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More Evidence Of Market Insanity

Botticelli-MadonnaI just can’t help myself. The juxtaposition of two auction sales is simply too tempting.

In tomorrow’s New York Times, Steve Wynn announces that he’s the one who bought Tulips, by Jeff Koons, last November for $33.6 million, a record for a piece by Koons at auction. He had to admit it at some point, because he put it on view in the Wynn Theater rotunda in Las Vegas  a few days ago, and eventually he’ll move it to a hotel-casino he’s building in Macao.

The paper also mentions another record — this one set this week — for a Botticelli. On Wednesday, Christie’s sold that painting, of a Madonna and child once owned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., for $10.4 million, his highest auction price. 

I’m pasting them both here. You decide.



  1. cathie behrend says:

    yes indeed Judy…. is your interview with the Peabody CEO available?

    Stay warm


  2. Chaque un a son gout!

  3. I like Tulips better than most Koons I’ve seen.

    And the high-gloss metal finish makes perfect sense for Vegas.

  4. Andrea Stillman says:

    I’m laughing out loud!

  5. The sole reason Koons’s “Tulips” sold for more than the cost of materials and labor (not his labor, of course) is that virtually every critic on this planet considers it to be art. It’s not, however. Do any other readers agree? Probably not! I remain ever hopeful, however. (Great idea not to comment. The old adage “a picture [two pictures in this instance] is worth a thousand words” certainly applies here.)

    Louis Torres, Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts) and Co-Author, ‘What Art Is: the Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand’ (2000) –

  6. Well, I don’t think the Botticelli would look so good in a casino, or be as appropriate as the Koons is. I hope the Botticelli found a good home.

  7. It’s just a number.

  8. Your article is great, it shows how the Art Market is fabricated by few and many try to follow but not succeed
    I remember very well many successes of Artist that were created by Merchant d’Art. And it does not change.
    Particularly in America they know how to use the make believe.
    Thank you for bringing up this subject . I really enjoyed it.

  9. david dixit says:

    The buyer of the Botticelli was quite possibly Koons !

    Now that would be clever, to be selling Koons and buying Botticelli…

  10. Apples and oranges. Jeff Koons is to Botticelli what Justin Bieber is to Chopin. The “Real Housewives” earn more than the average Shakespearean actor. The mistake is to see them as part of the same continuum. The Koons, and much contemporary art, is a collectible commercial object, like baseball cards. The dollar value simply reflects what someone is willing to pay for it. It bears little relation to traditional standards of artistic quality.

  11. Norman Sasowsky says:

    BUSINESS, AS USUAL. N.Sasowsky

  12. Price is, by definition, a measure of market value and that is all it is.

  13. Paul Jeromack says:

    Simon Dickenson had the Botticelli for sale for years at $5 million and found no takers.

  14. Jay Rogoff says:

    We need to keep a sense of proportion here, and that extends to the relative size of these works & their relative importance in the artists’ oeuvre. The Botticelli is a small devotional picture, about 15″ x 19″, while the Koons is a monumental sculpture, 17 feet long & 7 feet high. Size isn’t everything, but if a major Botticelli were to come on the market today–the Primavera, the Birth of Venus, or the Cestello Annunciation, say–wouldn’t the sale price likely exceed half a billion?

    • R. David Weaver says:

      Mr. Rogoff you are so correct? I have a giant pile of rocks in my back yard much larger than 17 feet by 7 feet high. Much like Steve Martin’s plastic MIcheangelo signed bird-bath these rocks were quarried next to St. Francis Assi’s burial site. Thus my gigantic pile of rocks must be worth many times more than Koon’s sculpture.

      If i only photo-mechanically enlarged my Botticelli to the size of a football field it would be worthy of purchase for a National Football team. Perfect logic. rdw

      • Jay Rogoff says:

        No one is taking your pile of rocks for a work of art, lovely and symbolically charged as they might be. You may not like Koons’s sculpture & you may not think it’s good art (I don’t, either–my aim is not to defend it aestheticaly), but it is undeniably a work of art worth a considerable sum to its purchaser. Is every work by an Old Master worth more than every work by a contemporary artist? That may be your opinion, but it seems unlikely. My point is that attempting a direct comparison between these two works ignores the fact that the major works of a painter like Botticelli will never come on the market, so there’s really little basis for comparison.

  15. Michael M Thomas says:

    I wonder how it works out if you compute the Botticelli and the Koons point (as the French say, “pwaa”), the Florentine by price per square inch and the Koons by price per pound.

  16. The time-lapse video of “Tulips” is not to be missed. Where’s Jeff? Can anyone find him? (On its selling price, see my comment of February 1.) Video:

  17. The title of your post is unwarranted. That relative prices don’t reflect your aesthetics judgements (or mine) is ‘evidence’ of that alone – nothing more.

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