Really Ugly Histrionic Painting Purchased for almost $120 Mil

The Scream Cupcakes featured on Cupcakes Take The Cake

One of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” paintings hammered down at Sotheby’s yesterday evening for a whopping 107 million to an anonymous, last minute phone bidder — the full price with buyer’s premium is more like $119,922,500.

It’s a famous bit of 1895-style sturm und drang. Some pre-existentialist hand-wringing. And it’s ugly as hell with garish Halloween colors and those signature melty it-hurts-so-much figures.

When I was a young existentialist, I understood stuff like this. But now this particular painting symbolizes for me the childish histrionics of Jean Paul Sartre’s Nausea and all that bitter Schopenhauresque weltschmertz.

Yes, I know I’m not paying any heed to the historical timeline. I am, instead, riffing on the hysterical timeless line. All that sweaty boo-hoo it’s killing me to be self-aware in an absurd universe…it stikes me as childish now. Even Beckett with his tediously hobbled “characters”… boo hoo! I’m consigned to a circumscribed and finite existence!

In Munch’s wrought language, written in red along the frame of a pastel version of The Scream:

“I was walking along the road with two Friends
the Sun was setting – The Sky turned a bloody red
And I felt a whiff of Melancholy – I stood
Still, deathly tired – over the blue-black
Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire
My Friends walked on – I remained behind
– shivering with Anxiety – I felt the great Scream in Nature.”
~ Edvard Munch

Now I’m all  verklempt.

Portrait 5 Stephen(s), 2010 Lot #1

Stephen(s)
Portrait 5, Stephen(s), 2010

The whimsical Phillips de Pury & Company website is, as I’ve noted in the past, a remedy to prim auction house hem-haw. And I am pleased that Lot #1 of their Under the Influence auction of March 8, went for a full quarter of  it’s estimated $100, 000 to hammer at $26,000 — the full proceeds of which, will benefit DonorsChoose.org, which sends dollars to classrooms with projects in need of materials and resources.

It is much the credit of PdP that they take on nonsense and give full fluff to the requisite irony.

Here’s the site description of Lot #1, in it’s full glory:

1

FULL PROCEEDS BENEFIT DONORSCHOOSE.ORG

STEPHEN COLBERT, SHEPARD FAIREY, ANDRES SERRANO AND FRANK STELLA

Portrait 5, Stephen(s), 2010

Inkjet on canvas, with acrylic spray paint, Sharpie, looked-at-edness of Frank Stella. Printed at 291 Digital in New York. Suitable for Framing.  47 x 36 in. (not available in metric)  Signed “Andres Serrano” lower left.

ESTIMATE: AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

SOLD AT $26,000

PROVENANCE The Colbert Report

In an ambitious on-going work that calls to mind the sprawling constructed worlds of Matthew Barney and identity-questioning narratives of Sophie Calle, TV pundit and conceptual artist Stephen Colbert has been performing his site-specific installation, “The Colbert Report,”…

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You got TV all over my artwork…

Right: Colbert to Serrano, "You made me Charlie Chaplan!" Left: detail of Shep's stencil work

Got a piece of art with some TV sticking to it?  Call the fun-loving specialists at Phillips de Pury.

When Abdi Farah won the Bravo reality show, Work of Art, his 2010 “Baptism” went to auction at Phillips de Pury, selling for $20,000.

And now that Steve Martin has declared Stephen Colbert’s re-worked portrait, “a viable artwork” that “could be auctioned,” well: Phillips de Pury has snatched it up.

Created during a segment on The Colbert Report intended to promote guest Steve Martin’s latest book, An Object of Beauty, the portrait was gazed upon by Frank Stella, sprayed by Shepard Fairey, and then doodled upon and signed by Andre Serrano.

Asked what he’d done to improve it, Fairey told Colbert, “I made your agenda as an omnipotent quasi-fascist orator, and shaper of our politics and culture, that much more obvious as manipulation.”

In the brave company of other works of similarly dubious heft, like those of Donald Baechler and Dan Colen, Colbert’s mash-up will be on the block tomorrow. Though the Phillips de Pury  site describes the collaboration in hilarious art-speak,  the estimate is not ironic at $100,000.

Profits will go to DonorsChoose.org, an online charity designed to connect donors with classrooms in need.

State of the Art Market: Just my Perfunctory Opinion

6267746-heart-monitor-screen

More moaning than ever about the difficulties of evaluating contemporary art. Back that with lots more talk about “speculators” and you have the equivalent of stock brokers hating on day traders.

Lots of breathless pronunciations that the art market is back in boom times.

Perpetual claims of “record” sales prices for every tiny art genre, artist, and period make every evening sale an historic event.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

With our new 3-second news cycles, and all the sweaty drama poured into the auction summaries,  it is hard to imagine that that the art market really does map onto the broad stock market:  Sotheby’s stock fell with the Japanese stock bubble at the tail end of the 80’s, dropped in front of the Nasdaq in the 90s, and  then lead the fall in 2007, dropping swiftly in November, well ahead of the broad stock market which fell in December of that year and sloped downward at a more graceful pace.

Judging from recent reports one could definitely get the impression that the next boom is on, as we may have in May of 2010, only to waken to hand-wringing despair as we did in June and July. Now as we are watching a rocky climb back up again, it is wise to take each $17 Million dollar unregistered Warhol portrait with a grain of salt

Christie’s Mysterious New Blood

Courtesy Christie's, via ArtInfo.com Steven Pleshette Murphy: Christie's 1st American born CEO

Christie’s recent top management shuffle has inspired a good deal of speculation regarding the strategic intentions of owners, François Pinault and his investment firm, Groupe Artemis SA.  Does Artemis, which acquired the auction house in 1999 for $1.2 billion have secret plans to sell in the near future?

Sprung upon with announcements of a new CEO, Steven Pleshette Murphy, formerly president and CEO of Rodale publishing, and the promotion of former CEO, Edward Doleman to chairman, Christie’s execs can’t help but wonder what to expect next.

Kept secret until its announcement via a Sept. 20th e-mail to worldwide staff, the news apparently caused quite a shake up, not only because it was so sudden and unanticipated, but also because Murphy was chosen over seemingly more likely candidates like Marc Porter, the chairman of Christie’s America, and François Curiel, president of Christie’s Asia.

Artemis, meantime, denies all rumors of an impending sale, claiming it holds long-term plans for Christie’s which is, they say, one of their “strategic assets,” producing sales of $2.3 billion in the first half of 2010.

However, asked by ArtInfo’s Judd Tully about whether Christie’s has any more surprises in store, Murphy, Christie’s very first American born CEO, said, “There will be more to say in a few months.”

Slim Pickin’s in Lean Times = $69 Mil for the Big Mo

Modigliani’s “La belle Romaine” is large.

No use talking about the art market as if it had ANYthing to do with the real world… Auction prices are back to mind-blowing even while our unemployment rates hover around 9%. An examination of performances by Sotheby’s and Christie’s  evening sales of contemporary art this week will show you only that a luxury market —a collectors luxury market — responds to a slowly recovering economy with sheer, unabashed, indulgence.

The story these days is about rarity. And rarity speaks only to desire and competition, a combo that makes for dramatic auctions. So when every last brushstroke and cast is sitting on Mr. Moneyfeather’s veranda, and collectors are left scrabbling over the leavings or the occasional toss-away, we are left gasping at record prices fetched for middling Modiglianis and lackluster Monets.

Continue reading “Slim Pickin’s in Lean Times = $69 Mil for the Big Mo”

Feel Free to Match the Couch: A Guide to Buying Art Online

Popping up, all over the internet, like bald little mushroom heads in the corner of an overgrown garden, are dozens of buy-art-online sites. Their spores are in the air. There’s a new one every day, with offerings that cover the whole gamut of affordability, quality and snob appeal.

It’s time to match the couch, my friends — shamelessly, and in the privacy of your own homes; the way you shop for porn.

BZA CO

Continue reading “Feel Free to Match the Couch: A Guide to Buying Art Online”

Reducing Collection, Chagall, “Paris Red Sun”

Chagall Red Sun Over Paris
Marc Chagall, Red Sun Over Paris

The ad, at the back of this Summer 2010 Art News, was placed with two others under the heading ART FOR SALE.

But it stood out. It was not for Limited Edition serial artwork, nor was it placed by an artist selling their own landscapes.

It was an ad for several paintings, some of them by brand name artists: and all listed with very specific, oddly low, prices, like something you’d see on Craig’s List or EBay, only this Ed Sanders guy was selling Chagall and Miro. He was asking directly for “best offer over $50,000,” and flat out naming prices like $4,500 for Norman Rockwell’s “Football Hero”.

So I called him.

Continue reading “Reducing Collection, Chagall, “Paris Red Sun””

Mr. Minor’s Winter of Discontent: Evening Sale at Phillips De Pury

Phillips de Pury & Company  The Richard Prince “Nurse” sold by Halsey Minor
Phillips de Pury & Company The Richard Prince “Nurse” sold by Halsey Minor

The spring auctions with their record sales prices swept a breath of fresh air into the fusty art markets, hunkered down as they were, bearish throughout the cold winter.

But the Thursday evening sale at Phillips de Pury stands as an ironic reminder that the winter of our discontent is not to be made glorious by the auction houses.

Continue reading “Mr. Minor’s Winter of Discontent: Evening Sale at Phillips De Pury”

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