+ Cornelius Gurlitt, 80, whose Munich home housed the 1,406 artworks that were seized from the Nazi’s as SFAQ reported last week, is demanding the artworks be returned to him, arguing they are his legal property under a German 30 year statute law. His claim is that he is entitled to them as family property rightfully handed down from his father Hildebrand Gurlitt, who worked for the Nazis as an art dealer. He views his father as a hero who worked hard to protect the art from the Nazis and the allies’ war ravages. Perhaps most interesting is his personal testimony reported to Der Spiegel. Gurlitt explained that the paintings were his best friends, things to talk to in the evening, when he would pull them out of his cupboard. He says the authorities had torn away the most precious aspect of his life and that this experience is one of abandonment that has been the most painful he has ever endured.
+ The hysteric obsession with contemporary art among the worlds wealthiest hit an all time high Tuesday in New York when Christies took in a grotesque $692 million in one night, the highest auction total in art market history. The biggest sale was the $127 million purchase of “Three Studies of Lucian Freud”, painted by Freud’s close friend, the melancholic Francis Bacon in 1969. A 23-year-old Korean man clandestinely standing in for a client took the winning world record bid for an artwork ever sold. The record for an Andy Warhol was broke with the drab 1963 “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)” fetching $105 million while someone who is clearly delusional paid $58.4 million for a Jeff Koons’ balloon dog, the lawn ornament par-excellence for the top 1 percent of the 1 percent, and now one more indistinguishable version of the glamorized gift store trinket is the most expensive art work in existence “made” by a living artist.
Writer Ben Davis, who will be speaking about his book “9.5 Theses on Art and Class” Thursday at SFSU, pointed out to the Guardian “the price just for that one painting (the Bacon) is more than the entire budget for the National Endowment for the Arts for 2013 in the United States.”
A cruel folie à deux is that New York contemporary art auctions this week alone brought in approximately the same amount as the entire estimated value of the Nazi trove that has been calculated to be worth roughly $1.35 Billion and is made up of art works that were on the most part stolen from victims of the holocaust. Pieces that will most likely end up in the same auction houses that raked in $1,333,268,140.
If you needed any more assurances of the discrepant registers of what “appreciation” means to the art viewer and the art buyer, consider the painting “Apocalypse Now” by Christopher Wool, which was sold for $26.5 million. One would think that such an “esteemed” piece should be enjoyed by many a viewers, but Christie’s effectively makes sure that it never sees the light of day. Auction houses “employ” third parties to put up large amounts of cash in advance for the art work in order that the consignor receives payment regardless of its sale, which they call a “guarantee”, this financial scheme also guarantees that a museum such as the Guggenheim can never even think about purchasing such a painting, who happens to be hosting a retrospective of Wool’s just down the street – yep, with his most famous work in absentia. The systematic arrangements enforced by auction houses embrace neither the public good nor the free market, as some good Capitalists might naively expect.
The Christopher Wool painting itself is a simple white canvas with stenciled black lettering that reads “Sell The House, Sell The Car, Sell The Kids”. If this dilemma wasn’t a sad reality of most Americans the painting might be considered ironic, but the asset based art market doesn’t care about irony or decency, it cares about one thing and one thing only. You be the judge of what that is.
+ One more item in a similar vain, but with a touch of sad humor to end on: On the same day that the crazed megalomaniacs went to town in New York, many in the art community who were no doubt NOT in attendance at the auction houses received an email from the kind people at the “Untitled.” art fair informing their mailing list subscribers that the email they received highlighting all the special events they could take part in this December at Basel were only meant to be sent out to those with VIP status, barring them from taking part in a benefit for the Marina Abramovic Institute and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, as well as a bunch of free booze. Oops.
Contributed by Peter Dobey