Bidding on Oblivion

On Election Day, The New York Times featured an above-the-fold story in its Arts section about the fate of fake art as the country was deciding the fate of a fake politician.

The article was illustrated by a tiny, smudged color reproduction of, as the caption states, a “disputed Jackson Pollock that a Manhattan gallery sold for $17 million.”

“Untitled 1950,” disputed painting attributed to Jackson Pollock. (Image via The New York Times)

That Manhattan gallery was, of course, the now-defunct Knoedler. As ARTnews reported in June:

London-based hedge-fund manager Pierre Lagrange, who, in 2007, purchased a painting purportedly by Jackson Pollock for more than $17 million […] now believes that he was duped and that the work is a fake. He is demanding his money back.

Knoedler closed a day after a negative scientific analysis report on the Pollock was received.

The settlement between Lagrange, a hedge fund manager, and the gallery is confidential but “amicable,” as a spokesman for Knoedler’s former president, Ann Freedman, told The Times in October.

* * *

Not so for the hedge fund managers and other masters of the universe who bankrolled Karl Rove’s Crossroads Super PAC to elect Mitt Romney and a slew of Republicans in races across the country. Amanda Terkel of The Huffington Post writes:

“The billionaire donors I hear are livid,” one GOP operative told The Huffington Post. “There is some holy hell to pay. Karl Rove has a lot of explaining to do … I don’t know how you tell your donors that we spent $390 million and got nothing.”

* * *

An article by The Times’ Carol Vogel exactly one year ago explained how “Sotheby’s Strong Sale Revives Art Market in One Night”:

Rowdy art handlers — who have been locked out of Sotheby’s over a labor dispute since the summer — blew whistles and shouted insults at the crowds who poured into Sotheby’s Upper East Side auction house on Wednesday night for its auction of Impressionist and modern art. But for all the anger outside the building, inside there was excitement and a great deal of relief as an international crowd of collectors and dealers watched the auction market come back to life.

The amount of money spent on that one night at Sotheby’s totaled $199.8 million.

* * *

On November 4th, an editorial appeared in The Times by Aaron B. O’Connell, an assistant professor of history at the United States Naval Academy, on “The Permanent Militarization of America.” O’Connell extensively quotes President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address, in which he coined the term “military-industrial complex” and spoke eloquently about the defense budget’s effect on the social fabric:

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

* * *

The U.S. death toll from Hurricane Sandy is more than 100, hundreds of thousands are still without power, tens of thousands are homeless, and the cost of rebuilding will run as high as $50 billion.

* * *

On Wednesday night, Christie’s held its fall Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale, where $204.8 million was spent on 48 works. Fetching the highest price ($43.76 million) was Claude Monet’s “Nymphéas” (1905); Constantin Brancusi’s “Une muse” (1912), which Christie’s sold in 1986 for $880,000, went for $12.4 million; “Study for Improvisation 8” (1909) by Wassily Kandinsky was bought by a telephone bidder for $23.04 million.

The International Herald Tribune article by Souren Melikian that detailed the auction was headlined “Christie’s Sale Suffers From Sky-High Expectations.”

comments (0)