Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Art's Been Going For Lately

To be honest, this post began life as a Random News Generator, with Liechtenstein the lucky winner. However, it just so happens there's a pop artist with that exact last name, Roy Liechtenstein, and he made more news lately than the country did, which, by the way, today entered into an agreement with the United Kingdom to shed part of its reputation as a tax dodge haven by declaring the names of people who bank there without paying taxes in the UK. London has recently struck a similar deal with Switzerland, and is looking to add three more countries to the pile that it will not name so that the tax dodgers don't run off before they can catch them.

Great news, to be sure. But back to the artist. On Wednesday, Roy's 'Ohhh...Alright' set a personal best for Liechtenstein at auction, going for $42.6 million. His previous record was $16.2. This was part of a flurry of bidding on post-war and contemporary art in New York as of late, the week past running up a total bill north of $750 million. Two other record-setters:

*Alexander Calder, who had a standing mobile go for $6,354,000.

*Feliz Gonzalez-Torres of Cuba, who with a 90-kilogram untitled pile of wrapped candy upped his mark from $1.65 million to $4.4 million.

*Cindy Sherman, whose untitled work went for $2.8 million. No word on the previous record.

Records were also set by Mark Tansey and Rudolf Stingel, though no word on for what.

Andy Warhol failed to beat his record, but his 'Men In Her Life', a painting of a between-husbands Elizabeth Taylor, fetched $63.3 million, the highlight of a whole bunch of Warhol sales. His record stands at $71.7 million for 'Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car 1)'.

The big art bidding war, though, was in London by a small family-run auction house, Bainbridge's, for a Chinese vase from the Qianlong Dynasty, discovered sitting humbly on the bookshelf of a London family that wishes to remain nameless. They thought it was just a normal vase, but had it insured for 800 pounds because it looked pretty nice. As it turned out, 'pretty nice' was an epic understatement. They were housecleaning, brought in someone to figure out what some stuff in their house might be worth if they got rid of it, and he found the vase. Once he authenticated it, the media alarm was sounded.

Then several Chinese consortiums got involved. China is very keen lately on reclaiming cultural properties of theirs, similar to what Egypt's been doing for years (and Iran and India as well), and money is no object. And with deep-pocketed China bidding against deep-pocketed China, things got very expensive very quickly.

One more record, for Chinese porcelain, Asian art, and in fact anything that's not a painting or bronze sculpture, a ridiculous $85.6 million.

So if you're the offspring of any of these artists, is it something you'd want to get into as well?

For them, it's not really about the potential payday, but rather the artistic integrity. It thus depends on if you're comfortable living under the name and living with the fact that your work may be influenced by theirs. It's really pretty complicated.

But if you're not one of those offspring... seriously, go get yourself some art supplies.

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