved into the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, CA—She knew lots of people there. She was there for one week, had a stroke and died a week later. I wonder if she had kept her Studio Apartment in NYC would she still be alive? She LOVED that city and ALL it had to offer…..! Seeing that Roof Garden right in the middle of everything made me think of her.

    • 6th and 56th would be the fantasy address for my pied-à-terre. Right down the block from Carnegie Hall. Close to the transit lines. If only…

      My mother had to give up living independently because of health reasons. We found a very nice place for her to live. She lasted about three weeks. She went off all her medications except morphine to deaden the pain. She drifted away, choosing to live the way she wanted and die the way she wanted.

      • God Bless your mother….! She did it her way.

        I know that area well…..having lived at The Salisbury, 57th between 6th and 7th….many many MANY times, and, for a number of quite extended periods… in MONTHS!
        Carnegie right up the street…..The old ‘Original’ Russian Tea Room…so close by….And being able to Walk to the Theatre every night….Central Park just steps away……MOMA a few blocks…..BLISS!
        And the great New York Neighborhood Deli, just around the corner on 6th—“We Deliver”…..Who could ask for more?

      • How fantastic to have called that your home. A dream come true. The Stage Deli closed. The Carnegie Deli lives on, though. It’s pretty expensive. In my opinion, you still can’t beat Katz’s Deli down on Houston.

  4. I never realised the climate in New York was so pleasant at this time of the year. Perfect for a walk in the park if the air quality is good. I think people that rich are blissfully blasé about money but worry about other things. It’s not just them who benefit from the rising stock market: don’t you have a pension plan?

    • There was a Spanish soap opera broadcast on Telemundo out here and I think the title translated to something like, “The Wealthy Have Problems, Too.” Of course, that’s true. I wouldn’t pretend to think otherwise. But still…

      You are correct, sir. I have some money socked away in a retirement account. As rises the stock market, so does my retirement fund. For that, I’ve always been appreciative. We all have our hand in the pot. Some more than others.

  5. I want one of those mics too, but with the guts intact.
    And I have a sudden urge to go walking in my favourite forest, just as soon as this rain stops. Forecast is for very cold dry weather soon, perfect weather for my silly hats!

    • That mic is the tool of your trade. To gut it would be an epic tragedy. Hope your clouds part and the sun shines on your forest path.

  6. I’m with Mr Cheen in the cold grey rain….

    Anyhow, I knew a stinking rich art collector once [he owned a few Hirsts, a Miro, and actually, many others] he genuinely didn’t really know anything about their meaning and he never bothered to find out. I found his attitude painful.

    • I suppose he was looking at his art as just another holding in his investment portfolio. I can’t really condemn him for that. Kind of silly for me to insist that everyone have the same appreciation that I do. But you’re right. It is painful to bear witness to.

  7. Interesting to see your working neighbourhood. Cities can have their charm.
    My mind can’t process those enormous sums. As a girl I was dazzled by a family member inheriting £100.000 and it is still quite a magic sum to me.
    Your mother had the right idea.

    • Oh, I’m completely charmed by my city. It’s under my skin. I keep waiting for the thrill to fade but so far, no sign.

      In my income bracket, £100.000 is a significant amount of money. No offense to your age but it must have been a king’s ransom when you were a girl.

      It was an incredibly generous act by my mother. While it’s true she didn’t want to live like that, I truly think that because she was broke, she saw her continued long-term hospice care as a financial drain on all of us. We’re not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t think she wanted to put us through that. She was terminal and the quality of her life would have only declined, so she checked out.

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