Random Thoughts: $105 Million For a Picasso This Month… Why Not?

In Article, Black and White Photography, Photo Print Collector on August 28, 2010 at 7:35 am


Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” , Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society, New York

We are dedicated to commentary on appreciation of fine photographs by all viewers but the lessons for our collector segment are often to be found in the high end of the art market. Once again a  record high price for a painting is set, with some would say, not the greatest work by Picasso.

In this column recently, our observation on the importance of market valuation drew the comment Ansel Adams to insure success should have had a business manager first and worry about print techniques secondarily . The high minded thought behind the comment intimates that great art is great art independent of the marketplace … and well it may be, but that is not the art world today.

The following is from “Kilroy” in the NY Times today, commenting on the Picasso sale:

The super-rich who trade in expensive art are filling the role of patrons once played by The Church and baronial city-state families like the Medicis. Name-brand galleries–thank you, Leo Castelli–indulge and buttress the investments of their rich clients by cultivating a fashion-like sense of exclusivity. Universities play their role with high-powered M.F.A. programs that boast of the name-brand artists who passed through their doors. It’s an ad-hoc system replete with deals, Basels, talent, fraud, and, less frequently than in the past, romantic Van Gogh-like suffering. But a system it is, designed to make the artist the most valuable component of the product for sale.

One can have a jaundiced view of the art machine and say the fix is in; or one can roll with it and enjoy some of the art that comes to market. I’m in the latter camp. To ask of the art world that it conduct itself on a plane higher than the rest of humanity is to ask the impossible and to expose oneself to endless self-martyrdom. I’ll take a pass on that, thank you very much.

So, cynical as it may be, history and the marketplace may now be inseparable, and the artist/collector relationship seems forged for the foreseeable future in determining “the value of great art”.

For more comments: NY Times

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