Thanks Deneesha for flagging this post in Vulture by Saltz on the auction of The Scream. It’s worth citing a chunk from:
“I hate art auctions. Not just because they’re freak-show legal casinos, spectacles where the Über-ultrarich can act out as profligately in public as possible, trying to buy immortality, become a part of art history, make headlines, and create profit. I don’t only hate them because they may be the whitest sector in the entire world. I hate them for what they do to art, for the bad magic of making mysterious powerful things turn into numbers.”
“Auction houses run a rigged game. They know exactly how many people will be bidding on a work and exactly who they are. In a gallery, works of art need only one person who wants to pay for them. Auctions jigger the rules in one tiny way: They have two people who want something, and they know how high each is willing to go. The setup is simple and perfect. The auctioneer simply waits until he gets around the ceiling he knows these two clients are willing to go to; then he pits the two bidders against one another. Voilà! Money. “
Should we hate on auctions and what they stand for? Is such a big sale indicative of income inequality hitting a new high, or the economy bouncing back? Is Edward Conard, former co-worker of Mitt Romney, actually right about the trickle-down effect of extreme displays of wealth such as these? (You can read his POV in this NYT article here: “The Purpose of Spectacular Wealth, According to a Spectacularly Wealthy Guy“). Should we all just head to the Outsider Art Fair in protest, or are displays from the periphery always doomed to be subsumed by the center again? (see: Hennessy Youngman and decide for yourselves).