It's very important for good art to be expensive - Simon de Pury, Auctioneer
Ninety-Nine percent of Artists don't have money - Jerry Saltz - Art Critic
I watched The Price of Everything again last night. Not sure why but it fascinates me. The astronomical prices modern art demands is so far out of my life experience that perhaps it's the opportunity to peek behind the curtain for ninety minutes that compels me to watch. I would not for a moment want to live there, except perhaps, a day with Larry Poons would be fun. Larry has a weathered, down-to-earth appeal and wears clothes that I could afford.
The Price of Everything is a well produced HBO documentary of the highly financed art world. For my limited experience in these matters it seems balanced; there are the good, the sorta bad, but not many ugly. It's not a condemnation of a finicky art world, HBO draws open the curtain and lets you hear from people who have a passion for such things as perfect balloon figures, gazing balls, and (some really beautiful) abstract painting. I think they know they get mocked and made fun of and I really don't think they care. The film is not there to make fun of them and doesn't try. I like that about it. Some of these very rich have a true passion for art; then, some buy for pure investment. If you have any amount of liberal social conscience in you you'll cringe at times when you see the amount of disposable income being directed toward these pieces.
I came away feeling a bit sad and angry for the artists themselves. Fortune does not seem to favor them, at least not initially. One artist was shown a video of her piece being auctioned in the secondary market for nearly a million dollars, none of which goes to her. It was flipped, like real estate.
Jerry Saltz made an interesting observation. He lamented that much of the art being auctioned will never be seen in public during his lifetime. These pieces will hang in private apartments in London, New York, Shanghai, and never be seen again. He seemed truly sad and made me consider the value of these pieces to our cultural heritage. Where does the Mona Lisa belong? Venus de Milo? But I also heard from Amy Cappazzello of Sotheby's who appreciates museums but also bemoans the fact that many museums, due to space limitations, will store great works for years, rarely allowing them to see the light of a well lit gallery. Both cases are sad in a way.
This has the value of a house, I like it, but, it's not a house. Artist, Gerhard Richter, pointing at one of his pieces
Note: the above piece can be purchased for much, much less than a house.