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.

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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!

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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.

Dressed in holiday style

The annual holiday window displays are up at Bergdorf Goodman. My route there took me past Trump Tower. What a circus. A woman was protesting out front holding a ‘Not My President’ sign with a big erect penis drawn on it. Vacationing families with little children walked by.

As usual, the displays are a riot of craftsmanship and design. It takes nine months to create these. Here’s a sampling. My pics look a little blurry but if you click on them, they’re sharp.

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This year, the theme is the kind of dioramas seen in natural history museums. This window is done in a jungle motif.

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Feathered and bejeweled primates are tucked into every corner.

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In this window, we find our femme fatale (they all have a femme fatale) surrounded by gigantic insects.

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I like how icicles drip from his pincers.

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In this window, a tightrope walk over a swamp.

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Watching workers below her rearrange the exhibit.

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~~~~~~~~~

bins

I dug this out of my journal in honor of Miss Saigon‘s return to Broadway this spring.

February 20, 1992

I saw Miss Saigon with Ann Marie last night. I don’t know what all the fuss is about. It’s not very good. I can’t recall one song. They’re all generic and uninteresting. Even the helicopter evacuation scene wasn’t impressive.The comps had a face value of $100, which tells you everything you need to know.

My mind is whirling with this Ann Marie business. Instead of watching the play I mused on how much she likes me. During the penultimate scene, Saigon was being evacuated but all I could do was gauge my interest in Ann Marie vs. my unrequited affection for Mimi.

I was in a bad mood today and called Ann Marie’s office for a quick hello thinking it’d cheer me up but I got her voicemail. I left a message and proceeded to obsess on why I hadn’t heard back from her. Minutes turned into doubt. Did she not get my message? Is not returning my message, in fact, a message? This went on all afternoon. Finally, towards the end of the day when I was ready to crawl out of my skin, she called and apologized for taking so long to get back to me. She’d been with clients all afternoon. We had a few laughs. I’m sick. I need psychological help.

I’m not sure anyone is doing well. Austin’s band isn’t going to make it. Klinger and Mimi aren’t going to be paid actors. I’m surrounded by corporate cogs. Society considers them successful, model citizens but most of them seem pretty miserable to me. I don’t envy them. Ann Marie wants to be a personal trainer. Melissa wants to be an artist. They’re not going to make it. I wonder what keeps them going? They’re better off than I am. At least they have an aspiration. I’m empty inside. Writing workshops and freelance gigs. Who am I kidding? I sit in this apartment in Brooklyn and have no idea where I’ll be in five months, much less five years from now.

The water was out again all weekend so I couldn’t bathe or wash dishes. You take that stuff for granted. I stank so I never went out. I bought a gallon of water at the corner bodega for my morning coffee, to brush my teeth and for the cats. Who pays for bottled water? It’s ridiculous. The building is united in our collective misery.

I’m dead tired. I’ve not gotten an unbroken night of sleep in a while. The cats wait until I’m asleep and then bat my face to let them under the comforter. They’ll wake up in the middle of the night and crawl out to get a bite to eat. Then they wake me up again to let them back under. They fall right to sleep but I’ll lie there wide awake until morning thinking my terrible thoughts. It’s no use shutting them out of the bedroom because they both sit outside the door and howl all night. Fucking cats. I just love them.

Maureen and I have stopped talking altogether. It’s just as well. I like to think of myself as sympathetic and am sorry she’s having a hard time but I can’t fill her void. The conversations are awful. They’re filled with long, uncomfortable silences. She asks me if I’m seeing anyone just to torture herself. I hope to hear from her again one day (no hurry) but am relieved that she went off to the mountaintop to heal.

Ann recently asked about her and since they are friends, I told her it would be a very, very bad idea to mention anything about us going to Mexico together. Maureen will snap out of it sooner or later. We all go through these things and sometimes it takes a while but it always passes. Don’t I know.

~~~~~~~~~~

calder

Alexander Calder
John Graham
wire
Estimate: $800,000-1,200,000
Price Realized: $2,527,500

Yikes! They really undershot the landing strip on that one. I like Calder but $2M+ is a lot, don’t you think?

Wife Swap

When four people who have four different agendas spend five days in the pressure cooker known as Disney World, disagreements can, and will, arise. Don’t ask me how I know. Just take my word for it.

This is going to be my second wife. She’s a Muslim princess. She’s RICH. Her father owns a kingdom.

princess-j

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My office was closed on Veteran’s Day. So, like all good veterans, I went to the Guggenheim for the Agnes Martin retrospective. Her early work is super-boring but her later stuff is fine.

While there, I waited in line for :25 minutes to piss in Maurizio Cattelan’s America. The security guard assigned to crowd control told me that, at peak times, the wait can be as long as two hours.

america1

It’s an 18k solid gold, fully functioning, toilet. It’s said to be worth upwards of $11M. I guess it depends on the price of gold that day. That lid is very, very heavy.

america2They had some problems installing it because gold is such a soft metal. Hell, yes, I used it. You would’ve too. Something tells me these are being installed in the White House as we speak.

america3

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Another journal excerpt:

October 24, 1991

I saw the Warsaw Symphony at Carnegie Hall with Elvin last night. He works for a woman who’s a classic New York City overachiever. She has subscriptions all over town but can’t attend any of the shows because she works day and night, so she gives the tickets away. Wonderful seats. I love Carnegie Hall. The theater is nice and movies are just movies but walking into Carnegie Hall makes me feel like I finally did something right for once in my stupid life.

I took Maureen to “Breaking Legs,” a terrible play starring Philip Bosco and Vincent Gardenia. It was an insult to my Italian half. It had every negative Italian stereotype you can imagine and a stupid plot. They’d never produce a play with Stepin Fetchit and Mammy characters so why do they produce crap like this?

Maureen is really down in the dumps. It’s the first time she’s had a real job with real workplace pressures and office politics and it’s killing her. All she’s ever known is academia and artist colonies. Now she’s in publishing and it’s a shock to her delicate system. She’s got a suffocating workload and works for a woman who demeans her. I’ve seen this before. Some adapt to having their dreams crushed. Others leave town. I’d offer some platonic comfort but I’m afraid she’d run with it.

I just won tickets to see the Stray Cats at the Ritz on Halloween night.

My phone just rang and when I picked it up there was no one there. This has been happening a lot recently. I think I have a secret admirer. It’s like when you’re on the school playground and you like someone so you give them a good, hard shove.

Donna is ignoring my calls and messages. I wonder what I did this time?

~~~~~~~~~~

The Shroud of Turin

turin

The Waffle of Orlando

orlando

~~~~~~~~~~

Just look at this douchebag. Not only did he take two spots, he took the two next to the handicapped parking (the blue lines). That means he took the closest possible spots. And there were TONS of empty spaces not far away. I don’t know why I let this stuff bother me so much. Maybe I’m jealous because he drives a nicer car. I wish I could be more Zen. Humanity, you dirty slut.

parking

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Okay. I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going Muslim for my second wife. I’m definitely going Native American.

princess-p

Here, Pocahontas points the way to the best divorce attorney on the reservation.

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It’s amazing that these girls played along with my foolishness and treated me with such good humor. Later that evening, my wife told me that 14-year old daughter came up to her and asked why she puts up with this stuff.

~~~~~~~~~~

peanuts

I know how he feels. At least he got a response.

Manhattan Predator

To almost everyone’s delight, peregrine falcons have settled in Manhattan. There are currently about half dozen pair. Falcons mate for life. They adapt to city life remarkably well. There’s shelter and an endless supply of rats and pigeons to eat. They should’ve moved in ages ago.

This guy occasionally perches on a beam outside my office. I took these from different angles to get varied, more interesting, backgrounds.

falcon1

I’m up on the 50th floor. It’s so high that mobile phone signals don’t reach us. We need repeaters installed in our ceiling. Helicopters fly by at eye level. No other city bird flies up this high. We never see pigeons or sparrows up here.

falcon3

Early in the summer it’s usually a mother and an eyasses. That’s a baby falcon. They’ll perch on opposite beams and screech at each other. By autumn they’re on their own.

falcon2

They are FAST. Peregrine falcons have been clocked at over 200 mph. I’ve only witnessed one departure. He spread his wings, dove off the beam and shot straight down towards the street like a bullet. He was gone in a blink.

I said ALMOST everyone is delighted. There are luxury apartments along Central Park on the Upper West Side that have tried to have falcon nests removed from their eaves—eyasses and all. Apparently, a dead rat or two can fall out and land at the entrance. To my complete delight, the tabloids laid into them as unfeeling, rich prigs so they backed off.

falcon4

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Currently at the Gladstone Gallery’s 21st street space is Ugo Rondinone’s the sun at 4pm. The literature gussies it up as ‘a visual link between nature and the human condition.’ Yeah, yeah. Whatever. What I see is a room full of vibrantly colored stone sculptures.

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What’s cool about it is you can weave between sculptures and get all kinds of playful angles and shades. The light pours in through a skylight and what you see depends on how the light hits them.

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The sculptures seem haphazardly strewn about the room but you can detect some order if you stand the right spots.

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I wish they had stuff like this back when I was still doing bong hits. Can you imagine this on hallucinogens?

ugo4

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Sticking with Gladstone, this time their 24th Street gallery, is Matthew Barney’s Facility of DECLINE. It’s a recreation of his 1991 career-launching New York debut exhibit. The exhibit contains film and sculpture and, quite honestly, I found it kind of boring. The fun piece is inside this walk-in cooler:

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Barney, a hulking physical fitness nut, created this bench press. The structure had a translucent interior skeleton but it’s mostly made of petroleum jelly. It needs to be kept cool or it’ll melt.

barny2

Don’t tell anyone but I poked it a bit just to see how deep the vaseline layer is. It’s pretty impressive. Barney is perhaps best known as ex-husband of Björk, who seems to have suffered a severe emotional breakdown when he left. In Black Lake, from her 2015 release Vulnicura she “sings”:

I did it for love, I honored my feelings
You betrayed your own heart, corrupted that organ

Family was always our sacred mutual mission
Which you abandoned

You have nothing to give, your heart is hollow
I am drowned in sorrows

Jesus, baby, take it easy. It’ll be okay. On a press junket in 2000 for Dancer in the Dark, Björk claimed making the film was “…like signing on to war, going to the Vietnam War. I believed I might die.” She’s a little prone to histrionics, to say the least. Can you imagine being married to that?

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nazi1

Piotr Uklanski
The Nazis
Est. $500,000-700,000
Sold for $550,000

This is a giant work. It covered an entire wall. They’re stills from movies and television that show various actors portraying Nazis. It’s like Where’s Waldo for the Third Reich. I uploaded a high resolution pic so you can click on it and see how many actors you can identify. Can you spot the young Clint Eastwood? How about Werner Klemperer from Hogan’s Heros? It’s fun! Except the part about them being Nazis.

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kelly

Daughter hamming it up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of Ellsworth Kelly’s Spectrum V. My girls make me laugh.

You Only Live Twice: A 9/11 Story

True story.

15 years ago…

On September 10, 2001, I was working in the graphics department of an asset management firm located in midtown Manhattan. My graphics colleague from the Atlanta office, Jose, was in town for marketing and branding strategy meetings.

As he left the office that evening, he told me about his plans to visit the observation deck of the World Trade Center the next morning before coming to work. Jose was an architecture buff. He was thrilled at the opportunity to see Manhattan from such a rare perspective. The weather forecast was for bright, blue skies.

The next morning, at 8:46 a.m., the first plane flew into the North Tower.

At 9:03 a.m., the second plane hit the South Tower. The tower with the observation deck.

Our offices were on a high floor on 6th Avenue and 46th Street. The employees gathered in the main conference room, which had sweeping, unobstructed views of the southern tip of Manhattan. We watched in stunned silence as one tower fell. Then the other.

It would be up to our manager to contact Jose’s family in Atlanta to tell them of the tragic misfortune. He was a young guy. Really bright. And so happy to be visititing New York.

At 11:00, Jose walked into our office.

He had overslept.

The hotel maid had drawn the blackout blinds—something he never does himself, preferring to rise with the sun. When his alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. the room was dark. He was delirious from being woken from a sound sleep. He thought he’d set his alarm incorrectly and that it was still the middle of the night, so he went back to sleep.

While brushing his teeth and cursing himself for having missed the chance to visit the observation deck, a special bulletin came on the TV. He sat in his hotel room, transfixed to the TV, not realizing we all thought he’d perished.

I hadn’t spoken to Jose in many years. I reached out to him this past weekend just to confirm I didn’t imagine this happening. It’s all true. He left graphic design and now works designing medical devices at M.I.T.

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I saw Springsteen perform earlier this year and sent a couple concert pics to my pal, Sharon Florin, an artist who specializes in New York City architecture and is a yuge Springsteen fan. She was inspired and made two fetching oil paintings based on the photos. That’s my photo on the left and her interpretation on the right.

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I like the paintings better. The photos look too stark. Too ‘real’. I prefer the implied blur of the paint.

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