Poo-shay

From our Literary Tidbit Department:

Ian Fleming wrote his first Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1952 at Goldeneye, his house in Jamaica where all of the Bond novels were written. He had been musing on a name for his new creation. “I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument…” He looked up from his desk and saw this on his bookshelf:

bond_birds

“I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought, by God, ‘James Bond’ is the dullest name I ever heard.” That’s right. The real James Bond wasn’t a globetrotting super spy. He was an ornithologist. And, yes, that’s a first edition.

Fleming would routinely name villains after actual people who had gotten on his nerves at one point or another. Hugo Drax, Goldfinger, Scaramanga, etc., were all part of a grand payback scheme. Sweet.

The Bond books were written while World War II was still a fresh wound. The villains were mostly Germans or Asians with hideous physical disfigurements who were hellbent on world domination.

Fleming’s greatest nomenclature creation is Pussy Galore. Talk about a straight white male fantasy! She was the leader of a gang of lesbian ex-circus performing cat burglars. Bond turned her hetro with his superior lovemaking skills. The film adaptation has Bond overpowering her in a bail of hay in a barn. Afterwards, woozy from a proper pumping from Bond, she willingly reveals Goldfinger’s nefarious plans to the CIA.

In a heartfelt tribute, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery features a character named Alotta Fagina, which I find no less absurd than Pussy Galore.

~~~~~~~~~~

Would you look at this whopper I bought before work last week. It was enormous! Gerthy, too. Five inches around. I measured.

Am I the only one astonished that I can buy fresh tropical fruit from a street vendor in Manhattan the middle of winter? Isn’t that a cause for wonderment? I’m certain that option didn’t exist not long ago. Only 50 cents.

~~~~~~~~~~

I have tried for years to develop an appreciation for Gerhard Richter’s work but it’s just visual noise to me. It’s big. You can say that much for it.

Abstraktes Bild (809-2)
From the collection of Eric Clapton
Estimate: $18,000,000-25,000,000
Sold for $22,087,500

Oh. And Eric Clapton owned it. You can say that, too. And say it they did. Over and over and over. That was thought to be one of the painting’s key selling points. They sure couldn’t sell it on its artistic merit alone. Clapton bought it in 2001 for $3.4 million.

$22 million. Give me a break. It was fugly in 2001 and it’s fugly today.

ART is MONEY. MONEY is ART. The spring auction report.

“There’s something slightly boastful wanting to own these things. And there’s a prevalent sense that this is also about asset gathering, not just collecting.”

Abigail Asher
Art Consultant

Well, that’s the understatement of the year. I don’t imagine this post will get a lot of play, but I find this stuff endlessly fascinating. It was a record week at the spring Contemporary and Impressionist art auctions. Christie’s alone sold over $1 billion worth of art. As always, a splendid time was had by the 1%.


Alas, poor Vincent. Only sold one lousy painting his whole life. And that was to his brother. He’s doing okay now. This was a great piece. The blue was more vibrant than what you see here.

Vincent Van Gogh
L’Alle des Alyscamps

Estimate on Request, but believed to be +/- $40,000,000.
Sold for $66,300,000

van goghIt’s hard to look at this and feel indifferent. People either love Pollock or hate him. I understand why folks might have a problem with this, but I liked it.

Jackson Pollock
Number 12, 1950
Estimate: $15,000,000-20,000,000
Sold for $18,282,000

pollockI’ve just recently developed an appreciation for sculpture. Late to the game. If I could have this piece on this pedestal with this lighting, I’d take it.

Alberto Giacometti
Buste de Diego (Amenophis)
Estimate: $6,000,000-8,000,000
Sold for $12,794,000

giacomettiContemporary art snobs disparage the Impressionists as being about as challenging as a Hallmark greeting card. Well, screw them. I like it. Art snobs should remember: Impressionism is a gateway drug. A few years of these guys and the next thing you know you’re curious about the Pre-Raphaelites. In the comic strip Doonsbury, prototype slacker Zonker Harris won $23 million in the lottery and spent $1 million on a Monet. He hung it above his refrigerator but subsequently sold it to purchase a royal title in the British aristocracy.

Claude Monet
Nympheas
Estimate: $30,000,000-45,000,000
Sold for $54,010,000

monet_waterliliesA smattering of contemporary pieces.

Keith Harring
Dog (Three Works)
Estimate: $500,000-700,000
Sold for $1,690,000 

Robert Indiana
Love
Estimate: $400,000-600,000
Sold for $538,000 

Barbara Kruger
Untitled (Provenance)
Estimate: $120,000-180,000
Sold for $394,000

harringYou’ve got to hand it to Jeff Koons. He has a talent for making wealthy people look foolish. Three Hoovers in Plexiglas with fluorescent lights. The lot description said this was executed in 1980-1986. This took six years?!

Jeff Koons
New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers
Estimate: $5,000,000-7,000,000
Sold for $5,765,000

koons2This Rothko was described as being unusually bright. That’s putting it mildly! Rothko’s color palate trends towards deathly earth tones. This was owned by Bunny Melon. Pronounce her name with a clenched jaw. You can’t get Waspier than that.

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Yellow and Blue)
Estimate: $40,000,000-60,000,000
Sold for $46,450,000

rothkoI’m posting this Mondrian right after a Rothko intentionally. Rothko famously fumed that, “I am not a formalist. I have no interest in Mondrian. My paintings do not deal in space. Mondrian divides a canvas; I put thing on it.”

Piet Mondrian
Composition No. III with Red, Blue, Yellow and Black
Estimate: $15,000,000-25,000,000
Sold for: $50,565,000—a world record for a Mondrian

I love both the Rothko and the Mondrian. If I could, I’d buy both and hang them next to one anotheer. Heh.

Spooky and rich. This feeds both my desire to own an Impressionist masterpiece and my bottomless pit of Anglophilia.

Claude Monet
The Houses of Parliament at Sunset
Estimate: $35,000,000-45,000,000
Sold for $40,485,000

monet_westminsterThis Lichtenstein is thought to have missed the estimate because, believe it or not, it doesn’t contain one of his trademark comic book speech bubbles, which can add millions to a piece. WTF, art world?

Roy Lichtenstein
The Ring (Engagement)
Estimate on Request, but thought to be around $50,000,000
Sold for $41,690,000

lichtensteinAll of Gerhard Richter’s works are an insult to the brushes he loaded with paint and the canvases he dragged them across. A giant mess.

Gerhard Richter
Abstraktes Bild
Estimate on Request
Sold for $28,250,000

richterHere’s another in a series of nothings from Jean-Michael Basquiat. He threw his life away on heroin addiction. Stupid ass. A door painted on two sides.

Jean-Michael Basquiat
Untitled
Estimate: $3,000,000-6,000,000
Sold for $3,610,000

basquiat-door1This O’Keeffe is being offered in the May 20th American Art auction but included it here because I think it’s magnificent. O’Keeffe was angry that people interpreted her flower paintings as female genitalia. That was never her intent.

Georgia O’Keeffe
White Calla Lily
Estimate: $8,000,000-12,000,000

I hadn’t intended to include this Rothko. I was afraid of Rothko-overkill and the photo doesn’t do it justice. This was hung in a side gallery. The lights were dim and there was a bench set in front of it. I sat down and realized there was also relaxing spa music playing at a barely-audible level. I got kind of lost in the canvas. I had an out-of-body experience, which is what I believed Rothko intended. It sold for an extraordinary amount of cash.

Mark Rothko
No. 10
Estimate on request
Sold for $81,925,000

rothko n0 10I showed this to a friend who’s an artist. He’s a master at watercolor. His comment was, “Nice flesh tones.” Well, that might be true but I couldn’t look at this hanging on my wall every day. Fun fact: Lucian Freud was the grandson of Sigmund Freud.

Lucian Freud
Benefits Supervisor Resting
Estimate: $30,000,000-50,000,000
Sold for $56,165,000

freudI like Anish Kapoor’s work. This concave disk is made of stainless steel and gold. It was mounted in a small room and smacked you as soon as you turned the corner. It’s all in the lighting, folks.

Anish Kapoor
Untitled
Estimate: $750,000-1,000,000
Sold for $905,000

kapoorHere’s what happens when you stand too close to it.

FullSizeRender(5)I wasn’t going include this Damian Hirst butterfly-wing piece because I’ve done a few of them in the past and I hate being redundant, but this is a particularly striking example so I couldn’t resist.

Damian Hirst
Freedom
Estimate: $500,000-700,000
Sold for $629,000

hirst1 hirst2Here’s a funny one. Oh, golly, you’re going to laugh and laugh! These are words painted on a wall. How big it is depends on you. The lot description reads:

“Any size as suits the needs and desires of the receiver.”

Which, I guess, means Weiner comes to your house and paints this on a wall. Now, THERE’S a piece that can be easily forged.

Lawrence Weiner
Balls of Wood Balls of Iron
Estimate: $80,000-120,000
Sold for $185,000

weiner2

This means when the auction is over and Christie’s paints that wall, they’re painting over a $185,000 “masterpiece.”

You are looking at $181,770,000 worth of art. I walked through this gallery with my backpack on. One false turn and you’d have read about me in the paper.

Mark Rothko
No. 36 (Black Stripe)
Estimate: $30,000,000-50,000,000
Sold for $40,485,000

Alberto Giacometti
L’homme au Doigt
Estimate on Request
Sold for $141,285,000

rothko_giacometti


corridor

Wall Decor for the 1%

It’s time for my semi-annual Modern and Impressionist art auction review. In the spring and fall I visit Christie’s gallery at Rockefeller Center to view the beautiful/horrible art up for auction. Thank Fog for pre-auction public viewings. These pieces are passing from one private collection to another. Once the auction is over, they’ll be squirreled away above a mantle in Beijing or Moscow or Dubai, never to be seen in public again. So you’ve got to look when you have the chance. Lets get right to it. I’ll start with the stuff I like and finish with the junk. As always, feel free to agree or disagree (if you must).


I dig Modigliani. I never tire of his hollow, empty eyes. If I could have anyone paint my portrait, I’d choose him. Jeune homme roux assis (1919).

modiglianiEst: $8,000,000-12,000,000. Sold for $17,637,000. Not bad.


This was one of the big-ticket paintings. Nymphéas by Monet (1907). One of his rare water lily paintings, it hung in the dining room of a reclusive heiress, unseen, for EIGHTY YEARS.

monet1Est: $25,000,000-35,000,000. Sold for $27,045,000

I dragged Daughter with me. We visited Christie’s before seeing a play starring her heartthrob, Daniel Radcliffe. That was the bait. She wanted to see Harry Potter on stage, I wanted to expose her to Martin McDonagh, my favorite contemporary Irish playwright, and show her some art. It was a fair exchange.

monet2


This is Jim Beam—J.B. Turner Train by Jeff Koons (1986). He’s nutty. In the good way. This is the same guy who made those giant balloon dog sculptures. This is made from stainless steel. It was mounted on a pedestal in the middle of a room with black walls. Bright lights beamed down on it. It was very shiny.

koonsEst: On Request. Oh, really?! Sold for $33,765,000


Portrait de femme (Dora Maar) by Picasso (1942). I tried to explain to Daughter how these are different views of the same woman. A composite. I don’t think she was buying my art-speak bullshit but you’ve got to try. The auction catalog said this was painted in one day. August 5, 1942.

picasso

Est: $25,000,000-35,000,000. Sold for $22,565,000


Tangotee by Ernst Kirchner (1919-21). I like this guy a lot. A good German expressionist painter. Kirchner is a recent discovery. I attended a Kirchner exhibit at the Guggenheim a couple of years ago and have been smitten ever since.

kirchnerEst: $1,000,000-1,500,000. Sold for $2,045,000


I’ve started to pay more attention to sculpture. This startling figure is Main crispee gauche avec figure implorante by Rodin (1907). Seems this woman is in peril. I wonder who the hand is supposed to be?

rodin

Est: $50,000-70,000. Sold for $50,000


Every auction has at least one fetching Rothko painting. Untitled (1952). I’d like this hanging on my wall at home. A lot of this stuff is nice to look at, but I couldn’t live with it. This piece would calm my ass down.

rothkoEst: On request. Egads! Not again!? Sold for $66,245,000


Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards by Francis Bacon (1984). Bacon is hot. [Ha. I did that on purpose.] Last fall, his triptych of Lucian Freud sold for $142,400,000, so now everyone who owns a Bacon thinks it’s a good time to sell. This is one of those pieces I love to look at but couldn’t live with.

bacon1

Here’s a detail of the third painting.
bacon2

Est: On Request. It’s an epidemic! Sold for $80,805,000. That’s a lot.


There’s always a healthy representation of Warhol. This is Race Riot (1964). It’s considered one of his more important works because of its serious subject matter. No celebrity glitz or transsexual fun here. Just a group of Birmingham cops setting the dogs lose on a lone black man. Red, white and blue. Same as old glory.

warhol

Est: On Request. All these ‘estimate on request’ pieces are giving me an inferiority complex. I can’t even ask what it costs?! The last thing I need is a new benchmark for my own mediocrity. Sold for $62,885,000.


From the left, Chagall’s La Fenêtre ($3,133,000), Miró’s L’étoile insaisissable ($3,637,000) and Léger’s Grande nature morte ($2,165,000). Daughter in the middle: priceless.

sam2Are you guys ready for some crap? Or, perhaps you feel you’ve already seen some. No matter. Onward. This is the stuff that makes me laugh. Once again, here’s proof positive that wealth is a lousy barometer for good taste. Hang in there for the shocking conclusion.

I’m going to try—like I do at every auction, year after year—to appreciate Jean-Michael Basquiat’s work. I’m going to wipe the slate clean reject all my preconceived notions, take a step back and study this. I’ll give it serious consideration. Untitled (1981).

basquiat2Est: $20,000,000-30,000,000. Sold for $34,885,000. Nope. Didn’t work. It’s still CRAP.


Untitled (1964) by Cy Twombly. Signed and dated ‘Cy Twombly 64’ lower center. WHERE?! I don’t see it.Oh…wait…I think I see a ‘4’. It’s crap.

twomblyEst: $5,000,000-7,000,000. Sold for $7,445,000


Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (712) (1990). Oh, how I hate Richter’s work. The very first time I laid eyes one of his paintings I hated it. And I don’t like this one, either. It’s lazy slop without any rhythm or emotion. I don’t understand it. I don’t want to understand it.

richterEst: $22,000,000-28,000,000. Sold for $29,285,000


Here it is, brothers and sisters. The one you’ve been waiting for. The worst of the worst. And that’s saying something. This is The Silent Sink (1984) by Robert Gober. The medium is plaster, wire, wood and semi-gloss enamel paint. It’s a sink. A fucking sink.

sinkEst: $2,000,000-3,000,000. Sold for $4,197,000. I have no witticisms for this. It makes me kind of sad, actually. It seems you can get to a point where you have so much money that you lose touch with reality. Four million. Give me a break. Thank God they didn’t give any of that money to poor people. They’d have just wasted it on stupid stuff, like food or housing.