Sotheby’s wants you to watch their 15-second video on Instagram, but I made it a GIF instead, because who has 15 seconds? (video via, gif by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

We’re strangely growing accustomed to the art auction world’s desire to be perceived as cool. First it was strange skateboarding videos, then it was selfies with artworks for sale, and now “breaking news” announcements via Instagram. Sotheby’s announced yesterday — via their Instagram account — that they will be:

… offering one of Peter Doig’s most celebrated works, ‘Country-Rock (Wing-Mirror)’, at our flagship sales of Contemporary Art in London this summer. Appearing at auction for the very first time, it’s expected to reach in excess of £9 million on 30 June. Do you recognise the view? It’s the rainbow tunnel beside Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway #canada #sothebyscontemporary #toronto

Yes, it’s a banal view of a Toronto landmark that most Torontonians will recognize as the work of a guerrilla mural artist known as “the Caretaker of Dreams.” His story, as told by the Toronto Star, is interesting:

The idea sparked in 1972 when 16-year-old B.C. (Berg) Johnson arrived from Norway and noticed something depressing. “People in Toronto never looked up. They looked down. They never smiled too much.”

The “Caretaker of Dreams,” as he’d come to write on his business cards, decided a “rainbow project” would be just the thing to cheer up dour Torontonians.

Johnson would repaint his rainbow after authorities painted over it at least 40 times before being arrested in 1994. Eventually neighbors — or neighbours, since it is Canada — and community groups rallied around the mural. It has since become a city landmark. What started as a do-good gesture that galvanized a local community became immortalized in a work by an artist — Doig lived briefly in Toronto — that’s now being sold for millions of dollars at a London auction house, which announced it via Instagram. There’s a metaphor for the art world somewhere in there, but I’m too busy liking stuff on Instagram to figure it out.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

One reply on “Sotheby’s Uses Instagram to Announce “Breaking News””

  1. The art business sounds a lot like the diamond business. They both decide how much the consumer should spend independent of any real market forces, then repeat the figure until it becomes gospel.
    They have declared that someone with way too much money will pay $9mil for this. Now it will come to pass.

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