To laugh or weep: contemporary art auction results

I’m sure many of you read about the Basquiat that sold for $110 million to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. He relayed his bids to a Sotheby’s specialist on his iPhone, which I find quaint for some reason. The work was listed as ‘estimate on request,’ but nobody expected it to sell for that much. That’s Picasso and Monet territory.

To his credit, Maezawa plans to open a museum in his hometown of Chiba, Japan, to showcase his sizeable collection. He told The New York Times, “I want to show beautiful things and share them with everyone. It would be a waste just to keep it all to myself.” Good on you, sir.

That’s the drama of this season’s auctions. Are you ready for the comedy? Let’s kick the door open and break the hinges with these excruciating exercises in pomposity. On the left, the word “PLEASE” stenciled six times onto a sheet of aluminum. On the right, four shop vacs in a Plexiglas case with neon lights.

Christopher Wool
Untitled
Estimate: $15,000,000-20,000,000
Sold for $17,159,500

Jeff Koons
New Shelton Wet/Drys 10 Gallon, New Shelton Wet/Drys 5 Gallon Doubledecker
Estimate: $7,000,000-9,000,000
Sold for $7,863,500

 

What’s the intrinsic value of a piece of red yarn tacked to a wall?

Fred Sandback
Untitled (Diagonal Cornered Construction)
Estimate: $70,000-100,000
Sold for $60,000

I can’t poke you with a sharp stick throughout the entire post with terrible art. I’m not a complete curmudgeon. I’ve gone hot and cold over Roy Lichtenstein over the years but this piece was bold and stark. Estimate on request always kills me. It sounds like a dare.

Roy Lichtenstein
Nude Sunbathing
Estimate on request
Sold for $24,000,000

I’m no fan of Basquiat. I think his stuff is infantile. Plus, I don’t respect him for throwing it all away on an OD. Poor, tortured, artist. Boo hoo. Idiot. But this is nice. I like Lester Young.

Jean-Michael Basquiat
In The Wings
Estimate: $5,000,000-7,000,000
Sold for $5,975,000

Ugly and violent. I turned the corner and this was high on the wall. It looked very real.

Maurizio Cattelan
Untitled
Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000
Sold for $1,507,500

This was one of the showcase lots. I happen to like Francis Bacon but I can understand it if you don’t.

These are based on photos of George Dyer. Dyer was the great love of his life but the relationship was a bouillabaisse of alcohol, abuse and dysfunction. They met when Dyer, a small-time cat burglar, broke into Bacon’s studio in the middle of the night to rob him. Bacon caught him and said if he didn’t go to bed with him, he’d call the police.

Francis Bacon
Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer
Estimate on Request
Sold for $51,767,500

Speaking of British eccentrics:

There’s always one that defies commentary.

Damien Hirst
Dog Days
Glass, wood, paint, cigarettes, cigars, ash and lipstick
Estimate: $350,000-450,000
Sold for $468,500

~~~~~~~~~~

bins

April 27, 1993

I was sitting on the sofa finishing Barry Gifford’s Wild at Heart—wonderful—when suddenly, someone in the hallway started screaming at the top of their lungs, “HELP! HELP! MURDER! HELP ME!” It was the most God-awful, horrible thing I’ve ever heard. The hair on my legs stood up. The first thing I did was turn the lights off because, believe me, you don’t want to get involved in this neighborhood. I’ve read one too many stories about good Samaritans getting the shiv. [Note: What a hero I was. What a man of action.]

I looked out the peephole and the guy across the hall poked his head out the door but didn’t go into the hallway. Someone must’ve called the cops because in about ninety seconds the place was filled with them. They all piled into the apartment next door where those two gay guys live. Two minutes later two cops casually walk out talking about the softball league. Meanwhile, my heart is hammering in my chest.

About ten minutes after that, the cops escorted someone out who was carrying a suitcase. I didn’t recognize him. He must’ve been a weekend guest or something.

What must it be like being a cop? They arrive expecting bloody murder and they’re met with a bunch of gay guys having a domestic dispute. But it could’ve just as easily gone the other way. What a job! Those guys are fucking idiots. You don’t scream bloody murder on this block unless you’ve got someone with a gun on the other side of your door trying to get it. I called Lynne in the front office this morning and she didn’t know anything about it. Didn’t hear a thing. How is that possible?!

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

~~~~~~~~~~

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

~~~~~~~~~~

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

~~~~~~~~~~

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.

princess-p2

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.

The spring art auctions: money amok

It’s the time of the season when we turn our beer-soaked attentions towards the modern art world and gaze, in dumbfounded disbelief, at what hedge fund princes, Russian oligarchs and Sheiks of Araby spend on what they are assured by gallery owners and auction houses to be Beautiful and Important objects d’art.

This spring’s Impressionist and Modern Art auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s were fairly staid affairs. There were no earth-quaking pieces that set me all aquiver. That’s happened, you know! I’ve turned corners and have been confronted with canvases that looked alive to me. That didn’t happen this time.

I’m going to start with the piece that’s likely to insult the most number of people. There was a WARNING posted outside the small gallery where this was displayed that some people might find the content upsetting.

A dark room with a spotlight trained on a small sculpture of a kneeling man/boy. What could possibly be so offensive about that, you might wonder?

him1

A visitor knelled beside him for perspective.

him2

Walk around to the front of the sculpture and all is revealed.

Maurizio Cattelan
Him
wax, human hair, suit, polyester resin and pigment
Estimate: $10,000,000 – $15,000,000
Sold for $17,189,000

him3

Oh. That guy. You can see how this might meet with some disfavor. There was a guard posted and only a few people were allowed in at a time. Part of the reason it sold for above the high estimate is that Maurizio Cattelan is The Hot Shit right now. He’s about to install a working 18-karat, solid-gold toilet in the bathroom of the Guggenheim. I’m going to poop in it. I am!

This following piece is more playful and easier to digest. I’ve seen these before and actually think I could put one in the corner of my living room and enjoy it. It’s suspended in sodium chloride reagent and distilled water.

Jeff Koons
One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Silver Series)
Estimate on Request
Sold for $15,285,000

koons ball1

I didn’t like Jeff Koons for a long while but I became so exhausted with hating stuff that I decided to give in and enjoy it. Plus, it does this cool refraction trick when you look at it from an angle.

koons ball2

Look at this lovely Monet. If you’re familiar with his work, you might be wondering about its unusual dimensions. You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you.

Claude Monet
Le bassin aux nymphéas
Estimate: $25,000,000 – $35,000,000
Sold for $27,045,000

monet

This is only half the painting. An unscrupulous dealer divided the canvas sometime before 1944 because, you know, two painting sell for more than one. This is the right half. The left half is in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. I think they should’ve bought it and hung it next to its missing half.

If the Tel Aviv Museum of art couldn’t come up with $27M for the other half of their Monet, perhaps they could’ve coughed-up $2M for this gigantic stick of butter:

Robert Gober
Untitled
Estimate: $1,500,000 – $2,500,000
Sold for $2,285,000

butter

I can’t stand Robert Gober. What a fake What a charlatan. It’s crap like this that turns contemporary art into a punchline.

This might prove to be divisive but I like Francis Bacon. Art is so subjective (although not subjective enough to qualify a giant stick of butter legitimate art). These are self-portrait studies. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you met him and his face was all smeared like that?

Francis Bacon
Two Studies for a Self-Portrait
Estimate: $22,000,000 – $30,000,000
Sold for: $34,970,000

bacon

I usually save my harshest barbs for Jean-Michel Basquiat. He passed his scribbles and half-baked canvases off as finished work. They’re lazy affairs. And aside from that, his dreams came true and he threw it away on drugs. What a stupid ass. But I finally, after all these years, found a piece of his to admire in this gigantic canvas. He rarely worked this big. You’ve got to grudgingly hand it to him on this one. I intentionally waited until that lady walked in the frame for perspective.

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Untitled
Estimate on Request
Sold for $57,285,000

basquiat

There was a shocking dearth of Rothkos offered for sale. These auctions typically feature a few juicy pieces. This season, we only had this one and another smaller piece to choose from. This is another painting I think I could live with, although I’d have to buy a much bigger house to accommodate it.

Mark Rothko
No. 17
Estimate: $30,000,000 – $40,000,000
Sold for $32,645,000

rothko

I took this group shot and realized that, individually, they’re interesting enough but if you bought ALL THREE and displayed them just as you see here, you’d really have something to drive the neighbors insane with envy.

Roy Lichtenstein
Sunrise
Estimate: $300,000 – $400,000
Sold for $418,000

Andy Warhol
Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box
Estimate: $300,000 – $400,000
Did Not Sell

Keith Harring
Untitled
Estimate: $450,000 – $650,000
Sold for $745,000

roth_andy_keith

When I walked into the gallery I was instantly drawn to the pile of white objects on the floor. From a distance, you really couldn’t tell what they were.

Christian Marclay
Boneyard
Estimate: $600,000 – $800,000
Sold for $550,000

boneyard1

In memoriam:

[Brrring] the phone rang and she said
“Whoever’s calling can’t be as cute as you”
Right then and there I knew I was through

“The Ballad of Dorothy Parker”
Prince

boneyard2

Damien Hirst is another guy who raises a lot of rankles but I find some of it clever enough. People seem particularly bothered by the raw cruelty of raising butterflies in order to use their wings for paintings, but they’re quite beautiful. If you saw this in person you might have a change of heart.

Damien Hirst
Psalm 46: Deus noster refugium
Butterflies and household gloss on canvas
Estimate: $80,000 – $120,000
Sold for $161,000

hurst

I’ve got more that’ll make you grind your molars to dust and question the direction contemporary art, not to mention all of humanity, is taking but I’m pushing 1,000 words and I don’t want to break my own Cardinal Rule of Blogging so I’ll leave you with these; one I like and one that deserves scorn heaped upon it. I leave it to you to decide which is which.

Jeff Koons
Smooth Egg with Bow (Magenta/Violet)
Estimate: $7,000,000 – $10,000,000
Sold for $7,445,000

koons

Cady Noland
Chicken in a Basket
Twenty-seven elements, wire basket, rubber chicken, boxes, bottle, flags, baster, bungee and beer cans
Estimate: $350,000 – $450,000
Sold for $305,000

chicken

Art auction addendum: A piece that disgusts me

Typically, I don’t do back-to-back auction posts but there are extenuating circumstances. Some of the galleries at Christie’s were vacated after an auction last week so they put more pieces on display from this week’s Post-War and Contemporary Art auction. Here are a few more high (low?) lights and one piece that I found deeply offensive and depressing.

This frivolity is by Maurizio Cattelan.

cattelan-e1384199032450

Frank and Jamie. $1,500,000–2,500,000
Sold for $965,000. What a deal!

This was good for a laugh but, again, I have to wonder about the practicality of a piece like this. Where would you put it? In the foyer? The estimate may provide the biggest laugh.

But this isn’t the one that offended me.

This beauty is by British bad boy (no, not Banksy) Damian Hirst

hirst_lg1-e1384199279628

Inviolability. $900,000–1,200,000
Sold for $1,205,000

I saw one of these in the Cleveland Museum of Art over the summer. A security guard yelled at me for taking a picture of it. You know what is is made of, don’t you? Butterfly wings.

hirst_lg2-e1384199247141

Thousands and thousands of butterfly wings. He breeds them specifically for these pieces. Here’s the center.

hirst_lg3

The materials used are listed as “…butterflies and household gloss on canvas mounted on panel.” Here’s another piece that’s smaller.

hirst_sm1

Psalm 28: Ad Te, Domine. $150,000–200,000
Sold for $305,000

And the detail.

hirst_sm2

They’re beautiful but cruel. Yet, they didn’t offended me.

This sculpture is by Antony Gormley and I loved it.

gormley-e1384199332942

Domain LXVI. $400,000–600,000
Sold for $545,000

There’s something about the way it stood in a pool of light and glistened when you walked by that really worked for me. It somehow manages the trick of being both slight and powerful at the same time. Obviously, this isn’t the one that offended me.

I was offended by this.

murakami_11-e1384199202199

3-Meter Girl. $2,000,000–3,000,000
DID NOT SELL. Of course, it didn’t.

Horrible. This ugly objectification of women is courtesy of Takashi Murakami. Do you know how you’re supposed to respect other cultures and not criticize what they might consider art? That it’s okay to not like something, but to condemn is it in poor taste? Well, in the words of Le Clown, fuck that noise. Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with Japanese men? They seem to have a proclivity towards sex-up little girls. Do they feel threatened and intimidated by adult women?

murakami_2-e1384199113975

All I kept thinking was that I’ve got two beautiful daughters at home and how, no matter what age, I wouldn’t want them looking at this. I wondered what it would do to their body image and self esteem.

murakami_3-e1384199075589

Or, do I just need to lighten up? Go ahead. You can tell me. I can take it. I do like how this last photo came out, though. Good composition and shadowing.

murakami_4