Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adam Lindeman

The 1% of the 1%
Let’s start with the Monopoly money art. What is it? It’s the art that sells for prices that no one can imagine or understand, like two large abstract paintings by Gerhard Richter, one that made $21 million at Sotheby’s last Wednesday and another that capped out at the same sale at $18 million. Only a year ago a similar and perhaps better one fetched $10 million at auction, a price that seemed awfully high at the time, so how can it be that a 79-year-old artist’s work has doubled in a year of financial crisis? What makes these results even more strange is the rumor that these pictures had been on the market for a while, with no buyers anywhere near these levels. But let’s not forget the early and important black and white photorealist Richter painting that didn’t find any takers in the sale at Christie’s last Tuesday night. The photorealist paintings are the more significant and historic works from Mr. Richter’s oeuvre, and yet the historically “important” art found no buyer while the pretty, colorful abstractions sold for double their presale estimates.
Cattelan at the Guggenheim
In late 2008, not long after the fall of Lehman Brothers, Mr. Cattelan celebrated the financial crash by floating a face-down, dead Pinnochio in the reflecting pool at the bottom of the Guggenheim museum. This apparent suicide of the fabled character (not coincidentally a lying Italian with a long nose) was a clear metaphor for the death of art, the marionette come to life being the classic metaphor for art, while the artist is symbolized by Geppetto, his “father,” the woodcarver. (The piece is called Daddy Daddy.) What better symbol could there be for a moment when the financial crisis threatened to trigger an art-market crash? I didn’t bother to regret all my missed opportunities, because that was then and this was now. Even with my entire Bloomberg screen flashing blood red for days, I broke down and bought Daddy Daddy

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