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

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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.

Secrets of the Wealthy

I used to work in the Private Wealth division of JP Morgan. I designed marketing material that enticed the well-heeled to park their net worth at JP Morgan. Prior to my employment there, I was aware of High Net Worth investors. But what was revealed to me was a second, more exclusive and enigmatic category; Ultra High Net Worth investors. That’s a real thing. It’s old family money. I used it as a new benchmark and a club to beat myself up over my mediocrity.

JP Morgan doesn’t just sell banking services. It sells lifestyle services. There’s a secretive world that exists beyond the bounds of your weak, middle class imagination. Ultra High Net Worth investors don’t wait to board planes. They’ve never seen a baggage carousel. Everything is done for them. Their lives are scrubbed and sanitized. And why not? Who doesn’t want to avoid conflict?

There’s one thing that galls me. Not only have Ultra High Net Worth investors never seen a baggage carousel, they’ve also never seen the inside of a hospital waiting room. There are underground teams of doctors who work on-call exclusively for wealthy families. They don’t treat the unwashed hoi polloi. If there’s a medical need, it’s attended to post haste. If you’re regular, you’ll have to wait your turn. In the meantime, please fill out these forms.

I sought treatment for a disk extrusion to my lower spine. Each night, each morning, anytime I’m awake, there’s a knife plunged into my leg. I have been tormented since the first week of August. It has robbed me of my sleep and appetite. My weight has gone from a robust 178 pounds to a sniveling 161. It’s not a good look. I’m so sleep deprived that on more than one occasion I’ve hallucinated at my desk.

After a panoply of failed treatments I decided to go nuclear and do the thing I swore I’d never do; get surgery.  Back surgery sounds scary, dangerous and painful. But I’m told microdiscectomy is a small incision and then an extraction. 80-90% success rate. Outpatient.

Prior to setting a date for surgery I told my pain management MD I was worried they’d make me wait until December to slot me in for the procedure. I had to wait two weeks just to see the surgeon. I’m cracking up in a very real way and am genuinely worried. Dr. Pain Mgmt said, kind of sheepishly, “Oh, you don’t need to worry about that. You’re a big number for him. You’ll get in right away.” What does that MEAN? I’m a big number? Does that mean I have proper healthcare and the bill will be paid promptly so I’ll get favorable scheduling? If that’s true, then the economically disadvantaged are made to wait (i.e., suffer) longer for treatment. Not Ultra High Net Worth but sill advantaged.

Surgery is Tuesday. That’s Election Day. If the returns are not what I’d hoped, I’m leaving instructions to keep me under for two years.

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I understand this is repetitive but I’m getting great shots of the Chrysler Building. It’s the time of year when the sun is coming up just as I get to work. As added texture, the Chrysler Building is getting a new neighbor. 1 Vanderbilt.

Think about this for a minute: They dismantled an entire skyscraper, carted away the iron and debris and are building a new skyscraper on its footprint. It’s RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Grand Central Station, one of the densest, busiest pockets of Manhattan. I’ve driven through that neighborhood dozens of times. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to navigate. How are they able to do all that construction? Project Management Superninja skills.

I remember after 9/11 walking up to the remains of the World Trade Center. It was a gigantic mountain of twisted metal. I thought it’d be YEARS until they were able to clear it all out. Not so.

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Asleep.

Lana Turner portrait.

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My previous post touched on some concrete barricades that ring my building. They sprung up suddenly. I was told they were in anticipation of the election, which seemed odd, since the election was 2+ weeks away. Several days later, a bomb was sent to CNN, which is just up the street. Election, my ass. They knew something was about to go down.

Blockade

I don’t work for The New York Times but I do work in Times headquarters. It was designed by the charmingly-named Italian architect Renzo Piano. He also designed the Whitney Museum of Art and The Shard in London.

The Times HQ is a high-prolife address. We get protesters out front on a semi-regular basis. Various fringe groups hang banners on the building adjacent to the main entrance demanding The Times pay more attention to their special obsession.

Occasionally, like, for instance, yesterday, an NYPD flatbed semi will roll up 8th Avenue with a load of concrete barriers. The kind that’ll prevent a truck ladened with explosives from driving through the main entrance.

They’ll set up a ring around the perimeter.

It’s a little unnerving to wonder what prompts this. Who are they trying to keep out? Later in the day a company-wide email was circulated stating the barricades were being installed in advance of Election Day. Are they worried about violence and destruction of property after the results are announced? What have we become? A third-world banana republic?

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I bought a lottery ticket, which is something I never do. It’s humiliating. I fancy myself a sophisticated student of the odds. I like casinos and craps tables. Even slot machines, the bastion of blue-haired old ladies, have more dignity than lotto. Barely.

I took this shot when no one was looking. They don’t like you taking photos inside the casino. They’ll throw you out if they catch you.

What I didn’t realize until later was that I inadvertently caught, in a blur on the left mid-photo, the dice flying through the air. A six and a five. That’s yo-11.

The state lottery is a tax on the desperate. But if you’re going to jack that pot up to $970,000,000 then deal me in. An incomprehensible amount of money. I could finally buy a Rothko!

If I win I’ll get rid of the few friends I have and surround myself with sycophants and boot lickers. I’ll get a girlfriend half my age. Japanese. Barely understands English. Named Yum-Yum.

I hope I don’t win. I couldn’t handle it.

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I was down at Astor Place in the East Village last week. Long time gone. It was different and the same. I wasn’t bothered by the changes. It’s a waste of time to complain about gentrification. It’s the oldest bitch in the book.

“In twenty years, or thirty at farthest, we shall see here nothing more romantic than shipping, warehouses, and wharves. Every noble cliff will be a pier, and the whole island will be densely desecrated by buildings of brick, with portentous of brown-stone, as the Gothamites have it.”

Edgar Allan Poe in a letter from 1844

I had a shawarma pita at Mamoun’s. Still cheap and good. Saw a play at The Public. Glenn Close plays Joan of Arc’s mother. My two friends loved it, as did the reviewers, but I thought it was simply okay. It was disjointed. The dialogue toggled between contemporary and period language. It was either funny or they were describing how Joan was burned. The cast was strong but the actor playing Joan was a weak link. And if your play is about Joan of Arc, that’s a problem.

I should’ve waiting until after the reviews were out to see it. Then I would’ve known how to react. I’d still take a night of middling theater over a night of epic TV.

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We are moving to the part of the year when the sun is rising just as I arrive at work. I’m hoping the new construction to the left of the Chrysler Building won’t obstruct my view when it’s completed.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

bins

January 5, 1994

I was alone on New Year’s Eve. The thought of being by myself was so painful I went to Times Square. Spending New Year’s Eve alone in Times Square is pathetic. When people ask what I did, I tell them I went with a friends and got separated in the crowd. It’s a lie.

I stood there alone in a pen for over three hours. Nobody said a word to me. I was surrounded by 200,000 happy people but felt unwanted. I teared-up a few times. It was 25 degrees outside. At 9:30 I went to a payphone and called the apartment to see if anyone left a New Year’s message on the answering machine. Hoping for a message that I knew wouldn’t be there.

I looked across the street and saw a big party on the second floor of a hotel. I watched it for quite a while. People were dancing and drinking. There was a giant wall of glass that afforded them a fantastic view of the street, the ball and the commoners. The women were all very, very pretty. The men were terrible dancers. One girl danced in front of the window, as if for the crowd below. She had long blonde hair, wore a baseball cap and cutoff jeans with black spandex. At one point, a guy came up from behind, threw his arms around her and they embraced. They kissed for a long time. How do I get to be that guy? How do I get to be anyone but me?

On New Year’s Day I went to Klinger and Fun’s Day-1 party. I called to say I’d be a little late and Klinger said, “Well, don’t come after 6:00 because Fun and I are going to the movies.” It was Fun’s crowd. I like them. A couple of interesting gay guys. Ray. Some girl from Philadelphia. Mostly strangers. I know how to work a crowd. I had them all laughing. Fun kept pulling me aside and pointing out the available women.

Mimi walked in. A while back, she told Klinger not to mention my name. I’m still not sure what I did. It hurts. I liked her. She was with her boyfriend, a good-looking artist who has a flat in Chelsea and a house in the Hamptons. Apparently, there’s trouble in paradise. Klinger told me she can’t stand the sight of him and wants to move out. He’s dull and only talks about himself and his work. Artists. You know what you’re getting.

She walked up to me and we talked for a while. She looked great and wasn’t the least bit hostile. It was nice. She asked me if I was still writing and I got woozy. She always made me want to try harder. Or at all.

On the way out Fun followed me into the hallway to give me further intelligence on the single girls. I told her about Mimi—things that Klinger doesn’t know about how mad I was for her. She said, “Well, you never know what can happen.” I’m tired of hearing that from well-meaning people. I know what can happen. Nothing. Fun said she’d gather some phone numbers and call me but I can’t think of anything that’d be a bigger waste of her time.

I went to the Upper East Side after work yesterday to visit Ann. I was wearing my jacket and tie. She handed me a cordial as soon as I walked in the door like we’re fucking Ozzie and Harriette. We made out for a while. She’s absolutely daring and will do anything sexually but she’s germ phobic and doesn’t want my finger inside her. When my hand probes the inside of her thigh, she clenches up. “Tongues and cocks only, please,” she says. I have to vigorously wash my hands before the festivities can begin.

She took my hand and walked me over to the baby grand by the window. I asked her why the shade was drawn. It’s such a great view. She said some guy walked up to her on the street and said he watches her from across the way through binoculars. She sat on the piano bench and undid my pants. I said we should go to bed and she thought that was a pretty good idea. We left a trail of clothing from the piano to the bedroom, like in the movies.

We got under the covers and it was nice. She always shaves her legs when she suspects I’m coming over. We rolled around like two puppies. She likes when I spend time kissing her nipples. She said not everybody does that. For all her expertise, she doesn’t kiss well. She’s amazing and acrobatic but she can’t kiss. Her mouth is too stiff. Laura could kiss. I miss her.

She ducked under the covers and continued where she left off in the living room. I picked her up (she’s light) and set her down for the main event. She had a tremendous, noisy orgasm in fairly short order. I can always tell when it’s authentic and when it’s for my benefit. Her body both confirms and betrays her. Just before le grand finale, she gets kind of quiet and closes her eyes, like she’s concentrating. Her body tenses and she squeezes me with her legs and yells. Her chest flushes red. I asked her if she was okay and she said she hadn’t had sex in a week and it had built-up. Wow, a whole week. Imagine that. What an amateur.

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There are strict house rules. Under no circumstances are the cats allowed on the bed. So, of course…

Old man, look at my life

I just had a birthday. I won’t reveal my age because I’m hung up on it. Don’t laugh. Some people vape. Some follow the Kardashian’s exploits. I’m hung up on my age. None of it makes sense.

There are more years behind me than in front of me. This leads to an inordinate amount of introspection. Too much! I was dealt a weak hand early on but I played it pretty well. Instead of celebrating that, I choose to focus on my missed opportunities and failings. All I’ve ever been is an office drone. My aspirations never went beyond paying the rent. Why didn’t I have a hunger for something greater? And, please, I’m not fishing for compliments. It’s my birthday vent. Indulge me.

I was on my lunch hour walking up Seventh Ave. A pretty girl was walking towards me in the opposite direction. When we passed, she quickly looked away, as if she’d seen a hideous, old sea monster that just crawled out of the East River. When I was a young man and new to the city, girls would occasionally lock eyes for just an extra beat or two. The briefest of moments. Message received both times.

One box I never thought I’d tick was offspring. I didn’t think I had the emotional or financial capacity. But it’s worked out okay so far. I’m tempted to say I’m a better father to my girls that mine was to me, but that’s setting the bar artificially low.

15 years later, my hair is white. She’s taller and doesn’t require a dribble bib.

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I don’t work for The New York Times but I work in their world headquarters. It’s a lovely building designed by the charmingly-named architect Renzo Piano. He also designed the new Whitney Museum of Art in the meatpacking district and The Shard in London. It’s a pleasure to walk in every morning, but the bathrooms are too small and inconveniently located. The neighborhood, 40th St. and 8th Ave., is gloomy. The first one is his fault. Not the second one.

It’s a high-profile building. There are often protests outside and a police presence. Trump paid a few visits during the presidential campaign. Needless to say, he hasn’t been back since. I’ve seen James Comey and Juliette Binoche in the lobby. The day of the Capital Gazette shootings, the building was surrounded by paramilitary troops.

The building has a cracker jack security apparatus. Nobody can sneak by these proud sentinels.

Unless there’s a good Abbott and Costello movie on.

Look who’s back. Right on schedule. We see them every summer.

I’m on a very high floor. They roost near the top of the building to survey their kingdom.

They come up to teach their young how to hunt. Yesterday, while sitting at my desk, I saw two shadows dart past my window, moving straight down. Attack mode. Note that both legs are banded.

My friend did me one better. He looked out his window and saw a falcon on the fire escape across the way eating a rat that was still fighting for its life. The Circle of Life!

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The reflection is *not* water. It’s my glass patio table top. I didn’t see it until after I’d taken the pic. Another happy accident.