Earn millions painting Christ

I assume you’ve read about the $450M da Vinci. Christie’s marketing department gets an A+. Instead of selling this in the Renaissance auction where it belonged, they sold it in the Impressionist and Contemporary auction. da Vinci has nothing whatsoever to do with Contemporary art. But the Renaissance auction is a slow, staid, dull affair, full of musty, old bidders with their moldy, old money. The Contemporary auction is SEXY. The results speak for themselves.

I enjoyed the scandalous aspects. There’s a contingency of experts who don’t think it’s a da Vinci at all. Others think it’s genuine, but the restoration and cleaning was too aggressive. They restored the da Vinci-ness right out of the painting. I stood in line for :20 minutes to see it. It was beautiful to behold. I particularly liked how the glass orb was rendered.

But half a billion? It’s a good thing they didn’t donate that money to poor people. They would’ve just wasted it on stupid stuff like food, housing and education.

That wasn’t the only questionable auction result. We have the usual crap-ola mixed with genuine masterpieces. Guess which one this is:

Felix Gonzalez-Torres
light bulbs, porcelain light sockets and extension cord
overall dimensions vary with installation
Est: $5,000,000–7,000,000
Sold: $5,195,600

Paying $5M+ for some light bulbs strung to an extension cord seems even crazier than paying $450M for a di Vinci. Not that I could do either.

I’m a big Lichtenstein fan and this was a particularly juicy work. I understand why it sold so far above the high estimate. Sort of.

Roy Lichtenstein
Female Head
Est: $10,000,000–15,000,000
Sold: $24,501,500

I’ve never understood what Franics Bacon was trying to accomplish with his smudged paintings. They have a certain ugly appeal to me. This must be the wholesale price because you get all three paintings.

Francis Bacon
Three Studies of George Dyer
Est: $35,000,000–45,000,000
Sold: $38,614,000

Here’s a detail of the center panel. Fantastic.

Here’s a lovely Georgia O’Keeffe. She was upset that people interpreted her work as female genitalia. That’s not what she intended. She said it more than once. They are most definitely NOT vaginas.

Georgia O’Keeffe
Yellow Sweet Peas
Est: $2,500,000–3,500,000
Sold: $4,405,300

Here’s an interesting shape in the wall.

Anish Kapoor
The Healing of St. Thomas
Est: $ 40,000–60,000
Sold: $37,500

I’m usually a big fan of Kapoor but this is disappointing.

I’ll continue to post other fun results.


I went to a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Many years ago, I attended a Jon Stewart taping. This was before The Daily Show. The musical guests that night was The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I went straight from work and was wearing a tie. Some Bosstone ruffians sitting behind me were picking on me and making fun of the way I was dressed.

The Colbert show is structured to within an inch of its life and not as much fun as it sounds. We waited in line outside (in the cold) for a long time. We were finally welcomed by a CBS flunky. We got the old, “Are you excited?!” and we didn’t “Woooo!” loud enough so she asked us over and over again until we got it right. She said a comedian would get us all warmed-up to meet Stephen. Were we excited to meet STEPHEN? Wooooo!

Once inside, the warm-up comedian had people come up on stage and one by one he’d make fun of them for our amusement. He said the “f” word a lot. He brought up a 16-year old girl with her mom and treated them shabbily. He also made fun of a Polish woman with an accent. He was kind of an asshole, truth be told.

He said our JOB as the audience was to LAUGH and to laugh OFTEN. The success of the show hinged on our laughter. He said the audience isn’t miked, so it was important to LAUGH LOUD so we’d be picked up on tape. Apparently, we were also responsible for Stephen’s mood. Then he said, “So are you all exited to meet STEPHEN?”


Not good enough.


Then the stage manager came out. He had a rolled-up piece of blue cardboard. He said when he held it over his head and twirled in in a circular motion, we should go really, really crazy. We were encouraged to stand up. He then directed our attention to overhead monitors that would flash the word ‘APPLAUSE’ in red letters. We had to practice standing and going crazy. We were their monkeys, performing on cue. Maybe we’d get a nut.

We were exhausted and the taping hadn’t even started yet. The guest was Ben Affleck. They had a long, uncomfortable discussion about how women are mistreated in Hollywood. He addressed his past indiscretions, which he copped to, and said it’s important for him to learn and grow as a human being. They didn’t address any of the accusations leveled against his brother.



NYC at sunset from my office. This is how the New York State Division of Tourism wants you to see the city.

Same view. This is how it looks on a rainy Monday morning. Gotham City, baby.

65 thoughts on “Earn millions painting Christ

  1. The warm-up for the taped show sounds not unlike the broo-haha that goes before a Presidential election…
    My favourite ‘scraper! Twice in one post.You spoil me.

    I will never understand some people’s need to spend such ridiculous sums on art.Perhaps because I am so far off that pay scale!

    • Perhaps many of these purchases are looked at as investments. There’s a lot of money out there right now and it’s got to be parked somewhere. Gambling and financing Broadway musicals are both losing proposition. Contemporary art? No guarantees but better odds.

      • FFS, why can’t they invest in PEOPLE? This is a sick, sad world… 😦

        Also, dammit, I really liked watching Stephen Colbert … The one thing that always puzzled me was how he’d announce, “I’m your host, Stephen Colbert…” and the crowd goes wild with excitement, as though this was TOTALLY UNEXPECTED AND AMAZING. And he always manages to look a little embarrassed and awkward. Even though it happens EVERY TIME. I will never again be able to watch that without imagine a guy twirling a rolled up piece of blue cardboard.

        Do me a favor … If ever you go to a Trevor Noah show, just … don’t write about it, okay? Or email me a warning or something.

      • They don’t have a connection to humanity. That’s what frees them to spend exorbitant amounts of THINGS and not people. There’s a disconnect.

        Do you ever watch Jimmy Fallon? During the opening monologue, the audience applauds after every joke. EVERY. JOKE. No matter how lame or good it is, it gets a round of applause. It’s annoying. It’s fake. No matter. I’ll still watch Colbert. I like it. It’s just that the facade has been stripped away.

    • That O’keefe glowed. It was one of my favorite pieces. A pity it’s sitting in some private collection now, never to be seen again. The Colbert show was interesting but it was more work than I thought it would be.

  2. Oh my gosh, I had a multi-million dollar art piece dangling from my garage door last Christmas and didn’t know it! Dang!
    There’s an O’Keeffe in the Phoenix museum that looks highly suspicious. It’s called Pink Abstraction and while maybe not a vagina, it definitely looks like something we would have studied in health class.

    • All you needed was gallery representation. Do you have gallery representation? Someone who can convince rich people to throw their money away on questionable works?

      Sometimes, Georgia protested too much, if you know what I mean.

  3. Leonardo was a bastard child. He was never given a last name. I never understood why we all call him “from Vinci”. Does a genius need a regular reminder of his parents indiscretions to take him down a peg or two?

    That Poor Kapoor outdoes the O’Keefe for its ability to recall female anatomy.

    I would never survive a show taping if there was that much orchestration of the audience. I’d be so irritated and bored with it, I’d start throwing some warm excrement just like a real monkey….

    • Can I change my name to Mark From Cleveland? It’s got a dark, poetic snap to it.

      And speaking of dark poetry, where did you pull ‘Poor Kapoor’ from? That’s spooky great.

      The show was an even bigger manipulation than you think. He blew a couple of jokes and cues to he had to go back and re-do and we had to pretend the material was fresh. That we hadn’t heard it before. What?!

      • better than Jon Basking Ridge… sounds all hoity toity silver spoonish…

        Don’t get me started on rhyming artist names… O’Keefe o’qu— oops.. you said no vajayjays were intended….

        Shows: The product of 21c programming, I suspect…everything on lock down…nothing is left to chance… and the talent is not as amazing as we all are lead to believe…

    • Lots of folks. Not just some artists. Gallery owners, auction houses, the editors of ArtNews. Big riot.

      NYC is going through some interesting changes right now. Loads of heavy construction. It’s changing the composition of the skyline.

  4. So were you exited??? Is that what happens when you don’t applaud loudly enough? I really don’t like so-called comedians who try to pass off insults as edgy humour.

    And the slit in the wall? I did one just like it when I was six and threw a temper tantrum.

    450 million? Oh. My. You are completely right about that one.

  5. “Paying $5M+ for some light bulbs strung to an extension cord seems even crazier than paying $450M for a di Vinci.”—Yes, I agree. I can’t believe someone would fork over 5 million dollars for that. It’s really obscene when you think about it.

    I would not have done well at the Stephen Colbert show. I’m not a demonstrative person around people I don’t know. The show staff would have labeled me a “dud” and banned me from future showings. 😁

    • I have more egregious examples of too much money being spent on terrible art. I realize that Art is subjective but I think we can all agree the example above is a clear-cut case of a naked emperor.

      I didn’t show a lot of enthusiasm at the taping but it hardly matters. I was in the balcony and never on camera. It was a nice experience but I’m in no hurry to do it again

  6. That show sounds like the shows for the troops my mother tells me about during the Second World War in England.
    Entertainment was provided for said troops, who were somewhat fed up with marching about the U.K. rather than opening a Second Front in Europe, by the Entertainments National Service Association – ENSA – known to those subjected to it as Every Night Something Awful.
    There would always be a warm up man who would inevitably shout
    Are we downhearted?
    To which the audience were supposed to respond with a resounding
    If not resounding enough the man would repeat the question. Rashly, as it turned out, with an audience of Highland troops, whose spokesman rose in his wrath and replied
    Aye, and if ye’re no doonhairted ye’re mair of a fool than I thocht.

    The art world is …strange. While living in France we thought we would like to have a painting we had bought authenticated.
    We approached an expert close to the auction houses whose reply was – in translation – that of course it could be authenticated…at a price.

    • That’s hilarious. It made me laugh on my bus and everyone looked up to see who the crazy person was. Well done on the accent. It’s like reading an Irvine Welsh novel.

      I have a few valuable books. I’d like them insured but I can’t AFFORD the appraisal. I see their point. It’s what they do for a living. Why should they do it for free? But, boyo, their services are not cheap.

  7. Another great, entertaining blog Mark, from Cleveland. I am surprised to read how many of your followers didn’t realize how contrived comedy TV Talk Shows are. Very classy with kids in the seats saying the F word a lot to get laughs.
    I can’t imagine having that much money to spend for a painting and not helping your fellow man. I like the Lichtenstein. Is he saying women are two-faced? How does he paint the dots and stripes so perfect in a straight line? Georgia O’keeffe’s is the old style vagina while Kapoor’s has been the lasted trend in vaginas.
    Your pics of the Chrysler Building are post card worthy.
    Looking forward to more insane prices from the Art World!

    • Thanks, Tom. I suppose if you sat down and paid it any thought you could figure out that talk shows are contrived affairs. But who has the time for that minutia?

      I can’t imagine spending that much on a painting and having a ton of money leftover after the sale! I think it’s a commodity at that point. An investment vehicle. Not art.

      Look again. There are three women in that Lichtenstein painting. Those dots are called Ben-Day Dots. Named after printer Benjamin Day. They use overlay sheets. I don’t think they’re painted individually.

      • I do see all 3 faces now. My artist friend has told me about overlay sheets. I thought it was only for beginners, like a coloring book. Does Ben Day get a commish cut.lol

  8. have you seen the scientists version of what Christ probably looked like, based on regional demographics, etc? pretty sure he’d be getting extra screening at any US airport. also pretty sure that there wouldn’t have been a half billion dollars going toward that portrait.

    i like the light bulbs — i could easily do that in my garage when i tackle the next project.

    • I just had that conversation with my daughters over the weekend. Pointed out that the images of the lily-white, über-Caucasian Christ they’re used to seeing in church are highly inaccurate. They’re still young but they saw my point.

      If you make a stand of bulbs twice as long, do you think you can sell it for $10M?

  9. I like it. Would like to have seen that with you.

    Give the money to the needy? Help world poverty? Embrace our youth and propel them into greatness? What planet are you living on?….

    I knew light bulbs had gone up in price but bloody hell.

    I kind of like the ugly, smudged paintings. They’re interesting.

    For some reason, all Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings remind me of vaginas.

    An interesting shape in the wall for $37,500 – Are you flippin’ kidding me? I am LOST FOR WORDS.

    Yeah…I prefer the sunset. Calls for a cocktail.

    • You would’ve laughed at some of the stuff on display. Unintentionally comical.

      I live on Planet Hopeful. It’s a shrinking world but I refuse to relocate to Planet Apathetic.

      Those smudged paintings are beautiful in their own way. But worth $35M? NOPE.

      Georgia O’Keeffe had that effect on a LOT of people. You’re in good company. But she swore otherwise.

  10. I like the tourism picture!! But that’s probably because I am a potential tourist 🙂
    Meanwhile, it seems that Francis Bacon is a bargain – buy two get one free. Has someone already said this? Did you say this? See, I told you I am ill 🙂
    I will sit back and read the comments now.

    • The tourism pic is a killer. Click on it for greater clarity. Worth it.

      I wonder if you can buy the Bacon and break it up and make more money selling them separately. That’s why there are so few Gutenberg Bibles. More money could be made selling single leaves than an entire book.

  11. Geez, that Georgia O’Keeffe almost seems comparatively reasonable. But I don’t know beans. I’d be thrilled to see it in person, though. I thought she was fantastic.

    Good God, I had no idea they treated the audience like morons at those shows. I hope Letterman (my idol) and his minions didn’t do that, but I suppose they did also. It makes me glad I’ve never attended a taping. I always figured it was just a lot of waiting ahead of time. Is that true?

    • Not only is it the ‘cheapest’ work, it’s one of the best ones up there. Bonus! It cost LESS than a stupid string of light bulbs. Go figure. She’s one of my favs, too.

      You hit the sweet spot with this comment. I did feel kind of stupid and manipulated. The tickets were ‘free’ but we had to work for it. I attended a Letterman taping many, many years ago and can’t remember whether or not we were jerked around like this. Probably. It really strips away the magic.

  12. Why in the hell would you want to feed, clothe, house and educate the poor? when you could sit at your ultra-exclusive club where the one-tenth of the one percent dine on the rarest of meats and caviar and sham-pag-na and nonchalantly drop that you’ve just purchased what may or may not be a Da Vinci painting? i giggle at your naivete 😉

    I’ve heard about those “live” audience television shows, you must be a masochist to subject yourself to that. As the former seventeen year old who heckled Redd Foxx and got tossed from his performance in Vegas i’d have gotten booted as soon as the warm-up schlub started making fun of people… my old Jewish boss from Brooklyn (who fired me 3 times i believe?) once told me i should have been a native New Yorker with my smart ass mouth.

    • People strive to be in the Ültra-Exclusive Club so they don’t have to look at the poor. But you can write a check and not have to expose yourself to the huddled masses. Why not just do that? I’ll laugh my ass off if, years later, it turns out to be not a di Vinci. It’s entirely possible.

      I really did feel kind of yelled at. It was like being back in my office without the compensation. Nobody was going to cause a ruckus. The audience was mostly tourists who were all too happy to be there. So…do I have this right? You saw Red Foxx? That’s the best brag ever. Tops all of mine. You need to post about that.

  13. Thanks for the description of Colbert show — always kind of tempted but now would not. ugh! Although I still love him, oh, how I miss Jon.
    I enjoyed these glimpses of art and entertainment world. I can’t quite bring myself to make the hour trip into Gotham myself these days — inertia and all – but you’ve given us a front row seat.

    • I wouldn’t discourage you from going to a Colbert taping, especially if you’re a fan. It’s an experience. It’s interesting to see how it’s all put together. So if you can get your hands on tickets, by all mean, go! You’ll laugh. But get ready to be bossed around quite a bit.

  14. Even I can’t dredge up something good to say about that string of lightbulbs, and I do always try to understand something about the artist’s intention/view-point/process, but this just seems too derivative. Maybe he’s commenting on the absurdity of the art world itself, that someone would pay so much for a set of fairy lights because a known artist attached them to an extension cord? If that is so, and he donated the money, or half, to a homeless shelter then I applaud him. But I don’t know because I’ve never heard of him.

    Out of all of them I would buy the Bacon’s if I had the money, it would be interesting to see them everyday.

    The Kapoor reminds me of Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Mandorla Form’ (1951?) which I love.

    TV is a horrible industry.

    • Hiya Eryl. Thank you for the reference to the Ellsworth Kelly piece. Thank you. I like EK but hadn’t come across this one. I was wondering if this kind of oval slit on a black and white background had had any precedents. There must be some. The only associations I can think of are the Sprematists, Lissitsky maybe, but they were rectangles on a hite ground.

      Anyway, I’m talking like I know something, which I absiolutely don’t, but just to say thanks — and via you, to Mark — for putting me on to an interesting work I wouldn’t have known had I not read your comment.

      • Hello Looby, I’m so glad to have been able to use my very limited knowledge to introduce you to the Kelly piece. I, too, love his work. Though I have to confess to knowing it mostly through Pinterest.

        I agree, the Lichtenstein and the Bacon are very reminiscent of Picasso’s cubist style. They both manage to take his invention and make it work with their own distinct styles too.

      • There are all sorts of rationals and justifications for what makes a string of bulbs art. Duchamp started it all and I give him credit because he was the originator. Anyone who comes up behind him with the same line of twaddle should be ashamed. I don’t buy any of it.

        The auction had a very nice Kelly sell for $1.8M. Very nice, but not worth spending $1.8M, that is.

        Looby, I didn’t see it until you pointed it out but the Bacons really are derivative of Picasso’s work. But in a good way. He didn’t copy Picasso so much as take a style he invented and made it his own. I can respect that.

      • Thanks Mark — I can look at EK all day long. I went to a superb exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery in London a while ago and together, they’ve got this childlike appeal. Some colours are called “primary” for a reason. I’d love to own one.

  15. The light bulb piece is beautiful, but that is pricey for some lights. Also, shows being structured to death really takes the fun out of it.

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