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But Does Money Make It Art?

Wednesday 30th April 2014

Ever since Marcel Duchamps stuck a urinal in a gallery, scrawled some initials on it, and called it art, people have been in turn baffled and amazed by the often bizarre world of modern art. For a while, collectors were content to be simply bemused by this emerging trend, if they were feeling charitable, and otherwise, regarding the rise of modern art as a fad not worthy of their valuable currency. The traditional art world rolled on, and the amounts of money that began to be paid for classical works eventually began to reach stratospheric levels. Almost all of the most expensive paintings ever sold were auctioned in the last 20 or 30 years, with the current record holder for highest auction price held by 'The Card Players' by Paul Cezanne, which was sold for an astonishing $269.4 million USD in 2011.

A curious fact about these incredibly valuable works, of course, is that the artist never saw a dime of these prices, largely because they are only able to command such prices posthumously. With the go go go world of modern art, however, this has all begun to change. Gerhard Richter, a German born artist, set the world record for a piece sold by a living artist with his painting Abstraktes Bild, which sold for $34 million USD in 2011. He then smashed his own record a scant 2 years later in 2013, when his piece Domplatz, Mailand was sold for $37 million. These are incredible figures for a still-living artist - or at least, they were until the tail end of 2013.

Jeff Koon's 'Balloon Dog (Orange)', shown above, is now the world record holder for the highest auction price for a work by a living artist, at a truly incredible $58.4 million USD via Christie's auction house in New York City. According to Christie's, "the work is considered the supreme example from Koon’s highly desired and acclaimed Celebration Series, begun in the early 1990s. The series evolved from Koons's desire to recreate the ecstatic experiences of a child's enjoyment of the world with universal signifiers."

This seems like something of a far-flung sentiment for a stainless steel representation of a balloon animal. Far be it for this writer to question the erudite minds at Christie's, but as they exist entirely to turn a profit, one is left wondering '… but is it art?'           

Posted on April 30th 2014 on 08:42pm
Labels: art, auction, records

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