“It’ll become a headline and a freak show”

Sotheby’s auction house in New York will auction off a 1895 pastel version of “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, one of the four versions of the artwork, in just a few hours. Experts say it could sell for up to $200 million, a world record price for a piece of art. Jerry Saltz breaks it down on video here, and also manages to get in mention of the art handlers lock out.

For those of you who don’t regularly read Jerry’s work, head to New York Magazine where he’s the art critic, penning articles like this one on the current state of the art market. He’s well worth reading.


5 thoughts on ““It’ll become a headline and a freak show”

  1. I really enjoyed the article and have become a fan of Jerry Saltz’s writing through its lines. Some lines particularly stood out to me:

    “I adore the alchemy wherein artists who cast a complex spell make rich people give them their money.”

    “Now, of course, there remain many dinosaurs, lingering on after the meteor strike…May they all thrive in Dubai.”
    – Saltz believes the era of Koons and Hirst like “art” to be over. I dearly hope he is right!

    “But shouldn’t we be alarmed that one work by Murakami now costs more than masterworks by Constable, Courbet, Delacroix, Fuseli, Géricault, Ingres, Rubens, and Turner combined? It’s not a joke: I know markets are mirages and unrelated, but good work by all of these older masters recently sold for a total of around $3 million; one Murakami fetched over $15 million. From an edition of three.”
    – This paragraph very accurately describes part of what I find appaling about the present market. It is amazing how sometimes all it takes is a well branded campaign to achieve ridiculous prices at auction and overnight fame.

    “Artists churn out work for fairs”
    – Maybe I am simply naive but I believe artists should produce works for a higher purpose. If you are doing something simple for the money, or in this case the fair, the title of artist should not be granted to you. If you produce works because they mean something and they end up in a fair then that is fine.

    “At art fairs, art becomes like millions of eggs released into water to have a better chance at being fertilized. This means that collectors are semen, but whatever.”
    – Hahahahaha!!!

  2. Jerry Saltz response to the 119.5 million dollar price is pretty epic:


    “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.”

  3. Thank you both for your great commments. The rest of the Jerry Saltz article on Vulture is great –

    “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. Last night, Meyer knew that two people were ready to surpass $100 million. He got them there, said he had “all the time in the world,” kept them going up, waited for one to blink, and banged his gavel. Doing this publicly instead of in private just means that more people see what happened and want to try playing the game (not knowing or not caring that it’s rigged). It’s advertising for the next auction: Whole new client markets open, and entirely new material now lures these players in. Now other Expressionist works at lesser prices will be put into play. And I’ll end up on the Charlie Rose morning show again, this time grousing about how much a Max Beckman is going to go for.

    The bad magic here is that people can no longer see this work as a painting. Now people look at The Scream or Van Gogh’s Irises or a Picasso and see its new content: money. Auction houses inherently equate capital with value. The price of a work of art has nothing to do with what the work of art is, can do, or is worth on an existential, alchemical level. The closest I come to wanting out of contemporary art is when I look at the auction trade. A pox on their houses.”

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