Little Bo Peep lost her sheep and now it’s floating in a tank of formaldehyde

The spring Contemporary and Impressionist auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s just wrapped up and now that they’re over, none of these pieces will ever be seen in public again. In many cases, that’s okay. I saw someone describe this season’s offerings at a solid B+ and I’d have to agree. Aside from a Rothko, nothing really blew my sox off. I’ll keep my pithy remarks to a minimum. As always, feel free to heartily disagree.

Damien Hirst
Away from the Flock
Glass, painted steel, silicone, acrylic, plastic, lamb and formaldehyde
Est: $4,000,000 – 6,000,000
Sold for: $4,412,500

It’s a lamb. Floating in a tank of formaldehyde.

He’s pulled this sort of thing before. He did it with a great white shark and even a cow cut in half. Art as a spectacle. $4.4M. Hirst is currently at his estate laughing his ass off.

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Flesh and Spirit
Oil stick, gesso, acrylic and paper on canvas
Estimate Upon Request
Sold for: $30,711,000

A huge piece. I am slowly coming around to Basquiat. I still hold him in contempt for throwing it all away on an O.D. but am beginning to see some value in his work. It’s the same urban Lower East Side environ I spent so many years in.

David Hammons
Maternity
Wood mask and cotton nightgown
Est: $1,400,000 – 1,800,000
Sold for: $975,000

A nighty tacked to the wall. You can’t see it in the pic but there’s a chunk of painted wood underneath. What does it mean? Can anyone tell me? $975K would put both my daughters through school with enough left over to buy myself a snow cone machine.

David Hockney
Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30)
Est: $5,000,000 – 7,000,000
Sold for: $11,743,800

A vivid, beautiful piece. Interesting for its construction. Made from colored and pressed paper pulp. Much more tactile in person. I liked the deckle edges of each section.

Arman
Grande Poubelle (Large Rubbish Bin)
Plexiglas box, painted wood, accumulated studio refuse
Est: $60,000 – 80,000
Did not sell

It’s garbage from the artist’s studio. I think I took about $2,000 worth of art to the curb last night. Didn’t sell, which fills me with hope for the human race.

Jackson Pollock
Number 32
Est: $30,000,000 – 40,000,000
Sold for: $34,098,000

Magnificent (to me). Nice and bright. Pollock’s color displacement is better in some works than in others and this is one of the best I’ve seen.

Jeff Koons
Play-Doh
Polychromed aluminum
Estimate on Request
Sold for: $22,812,500

It’s an aluminum mountain of Play-Doh. My sweet Lord. Where would you put something like this? Playful, yet, dumb.

Robert Gober
Untitled
Bronze, wood, brick, beeswax, human hair, recycling pump, water, latex paint
Est: $6,000,000 – 8,000,000
Sold for: $7,287,500

Gober is my bête noire. A fake. A charlatan. What’s with all the drains in his work? This includes a pump that circulates running water. He is also currently at home laughing his ass off.

Mark Rothko
Untitled
Oil on paper mounted on canvas
Est: $7,000,000 – 10,000,000
Sold for: $18,856,500

I like Rothko and my fondness for his work has grown over the years. This was beautifully lit. It glowed. I could live with this. Forever. A shame about the $18M+.

Robert Rauschenberg
Sacred / Universal No. 7/3 Times (Cardboard)
Cardboard and tape on plywood
Est: $250,000 – 350,000
Sold for $225,000

Cardboard boxes affixed to the wall. What’s the appeal? Perhaps it’s the way they’re arranged?

Vincent Van Gogh
Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole (Saint-Rémy)
Est: $35,000,000 – 55,000,000
Sold for: $39,687,500

Thick and juicy. Mainstream popularity be damned; I’m still enamored with his work. That poor bastard died broke. He’s not at home laughing.

Jeff Koons
Balloon Rabbit (Red), Balloon Monkey (Blue), Balloon Swan (Yellow) [Three Works]
Est: $20,000 – $30,000
Sold for: $81,250

Adorable. Easier to display than his monstrous balloon dog. More affordable, too (relatively speaking).

Everyone’s a little bit racist. Apparently, even me.

Everyone’s a little bit
Racist, sometimes.
Look around and
You will find,
No one’s really
Color-blind.

My bride and I were having a discussion and to an opinion I expressed she said, “You’d better keep that to yourself. It’s racist.” I thought I had progressive attitudes about race but she might have a point.

So, naturally, I need to tell everyone.

I took my daughter to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. I found a discount for the first preview and it’s good thing I did. I couldn’t afford to take her otherwise. She’s crazy about those books and when she asked to see it I had to say no, which broke my heart. It worked out in the end but my inability to afford tickets makes me feel wholly inadequate as a father. But that’s for another post.

It’s an extraordinary piece of theater but it helps if you’re a die-hard Potter enthusiast (my daughter) or interested in the mechanics of theater and acting (me). Your ass is in a chair for about six hours. Plus, the aforementioned cost.

You can look elsewhere for reviews. They’re all glowing. My problem—the one that landed the accusation—lies with their decision to employ color-blind casting.

The principle actors playing Harry, Ron, Draco and Ginny all look very much like adult versions of their movie selves. It’s easy to imagine these fictional characters transitioned into adulthood. Hermione Granger is played by a black actor. She’s more than capable and an extraordinary actor. I’ve been attending theater for 25+ years and know talent when I see it. She can command the stage and has a genuine presence. I just never saw her as Hermione. Throughout the play I had to occasionally stop and remind myself, “Oh, that’s Hermione.” My brain simply refused to make that leap. It proved to be a distraction. I respect their intentions but the plot flow was interrupted for want of a progressive agenda.

Perhaps it’s the indelible image of Hermione Granger as a young white girl. Or perhaps I have dormant racist attitudes that were inflamed. The wrong kind of woke.

I can’t tell you how alarming this is. It’s heartbreaking. I thought I was more evolved than that. I hope this doesn’t rub off on my daughters.

~~~~~~~~~~

Prior to the play I took her on a gallery hop in Chelsea. At Dia: Chelsea is Rita McBride’s Particulates, a fetching and photogenic industrial laser installation.

The gates keep you at bay because you can really hurt yourself if you try to break the beam, which I desperately wanted to do.

The room is kept cool and clammy. The air is misted so the beams are visible. It might be fun after a few bong hits. I imagine. I wouldn’t know.

There’s a low hum and the beams reflect off the wet floor. Best of all, free admission! Thank you, Dia Chelsea.

I liked this one as well although it was more stark. Dan Flavin’s in daylight or cool white at the David Zwirner gallery.

Flavin construct geometric shapes with neon tubes. Neon on a ceiling reminds me of cold, dreary office lighting. I find it a wholly acceptable medium for art, though.

Unfortunately with these gallery hops, you have to take the sublime with the ridiculous. These were fruits and vegetables nailed to a wall.

I thought they were plaster sculptures but, no, it’s real food. I chatted with the gallery rep and he is charged with replacing the food when it starts to rot. This is why some people laugh at contemporary art.

~~~~~~~~~~

Sorry, everyone, but there are going to be cat pics. There just are.

Gracious Manhattan living on taxpayer dollars

If you’re not from a wealthy family but would like to live in a beautiful Manhattan townhouse, one avenue you can explore is to become a U.N. diplomat. The Upper East Side is littered with sensational brownstones owned by foreign nationals as a residence for their attachés and staff. They fly the country’s flag and have brass placards on the façade declaring their country of origin. The property is considered a sovereign nation.

This is the Irish embassy. Don’t let that tatty scaffolding fool you. It’s a lovely building located on Fifth Avenue just a few blocks south of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This is just ONE of the properties owned by France. They’re all have equal splendor. I like walking by at night so I can look inside the windows at the lighted rooms and steal decorating ideas.

This is my favorite. This is the Polish embassy. Why am I so surprised by its grandness? It’s not as though Poland is some backwards, broke-ass nation. I’m half Polish. Do you suppose I could get a tour?

Some consulates are more modest in scope.

Do you know what diplomatic immunity is? You get to live in a protective bubble where local laws do not apply to you. It’s been a thorn in the city’s side for decades. Misbehaving diplomats and, worse, their spoiled rotten sprog, can claim diplomatic immunity and get away with anything from parking violations to assault and, in one case, murder. They have special diplomat number plates for their cars and can park with impunity wherever they want. Many diplomats allow their status go to their heads and become raging assholes and repeat offenders.

~~~~~~~~~~

This is another collaboration between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The reason I love these collaborative works so much (aside from my celebrity whoredom) is because their two styles play so well together. Their styles are distinct. You can easily tell who did what. It’s a whimsical pairing.

Andy Warhol & Jean-Michel Basquiat
Paramount Pictures
Est. $1,000,000-15,000,000
Sold for $2,772,500

The fun feature of this piece is a tube of paint that either fell or was thrown onto the upper left corner of the canvas and squeezed so that the paint oozed out. Fantastic. Jackson Pollock liked to drop debris onto his canvas as well.

~~~~~~~~~~

Philippe Parreno
My Room is Another Fish Bowl
Est. $250,000-350,000
Sold for $516,500

In this frivolity recently sold at Christie’s, a fan placed in the corner of a room circulates air while helium-filled Mylar fish balloons gently swim by. The number of fish in the installation is contingent upon the size of the room. The security guards had to chase escapees  who swam into other galleries. This is one of two artist’s proofs. You really do get the sensation of walking in an aquarium. But a half mil? Methinks not.

The ever-tormented successful artist syndrome

“The whole rock and roll life was really heavy and it was soooo much work and it was soooo every day intense. Being in Fleetwood Mac was like being in the Army. You have to be there and you have to be there on time. Even if there’s nothing you have to do, you have to be there.”

It isn’t anything like being in the Army. It’s disrespectful and delusional to imply as much. In the Army, people try to kill you by shooting live rounds at your head.

I was channel surfing and alighted on this interview with birdbrain Stevie Nicks. Listening to people prattle on about the agony of answered prayers makes my teeth grind. It’s my bête noir. I’m sure wealth and fame are no picnic. But you should only discuss its attendant horrors in private amongst your fellow tortured multimillionaire navel-gazers. You had to be on time. Poor you. I have to be on time for my 5:20 bus every morning or it leaves without me.

Stevie Nicks isn’t the only cry baby. Just the latest. Sticking with the military motif, Björk was promoting Dancer in the Dark, a movie she starred in with Catherine Deneuve for which she received much praise and an Oscar nomination. During a press junket, she said filming was:

“…like signing on to war, going to the Vietnam War. I believed I might die. Acting is like jumping from a cliff without a parachute.”

Idiot.

A few years back, singer Nora Jones said this of the meteoric success of her first album:

“On the first record I was everywhere, and it was, like, the worst time in my life.”

Gosh. That sounds awful. I’ll bet you’re happier now that you’re back to irrelevance.

Stand down, thumb-suckers, and let Brad Pitt show you how it’s done:

“It’s so tough being an actor. Sometimes they bring you coffee and sometimes it’s cold. And sometimes you don’t have a chair to sit on.”

Finally, these words from British director Sam Mendes. Rule #25 of his 25 Rules for Directors:

25. Never, ever, ever forget how lucky you are to do something that you love.

~~~~~~~~~~

Perhaps it was the way the light spilled over it or the intoxicating effect of being surrounded by so much great art or the excitement inherent in these auctions, but this canvas glowed and pulsed. Its edges changed. The longer I studied it, the deeper it drew me in. What a shame I’ll never see it again.

Mark Rothko
Saffron
Est. $25,000,000—35,000,000
Sold for $32,375,000

I’m pretty sure you could recreate this in your garage. And it wouldn’t cost you $500K.

Philippe Parreno
My Room is Another Fish Bowl
Mylar and helium
Est. $250,000—350,000
Sold for: $516,500

Fill a couple dozen mylar fish balloons with helium. Place a fan in the corner of a small room. As the air circulates, the fish “swim.” Walking through it gives you the sensation of walking in an aquarium. A few bong hits can’t hurt.

~~~~~~~~~~

“You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. …If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

Exodos 22:21

“The Supreme Court has allowed the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban to go into effect. For now, most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be barred from entering the U.S.”

The New York Times
December 4, 2017

Nice work, Evangelical hypocrites. You knew this would happen but you voted this monster into office anyway.

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
Untitled
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?”

“Woooo!”

Not good enough.

“Woooooooooooooo!”

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.

Wooooooo!

~~~~~~~~~~

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.