Art Amok: Fall Auction Sampler

My fascination with these semi-annual big-ticket art auctions continues unabated. It’s where commerce collides with integrity. The appreciation of art is so subjective. How are they able to convince wealthy folks to spend these astronomical sums? I know from collecting books that values are ephemeral. A book I paid $950 for three years ago, same variance and issue, just sold at auction for $550. Imagine that happening on a grand monetary scale. I hope they like what they buy. They could be stuck with it.

Here are a few early results to whet your appetite. Some big, interesting pieces are being sold tonight. I’ll lump those results in next time.

This is the one that’s causing palpitations in the dealer/collector community. Previously, the high watermark for a Hopper was $40.5 million. What made them think to double that in the estimate?

Edward Hopper
Chop Suey
Oil on canvas
Est. $70,000,000–100,000,000
Sold for $91,875000

Hopper is the master of sunlight. Just look at her. Beautiful. But $91M? Can you imagine the good that could’ve been done with that?

Here’s the obligatory Monet. There’s always a Monet. This is a big, important one. I mistyped “Monet” and it came out “Money.” Ha.

Claude Monet
Le bassin aux nymphéas
Oil on canvas
Est. $30,000,000–50,000,000
Sold for $31,812,500

Poor Jackson Pollock. Only did one thing. Dripped paint onto canvases that were spread across his studio floor. They’re beautiful (esp. this one) but after that, no one was much interested in his output. I think it’s what drove him into that tree. I wish I’d have done just one thing. Harper Lee only wrote one book. I’d be content with that.

Jackson Pollock
Composition with Red Strokes
Oil, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas
Est. $50,000,000–70,000,000
Sold for $55,437,500

So many Picassos. There are always so many Picassos. How many pieces did he create? Unlike Pollock, who did just one thing, Picasso changed and morphed his work over the decades. Constantly reinventing his output resulted in his dying of old age instead of plowing his car into a tree. This, from his multiple-perspective phase.

Pablo Picasso
Femme au beret orange et au col de fourrure
Oil on canvas
Est. $15,000,000–20,000,000
Did not sell

Here’s an ugly gray owl.

Pablo Picasso
Le hibou gris
Painted earthenware
Est. $1,500,000–2,500,000
Sold for $2,412,500


I am home convalescing from a successful back procedure. I made the mistake of reading my surgeon’s detail Operative Report. I found it both fascinating and revolting. Here are some highlights. I don’t understand most of it but it sounds horrific. To think these things were done to me and I walked out of the hospital THE SAME DAY is a miracle to me.

This isn’t for the squeamish. I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this. Is anyone else fascinated? Now I know how the frogs in biology class felt.

The incision was made with the spinous processes of L4, L5 with the incision being carried down to level of thoracodorsal fascia. Then, a right-sided subperiosteal dissection was completed, exposing the bottom half of the L4 lamina top of the L5 lamina. Deep retractors were placed. 

The bone piece was removed en bloc exposing the ligamentum flavum. Ligament flavum was opened bluntly and then resected using Kerrison rongeur. There was a large focal disk herniation compressing the L5 nerve root. The L5 nerve root was gently mobilized off of the disk herniation and a nerve root retractor was used to hold it in place.

Using a 15 blade, a cruciate incision was made in the annulus. Then, very soft fragments of disk were easily removed.  The sac where the disk herniation was, was probed with a nerve hook.  A few small fragments were removed.

The patient tolerated procedure well, was brought to recovery room in stable condition with plans for discharge.

Presto. Nothing to it.

31 thoughts on “Art Amok: Fall Auction Sampler

  1. I’m not going to lie! I skipped over the surgeon’s report. Your intro to it was enough info for me. I’m glad you walked out the same day and are how re-cooperating.

    Regarding the auctions, it amazes me that people have that much money to buy Art (at those prices a capital A is a given) I’m struggling to get a couple of grand together! I do like that owl. xox

    • I thought I should warn about the surgeon’s report. It’s absolutely fascinating to read but it’ll make your flesh crawl.

      Okay, having said that, could you live with any of these pieces? Or do they all stink? There are a ton of really good ones being auctioned tonight, including a good Rothko.

      • Could I live with them? Sure (OK, maybe not the Picasso oil on canvas), but would I? The answer to that is no BECAUSE if I had that kind of money, I’d donate the pieces to a museum so everyone could see them. But that’s me. xox

      • I left out a funny backstory. Maybe I’ll add it to the next post. These pieces were from a private collection that was PROMISED to the Seattle Museum of Art. The guy died, the family got hold of the art and guess what? Up for auction. The SMA got nothing.

  2. Glad you are recovering without complications. I didn’t expect a Post so soon. The description wasn’t so bad reading, but I knew what it was going to say since I had a similar procedure.
    Can’t wait for more Art results. Because of all your previous pics I can instantly recognize most of the Artist’s work.

    • The Owl looks like a photo of a carved wood statue of an Owl. The more I stare at the Hopper the more details I see. I also think of the good these millions could do for the poor. Also the millions our Government spends/waste every day on special investigations. It could be spent on Art education.

      • So funny you should say that! That’s EXACTLY what I thought that owl was too! Wood. It sure looks like wood in person. It’s only after I read the lot description I realized it wasn’t. Fooled me good.

    • I didn’t understand half of what I was reading but it sounded awful. And the fact that those things were done to poor me made it hit a little too close to home. Can you believe they can do this stuff?

      The next post will be even BETTER. Although that Hopper is the big ticket item. Nothing else will sell for that much. It’s a beautiful painting. So sad that it’s the last time I’ll ever see it.

  3. There’s some lovely poetry in there (“Then, very soft fragments…”), even a little French (“en bloc”). Glad it went well. I go under next Thursday.
    Reading the David Sedaris diaries. You sound like him sometimes. Not the first time I’ve thought that.

    • It didn’t seem poetic when I came out of my aesthetic haze. It hurt like hell for a while. But all systems are go. The body is an amazing thing, as you will soon see.

      Sedaris has the career I could’ve had if only I’d had a little ambition.

  4. I saw the Picasso owl price at first as $2,412. For two beats I actually got excited that I could someday own a Picasso.

    Yikes, that is some very scary things they did to you. I cannot believe you walked out on the same day either. I’d have been scared out of my mind. Mend well! – Marty

    • At some point, that Picasso did cost $2,412. We missed the boat. It’s not our fault. We probably weren’t alive or, if we were, didn’t know how to get our hands on $2,412.

      The body is an amazing, resilient thing. We could probably take a lot more abuse then we give ourselves credit for.

  5. Thankfully I didn’t understand the surgeon’s report – too many long words, but I’m very pleased that you tolerated the procedure well!!
    Meanwhile, Picasso is a bit like Madonna really, isn’t he?

  6. 20 years ago last month as i was wandering around Paris i made a trip and spent the day perusing the halls of the Picasso Museum, one of the smarter decisions i’ve made. I’ve always had a love of Pablo, (named a cat after him after all), more for his style of living than for his art, in fact i think his greatest artistic achievement was living, Henry Miller had the same thing, that said i’m getting more and more into Hopper and JP is always fun to look at…

    The description of that procedure is awesome, and yes i’m fascinated, reading it makes me wish there was video to go along with it cuz it sounds rather interesting… that said the 14yr old in me can’t help but giggle at the incision made in your annulus… the whole part about picking bits out of your back had me thinking of that game Operation, i wonder if the touched the sides if a buzzer went off and your nose glowed?

    • My feelings for Picasso have evolved. I was dismissive of his work (can you imagine?) but have since seen the light. What a grand scope. Guys like Rothko and Pollack had NO scope. Great artists, but no scope.

      There are videos of this procedure on YouTube. I got about :15 seconds into one and clicked it off immediately. It’s TOO MUCH information before a procedure. I feel like I was reduced to an old Milton Bradley game. My daughters had the modern version of Operation. It’s smaller and it has taken on some toilet humor. Why do they do that?

  7. I think we should all strive for one thing. Doesn’t damn well matter what it is. Just one thing to move along, and maybe someone will buy it. Maybe not. Hell’s full of artists. I bet they dance a lot. Large sums of money for art? You know, it’s still better than buying the next tank. Or nuclear missile. At least we value beauty, sometimes I don’t know why.

    Your back surgery thing… ugh. I wish I hadn’t read that but I do hope you’re doing okay.

    • Hi, Trent. Nice to see you. We did you proud in the mid-term elections, didn’t we?

      The amounts and pieces seem so arbitrary. I knew a ton of artists, musicians, actors, writers, etc., etc. when I lived in the city all those years and the reason none of them made it wasn’t because of a lack of talent. Poor representation or half-hearted efforts or just plain dumb back luck did them in. How does a piece warrant tens of millions of dollars? I have no idea but I do enjoy watching the big parade.

      I didn’t understand most of what that report said but it sounded horrible. There were a lot of buzzwords like “incision” and “bone piece” and “blade.”

  8. I think I liked the description of your procedure better than the art – though that Pollock is pretty impressive – I particularly like: ‘The L5 nerve root was gently mobilized’, if C3PO was a poet!

  9. Glad you had the procedure done! Amazing what they can do these days (if you’re insured well). Had a liver biopsy – outpatient. They stuck a needle in my liver from the outside of my body. i think that’s just as gross as being sliced open…

    This line in the report cracked me up: “The patient tolerated procedure well” – yeah, right. You ‘tolerated’ it… bet you whined just a little in recovery!

    • It’s nice to see you. I was just thinking about you the other day. You’re not kidding about being insured well. I was thinking about posting the cost of the procedure. All these miracles aren’t cheap. Having said that, if it were the 1800s I’ll bet you and I would be in trouble.

      That line was fake news. I don’t tolerate discomfort well.

  10. My favorite one is the Pollock. As for the Hopper, are the girl’s dead eyes intentional? I’m guessing they are. To me, they look like art I could do. That is not a comment on the rest, just the eyes. I’m very much aware that I might sound like an idiot here. That’s because I am one, at least when it comes to art.

    Good to hear that you “tolerated the procedure well.” Now, rest up and get better.

    • The Hopper girl has dead eyes. The Picasso girl had flounder eyes. Both on one side of her head. I like them both. But I’m glad my wife doesn’t have flounder eyes. There are NO idiots when it comes to art. It’s so subjective. All opinions are equal. Yours is as valid as someone bidding.

  11. Congrats on the procedure and don’t rush the rehabilitation.

    I love that you follow these auctions – it exposes to me something I’d never look at. Funny I look at 1959 Les Paul’s costing £250,000 and think That’s obscene… but $91m… that does take it to a new level entirely!

    $91m I could make a good fist at tackling homeless across the whole of the UK!

    • Late in responding. So sorry. Multiple distractions. For my rehab, I need to learn to lay back a bit. I’m too quick. I’ll hurt myself.

      I love attending these auction previews. 2x a year. I look forward to them. It’s an unreal world. I’ll never be able to relate to it but I do like pressing my nose against the glass and looking in. Not boring.

  12. I do like Hopper. But not that much!

    in fact, I pretty much like all these high priced paintings but I’d never invest in one unless I was stupidly, insanely rich and I knew it would be a capital investment. I find it quite sickening that this kind of money is spent on pieces.

    Glad you’re back home and recovering. Happy Thanksgiving! x

    • Hello, dear. Nice to see you. Hopper is not only the master of light he’s the King of Americana circa the 40s-50s. But you’re right about your value assessment. It’s TOO MUCH money spent on just a piece of canvas with some paint arranged just so.

      I don’t think I could pull the trigger at these prices even if I had that kind of money. I mean…you never know what you’re capable of but I don’t think I could do it.

      I’m kind of surprised to hear your Thanksgiving good wishes. It’s a major, major holiday out here but I wasn’t sure it’s ever spoken of by y’all.

  13. I also skipped the gory operation stuff… already squeamish enough at the very thought of any surgical procedure whatsoever and impressed by anyone who goes there … so- well done on getting through that, whatever it was!

    Didn’t skip any of the art stuff though…. I liked Picasso’s owl, thought it had something of the self-portrait about it. And the girl at the café table… such simple, bold lines and colours, almost childlike in its execution… but so very evocative, you want to be in the café with them, listening in to the conversation. I don’t really know the artist but I imagine many lesser talents have attempted to ape his seemingly straightforward style and found themselves wanting.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, pal. Much appreciated. The medical description is fascinating in that I have no idea what any of it means but it sounds really, really terrible. Bones and things.

      I liked Picasso’s owl, too. In rereading, I think it sounds like I slandered it but It’s a great piece. They had it mounted on a pedestal and lit just right. And that cafe painting? Scroll back up and see how he handles sunlight. Makes it look easy but I’ll bet it wasn’t.

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