I am a tourist on the beaches of a foreign continent. They speak six different languages, as far as I can hear and only wear the greatest suits, Chanel dresses, shoes to be envied and everyone smells so—well. I’m the only one with my hair up in a chopstick and steel toe boots. Actually, this is no distant country, though it may feel like a parallel universe. It’s just the preview sales floor of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction. And really the only thing unnerving is all these zeros floating around. Not the patrons, the prices.
The auction houses know where all the dead bodies are buried…
William deKooning – “Untitled XXIV” – Sold For $17,525,000
This isn’t my first time at the rodeo. Checking out Christie’s, or any auction house, is enjoyable for many different reasons. Mostly it’s a chance to get to learn all those subtle little things they didn’t teach me at art school. “Do you like this color?” a docent asks a buyer. I’ve got to say, I’m not sure that’s what my teachers meant by color theory. Still though, it is a theory. Funny to think that this is a part of the loud voice affecting the art market, as well as a lot of art that is being made. That’s not a judgment; it’s just a fact. A personal interest in going to auctions is the chance to hear and see the market first hand.
“The auction houses know where all the dead bodies are buried,” someone standing next to me says to his friend in regard to how works find their way to the auction houses they are sold at. LIGHTING IN A BOTTLE! Being informed makes for good choices and I am a big believer in self-educating.
Christopher Wool – “And If” – Sold For $6,997,000
What you’re never prepared for is a New York City experience curve ball. Coming around a corner, I nearly crash into Marnia Abaromovic. For a second I almost thought I was caught in an elaborate piece that’s for sale, but then I turn around only to be faced with Christie’s own Laura Paulson, Chairman of Post-War & Contemporary Art of the Americas! She’s staring at me staring at her. Now I know I’m in the twilight zone. Or some sort of bad Jon Baldessari piece, I’m not sure? If nothing else, getting the chance to see the works and rub elbows with, if not share an awkward moment, with people who probably wish you weren’t there to begin with, is totally worth it.
Franz Kline – “King Oliver” – Sold For $26,485,000
There are a lot of feelings and opinions on both sides of a complicated river when it comes to the market, galleries, museums, making art and how they are all interconnected. There will always be justified judgments on both sides. Seeing work is what’s most important. No one stops you at the doors of Christie’s or asks you for twenty-five dollars for admission. And though there are shifty eyes and arrogant shuffles when someone who clearly isn’t a part of the tax bracket walks by those who are. There’s no one kicking anyone out. The art is there, and the thing that is most unique about the art shown at auction houses is that there is a very high likelihood that you will never see the art ever again. I always think about the people who got to hear Beethoven’s music conducted by the man himself. Today we take that for granted because we can listen to it whenever we want. But in the eighteenth century you heard it once and then never again. Few chances to experience a thing like that today.
Jeff Koons – “Pink Panther” – Sold For $15,845,000
(Header Image: Andy Warhol – “Triple Elvis [Ferus Type]” – Sold For $81,925,000)
Efrem Zelony-Mindell is an artist who lives in New York. For more of his work click here …
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