Smashed urn [Han dynasty]. Smashed heart [mine].

In my last post, all I did was move a rock a few inches. Look what he did.

Contemporary artist and political rabble-rouser Ai Weiwei dropped a Han dynasty urn. The event is memorialized in a sequence of three black and white photos. Last February, at a Sotheby’s auction in London, a set (#3 of 8) was estimated to sell from $200,000-300,000. It sold for $1,091,000.

I saw these in the Pace Gallery. They weren’t photos, though. They were much larger than the original pics.

The pixilation only revealed itself upon close inspection.

These are made from thousands of tiny Lego bricks.

~~~~~~~~~~

bins

April 11, 1993

Margret called. She such a racist pig—always making some crack about gays or blacks—but she’s so stunningly beautiful that I get woozy and forget all about it when she pays attention to me. What a body. She was bitching and moaning about men. It’s been an endless parade of mama’s boys who live at home and can’t stand on their own two feet. She called them spineless. I told her I was going to the Bahamas with Lauren and she said she’d miss me, which I know isn’t true.

She asked me if I’d write and layout her brother’s resume. (I knew she was calling for a reason.) I playfully said I’d only do it if she begged me. That I love it when she begs. She played along and said in a breathy, erotic voice, “Oh, Mark, please do it for me. I need it. PLEASE…” We both had a good laugh. Then she called me a bastard, which was also kind of erotic. We’re going to Chinatown tomorrow night for dinner. I love Chinatown. It’s one of my favorite neighborhoods.

Worked until 8:00 and brought home a grilled kofta from the Afghani kabab joint on Houston. Superb.

[Note: What follows is my first meeting with a girl who knocked the life out of me. It took a long, long time to recover. It’s interesting to read about a precise moment that had such profound and long-lasting implications, but to not have any idea at the time. My present self wants to reach into the past and scream a warning. In the break-up, I got New York and she got Omaha.]

I was outside The Public Theater on Lafayette waiting for Klinger. We had tickets for an Irish Rep production. That guy is habitually late. He does it to take control. So passive/aggressive. I took a seat on a steam pipe and watched the big parade. A pretty girl standing next to me looked down and said, “Would you like a BLT?” I thought she was kidding but she pulled a sandwich out of her bag and handed it to me. I told her to pull up a steam pipe.

She was waiting on her roommate, who was also late. We cursed them. She was easy to chat-up. Younger than me. Tall with a long mane of willowy brown hair. Pretty eyes. Smoked incessantly. She’s an actress so I think I’m doomed. [Note: You have no idea, youngblood.]

Curtain time approached and there was no sign of Klinger or her roommate so I told her she should join me, to which she agreed straight away. I tried to give her the bum rush into the building, hoping that idiot Klinger wouldn’t show up at the last second but, of course, he did because that’s what he does. I could’ve killed him. Later that evening he told me I should’ve waved him off.

I gave her my phone number and she called. Laura. I told Betsy and she said that because of the unusual circumstances surrounding our meeting, she’s THE ONE.

I’m having Candace over for dinner again on Thursday after her therapy session with her girlfriend, which is never boring.

The World’s Most Expensive Urinal

I don’t imagine this will be of interest to everyone but I find the subject endlessly fascinating. This is my fall contemporary art auction report. These auctions were held two weeks ago here in New York at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Prior to the auctions, you can visit the galleries and view the lots for free. It’s important to take it in because after the auction, they pass into private collections, never to be seen again.

My last post ended with a cliff-hanger so why don’t we address that first?

Robert Gober
Three Urinals
Estimate: $3,500,000 – $4,500,000
Lot Sold: $3,525,000

gober_urinal_sm I checked my local hardware store and you can get three urinals for about $1,000. I should have peed in one and said I was making an artistic statement and demand payment for my “work.”

I really like Francis Bacon. I came around to him rather late in life. Better late than never. It doesn’t say so explicitly in the title but this is a Pope. Or a Cardinal. I forget which.

Francis Bacon
Seated Figure
Estimate: $40,000,000 – $60,000,000
Lot Sold: $44,965,000

baconWarhol + Harry = LOVE IT. Warhol used metallic paint for many of these celeb paintings and the accent colors really POP when you see them in person. This was also signed by Debbie Harry. I wonder if that played into its value? [Fun fact: Debbie is performing her first show as a cabaret artist in the legendary Café Carlyle this spring. Yup. It’s come to that.]

Andy Warhol
Debbie Harry
Estimate: $2,500,000 – $3,500,000
Lot Sold: $3,077,000

Warhol_harryFor a long time, my least favorite artist was Jean-Michel Basquiat. I still don’t like his work (I’ll keep trying) but Robert Gober is my new least-favorite artist. He’s a charlatan, a fake and a flim-flam man. See that piece on the wall next to his urinal? Guess what that is?

drain1It’s this.

Robert Gober
Drain
Estimate: $300,000 – $500,000
Lot Sold: $293,000

drain2aThat’s it, folks. A drain stuck in the wall. A $293,000 drain. What a fraud.

Here are the two monsters. The ones that made it to the front page of The New York Times the next morning.

Andy Warhol
Triple Elvis [Ferus Type]
Estimate Upon Request
Lot Sold: $81,925,000

Andy Warhol
Four Marlons
Estimate Upon Request
Lot Sold: $69,605,000

warholEstimate Upon Request means they ain’t fucking around. There was a bench situated in front of these and I sat and stared for a while. Little did I suspect that I was looking at $150,000,000 worth of artwork.

This one was in the paper as well because it sold well beyond its pre-auction estimate. The peculiar thing is that unlike the oversized, big-ticket Warhols and Rothkos, this was a relatively small piece measuring just 11 5/8″ x 17 1/2″ (29.5 x 44.4 cm). I don’t mind it. It was vibrant. But not for that much.

Jasper Johns
Flag
Estimate: $15,000,000 – $20,000,000
Lot Sold: $36,005,000

johnsThis piece is huge. It measures 112 x 142 x 66 in. (284.5 x 360.7 x 167.6 cm). You don’t think this is supposed to be a gigantic…naaaa…no way.

Robert Morris
Vetti V
Estimate $150,000 – $200,000
Did Not Sell

morrisAnd speaking of Did Not Sell…this piece is from Damien Hirst, the fella who brought us a giant great white shark in a tank of formaldehyde and paintings made from butterfly wings.

Damien Hirst
Dog Days
Estimate: $500,000 – $700,000
Did Not Sell

hurst1Would you like to know what’s on all those shelves? It’s these:

hurst2I consider El Anatsue a bit of a genius. He’s a Ghanaian sculptor who makes these beautiful, flowing wall pieces. The Brooklyn Museum exhibited his work a couple of years ago and I still haven’t caught my breath.

El Anatsue
Man’s Cloth II
Estimate: $700,000 – $1,000,000
Lot Sold: $989,000

anatsui1Here’s what his pieces are constructed of:

anatsui2He collects thousands of aluminum bands from wine and beer bottles and painstakingly connects them using copper wire. He’s very intentional about the distribution of color and texture. His work shimmers.

I’ve always been a fan of Mark Rothko and this is one of the best pieces I’ve ever seen by him. I stood there and just let it wash over me. Sometimes, bigger IS better.

Mark Rothko
No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)
Estimate Upon Request
Lot Sold: $44,965,000

rothkoPart of what fascinates me about these auctions is just how subjective they are and how some super-wealthy people can be talked into liking works with questionable merits. This is by Chinese artist/dissident Ai Weiwei, who I’m actually a fan of, but maybe not so much in this instance. It’s a pile of…

Ai Weiwei
He Xie
Estimate: $600,000 – $800,000
Lot Sold: 605,000

wiwi1…porcelain crabs, of course..

wiwi2I’d been indifferent towards Adolph Gottlieb’s work, neither liking nor disliking it, but I turned a corner and was gobsmacked with this. The photo is inadequate. It’s the perfect balance of color and shape, one playing off the other. I love when this happens. When an artist’s intent is suddenly revealed to you. I’ll have to reconsider my indifference.

Adolph Gottlieb
Red and Blue
Estimate: $2,000,000 – $3,000,000
Lot Sold: $2,165,000

gottliebI’ve got a few more but I’ll stop with this lot. I think it’s an appropriate coda. It’s by Christopher Wool and even though he didn’t title it, I think we can surmise from the content, what someone paid for it and the overall spirit of these auctions what the title should be.

Christopher Wool
Untitled
Estimate: $12,000,000 – $18,000,000
Lot Sold: $14,165,000

fool


Bonus Track. I accidentally took this while walking through Sotheby’s. I flipped the pic 180° and like the effect. I look like I’m walking towards myself. How meta.

Estimate Upon Request.

feet

Complementary, not opposing, forces.

Last week while visiting my family in Cleveland, I treated the girlies to two diametrically opposing forms of entertainment. As I’ve stated previously, it’s important to expand their tiny little minds by exposing them to high art, but it’s just as important to keep them grounded by sampling the more visceral forms of fun.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a kick ass, world class collection. Their special exhibits will also whoop yo’ ass. The museum recently had a major structural revamping. The results are spectacular. Currently on display in the new, humongous, light-filled atrium is Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. Twelve bronze sculptures represent the Chinese zodiac.

art1

I saw this exhibit last year when it was mounted around the fountains outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan and am happy to make their acquaintance again. They’re playful and a little bit nightmarish. The detail is extraordinary.

art2

Do you know your Chinese zodiac symbol? I’m a bore. Oh…excuse me…I mean a boar. Daughter the First is a snake.

art3Currently on a five-year loan is Damien Hirst’s Bringing Forth the Fruits of Righteousness from Darkness. These beautiful cathedral windows are made of…wait for it…

art4Butterfly wings. For real. He bred the butterflies specifically for these works. A lot of people think Hirst is a joke and I agree, he can irritate. His Spot paintings are idiotic. But I also think this guy can really turn out a spectacle. I still think his great white shark in formaldehyde was a scream.

art5

My bride explaining to Daughter #2 that Degas was laughed at for painting dancers tying their shoes instead of dancing.

art6Here’s another special exhibit to die for. Damián Ortega’s The Blast and Other Embers. It’s a suspended sculpture of found objects and tools. Every object emanates from the center outward. Its shape looks globular from a few paces back. Beautiful.

art7They only allow ten people at a time into the “glass box” space. Any more would spoil the effect. The sculpture has an opening in the center that allows you to walk through it.

sculpture

*     *     *

A few evenings later, I dragged their now-cultured asses to the premier event of the Cuyahoga County Fair: the demolition derby. Do you guys know what a demolition derby is? Have you ever been to one?

demo1

For the uninitiated, some wildly spray-painted, beat-up cars with their windows knocked out drive into a ring and then repeatedly smash into one another until only one is still running. It’s awesome. There are a half dozen races, all segmented by car size, my favorite being suburban minivans. Here’s a clip of the compact car division.

If you’re having a hard time viewing the video, it’s a lot of this:

demo2

Of course, something went horribly wrong.

The girlies were actually pretty freaked out about the fire. At the :16 second mark Daughter #1 says:

“Daddy! I want to leave now!”

“It’s okay.”

“No it’s not! It’s going to blow up!”

“No, it won’t.”

Then, of course, a giant flare-up at :27 seconds. Probably the gas tank.

Again, for those without video:demo3

My brother, brother-in-law, and I, along with the rest of the toothless clods in the grandstand, couldn’t stop laughing. Fathers of the year. It probably wouldn’t have been quite so funny if one of the drivers had crawled out of the wreckage engulfed in flames.