Money Is No Object

You have to wonder just how far mega-rich contemporary art buyers are willing to go to satisfy their acquisitiveness. Last week, an anonymous bidder (now identified as a member of the Qatari royal family) paid the staggering sum of $142 million for a work of art at Christie’s in New York City. The coveted painting was a triptych entitled Three Studies of Lucian Freud, by Dublin-born master of angst Francis Bacon. The sale now holds the record for highest amount paid for a work of art at auction, ousting Edvard Munch’s The Scream from the top spot.

We could argue about the merits of the Bacon work in relation to the money spent on it until we’re blue in the face, but I think we all know that such hangwringing, astonishment – even disgust in some cases – are utterly besides the point. Is there absurdity and excess in the art market? Of course there is. But this is about commerce, nothing more. Qatar is preparing to open a national art museum in 2016, and the Bacon triptych will likely be one of the standouts in its collection. I get it. Heck it’s their money and they can do with it whatever they want. I guess we can take some comfort in the fact that at least it wasn’t a Damien Hirst.

Putting aside the $142 million purchase price, I would point out that the Bacon is a triptych, and a large one at that, which makes it substantial. And I have no doubt that the subject being Lucian Freud, the revered British painter who himself is a darling of art collectors, had everything to do with the work’s sought-after reputation. It’s hard to imagine that the piece would have fetched $142 mil if Bacon had painted his mailman. Honestly, I don’t find the “painter does a painting of another painter” thing inherently interesting, but maybe that’s just my model’s bias talking 😉 Regardless, Bacon and Freud were good friends so I suppose it’s an affectionate tribute, twisted caricature-like quality notwithstanding.

I’m sure most of us understand, and accept, that the big money art market is far removed from the art world the rest of us understand and inhabit. Ours is the world of searching for beauty, expression, transcendence, emotional depth and spiritual uplift in drawings, paintings, and sculpture. Lucky for us, those qualities can be found in a multitude of places, down the line from the Old Masters to the Modernists and perhaps even on your neighbor’s pad in life drawing class. Of course we are moved individually, subjectively, personally. Doesn’t it all just boil down to taste in the end? I know people who would be happy never seeing a Picasso again for the rest of their lives. I also know people who dismiss the French Impressionists as creators of mere “pretty pictures”. We all respond to different things. Some value simplicity and elegance. Others value rich composition and color. Some prefer form over content, or vice-versa. Many are partial to landscapes over nudes, realism over abstraction, technique and skill over aesthetic appeal. To each his own as they say.

So my question to my readers is this: if money was no object and you could have in your possession ANY work of art – a work you genuinely love, that moves you, pleases you, that will hang on your wall for you to see every day – what would it be? Consider all the options – style, artist, technique, subject matter, medium. I’m confident I can speak for my mother in that her choice would be a Degas drawing or pastel. As for me, I can’t decide! It wouldn’t be a Francis Bacon I can tell you that. A painting by Edward Hopper is definitely high on my list. I surely wouldn’t turn down a drawing by Raphael or a watercolor by John Singer Sargent or an etching by Rembrandt. I’m very interested to hear your choices so please share.

Right now what I wouldn’t mind hanging on my wall is a summer beach scene to remind me of warmer days. It’s gettin’ cold man. Winter, ugh.

To The Water by Joaquin Sorolla, 1902. Ahh, beach 🙂

Sorolla-to-the-water-1902

22 thoughts on “Money Is No Object

  1. scorpioski says:

    Is that dude in the painting wearing a hat, birthday suit & a grin?!?
    Where does he think he is? Miacomet?
    Too bad his companion needed to have the antithesis apparel on…
    : )
    Thanks, C. for you thought provoking, eloquent and entertaining posts.
    You, my friend, are a treasure.
    xox
    Paul

    • artmodel says:

      Paul,

      Your mentioning of Nantucket beaches is making me yearn even more for the sand and water! I always liked Surfside the best. Next summer, hopefully.

      Thanks for your very kind comments. I’m delighted that you enjoy my posts! Hope all is well with you, friend 🙂

      Claudia

  2. cauartprof says:

    Claudia,
    Very interesting! I have a friend who at dinner parties will often throw out questions like “If you could be a character from a book who would it be?” or “If you could have any bottle of wine in the world, which would you choose?” etc. This is very similar but dear to all of our hearts. While I can think of many art works that I would love to see in my own abode, two that rise to the top include: Picasso’s “Family of Saltimbanques” at the National Gallery and Peter Paul Rubens’ oil sketch “Samson and Delilah” at the Cincinnati Art Museum. The Rubens was my first love as a young art student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The Picasso I fell for later as a young art professor at a conference in Washington. I try to revisit these amazing paintings when I can. They taught me more about painting than all my years in school. Best,
    Chris

    • artmodel says:

      Chris,

      Excellent choices! Yes, I love Picasso’s “Saltimbanques” too. And “La Vie” also very much. The Rubens is incredible of course. You have superb taste, as I would expect 🙂

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  3. Magdalena says:

    What a lovely post. I will be thinking about a painting for my wall the whole night! Degas sounds nice, Cezanne also.

  4. Dave says:

    This will betray my background in mathematics, but I would love to have anything by M.C. Escher on my wall. If I had to pick one or two, I’d go with Day and Night or Ascending and Descending.

    Dave

    • artmodel says:

      Dave,

      What an unusual and unexpected choice! For sure, a person in mathematics and sciences would have a special appreciation of Escher. No one else like him.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Claudia

  5. Bill says:

    I suspect that it wouldn’t fit on my wall, but Donatello’s Penitent Magdalene is about the most moving thing I’ve ever seen. But it might prove a little depressing over the long run.

    Of course, I’m not sure that I agree with your basic premise — after all, I am Scottish-American, so there may be a genetic imperative at work here. May I submit an alternative point of view? 🙂

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      Hahaha, that’s excellent! Your point is well made. I have a feeling the folks at Christie’s and Sotheby’s would agree 😉

      As for the Donatello, that is certainly a deeply moving piece. Too see it every day? Sure. The intense sadness might, oddly, be comforting in some way. Yes, she looks gaunt and haggard, but the redemption of her soul is powerful. A great choice.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  6. richhell says:

    Munch’s “Madonna.” A print of it has been hanging on our wall for over a decade. I saw it at the National Gallery in Oslo when I was a young man backpacking through Europe. I’d been to many many museums, seen the whole history of Western art on that long trek, but no work took my breath away like that one. It’s beauty, pain, and ecstasy. I’ve had that gut-punch reaction to other artistic experiences, and I’ve learned to trust it.

    • artmodel says:

      richhell,

      One of my favorites! I would even say that it’s probably Munch’s best work. So striking and profoundly felt. You’re lucky to have seen it in the Oslo museum. I’d love to visit there. Great choice.

      I enjoyed your story and comments very much, thank you!

      Claudia

      • richhell says:

        You’re welcome, Claudia. I’ve been reading your blog for some time. I appreciate your insights as both a lover of and participant in art. Your posts always teach me something.

        Oh, and there’s more to the story, at least about the “Madonna” print. 🙂 The print is the one I bought at the museum there in Oslo and mailed to my then-girlfriend back in Chicago. She was reading the letter that came with it when her cat named Hobbes scratched a part of it near the bottom. She stopped Hobbes from using it as a toy. Years later we had the print framed, tiny scratches and all. Most people don’t see the scratches until we point them out. Yes, the woman I mailed that print to is now my wife.

        • artmodel says:

          richhell,

          That’s a nice story! And may I add that Hobbes is a very cool cat name. Sounds like the print is a cherished item for you and your wife.

          Thanks for your comments about my blogging! Wonderful to hear that you find my posts insightful and informative. I try my best, as consistently as I can. Thanks again!

          Claudia

  7. fredh1 says:

    Your thoughts about the subjective value of art are well said!

    I don’t think I’ve ever given a thought to the idea of wanting to own a piece of art. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand the art market or how to sell my work! I like the fact that so much great art is in public places where I can see it. My own home is filled with my own art. I want to look at it all the time not so much because it inspires me or makes me feel a certain way, but because I am still wrestling with it!

    • artmodel says:

      Fred,

      I can only imagine what goes through artists’ minds when they are surrounded by their work! Like you said, a lot of “wrestling”. For what it’s worth, as someone who has been to your place many times, your art on the walls makes for a fantastic visual atmosphere 🙂

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  8. Jennifer says:

    I’ve mused over this and have decided that if I could choose only one, it would be my long-time favourite of ‘Beata Beatrix’ by D.G, Rosetti.

    I love the seaside painting – lovely colours and a really interesting composition.

    • artmodel says:

      Jennifer,

      The Rosetti is a lovely choice. Her expression, and the green of the dress. Commenters have provided such a variety of answers to the question, it’s great!

      Thanks for your comments.

      Claudia

  9. LeeAnn Park says:

    I don’t post here very often. I love the Lascaux Cave Paintings. They are not for sale. Much of the cave art is not open for public viewing because exposure of the interior of the caves damages the works of art. I love the colors and images.

    • artmodel says:

      LeeAnn,

      Amazing! Yes, I’ve heard that Lascaux is not accessible to the public, which I totally understand. They should be protected. But could you imagine what the experience would be like? Wow. Love your answer the the question 🙂

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  10. Botticelli’s Mars and Venus if I’m only allowed one painting – he is beautiful, she is smart, and the kids are charming. But what I would really, really like is the Orangerie Waterlilies. I might even let other folks see them occasionally . . . .

    • artmodel says:

      Jane,

      Super choice with the Botticelli! The kids are great, they really complete the painting. As for the Waterlilies, you’d probably have folks demanding to see them!

      Thanks for your comments. Great to hear from you!

      Claudia

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