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My Wool-y Photo Op: “Sell(out) the Journalist!” (plus: Perl Hurls)

    Jed Perl, New Republic's art critic     (One good photo op deserves another.)

Jed Perl, New Republic‘s art critic
(One good photo op deserves another.)

I was as surprised as Carol Vogel may have been when I discovered that I had made a cameo appearance in her NY Times article about the “hard sell” buildup to last month’s big Contemporary auctions.

Now it seems that I’ve popped up in yet another art-market article. As in the Times photo, I’m at the Christie’s press preview for what was to become its $691.58-million Contemporary evening sale (a record total for any art auction).

This time, I’m embellishing the New Republic‘s The Super-Rich Are Ruining Art for the Rest of Us by Jed Perl. I’m “ruining art” for the New Republic readers by obscuring their view of Christopher Wool‘s “Apocalypse Now” (which sold for $26.49 million). I was discomfitted to discover that I was unwittingly (and unwillingly) promoting Jeff Koons, via the tote bag (now permanently banished to my closet) that Christie’s handed out to the members of the scribe tribe attending what I later described as a “victory dance in advance”:

My cameo in Jed Perl's New Republic article Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

…but keep CultureGrrl
(my cameo in Jed Perl’s New Republic article)
Photo: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

No, I’m not taking a selfie. I’m taking a photo of another black-and-white auction standout, hanging on the wall in front of me. That offering was reportedly gulped down for $57.29 million by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (which hasn’t, at this writing, acknowledged the purchase):

Andy Warhol, "TK," 19TK, sold for $TK million Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Andy Warhol, “Coca-Cola (3),” 1962
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Perl was a little late to the chorus of ritual moaning among art critics that follows any major bump in art prices. How megabucks purchases are (in Perl’s words) “trashing one of our last hopes for transcendence” is beyond me: Middle-class art buyers can acquire and enjoy art. If they can’t afford a major Bacon or Warhol or Rembrandt, they can still “own” and enjoy these artists’ works at the museums that hold masterpieces in trust for the public.

I do find this state of affairs a bit sad for those of us who covet works that we’ll never get to hang on our own walls. That’s life, but it’s neither “repellent” nor “revolting” (Perl’s pearls). If people viewing Bacons at museums now see dollar signs instead of brushstrokes, that’s their problem. It’s not the fault of megabucks buyers, nor of the reporters who sometimes fawningly chronicle the exploits of the ultra-rich.

But I’ve already said this. Back to the important stuff: Will my string of photo ops continue? Only if my semi-official portraitist, Don Emmert of Getty Images (who shot both previous images of me), shows up at the next press preview I attend. (Actually, that would be tomorrow.) I might also get another 15 seconds of semi-fame if Jill Krementz comes to the preview.

This time, though, I think I’ll bring my own tote bag!


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