Monday, May 21, 2007

Why That Warhol Was Worth It : Open Thread

In an effort to justify my claim on CNBC that I didn't think the $71+ million recently paid for Andy Warhol's Green Car Crash was such a bad price, I've been doing some soul searching on the parameters of the question (including the reality that, when put on the spot, it doesn't behoove any art dealer to suggest, without conclusive evidence, on live TV, that a particular work of art was overvalued) and have concluded that, yes, for a number of reasons, I'll stick by my assessment that that painting is indeed worth that much money.

This opinion is not without its dissenters, however, including Paddy Johnson, who notes on
Art Fag City:

I don’t think that the 71 million dollar Warhol painting is a good price. As was stated several times during the interview, a work is worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it, but these really aren’t the answers people are looking for when they ask whether a painting is “worth” it. All we really want to know is whether the painting will maintain or increase in value. In short, my answer to this is no, though I don’t have more insight than anyone else on when these prices will level/drop off. Warhol was expensive last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. In fact, it was only three years ago that I worked at a blue chip gallery that got out of the Warhol market due to the believe that the work was over valued, so I can tell you I’m not the only one in the city who thinks these prices aren’t sustainable. If the business practice of at least a couple galleries in this city reflects this belief, my advice to buyers can only be to proceed with caution.
I agree that the essence of that question is whether or not the painting will maintain or increase in value. Had the work in question been from another series, I'd argue that perhaps that's debatable. However, I'm confident history will confirm that the Death and Disaster pieces comprise one of the most important series of the 20th century*, and even if the market crashes tomorrow and all artwork feels the pull of gravity, that piece will remain important and begin to appreciate again (quickly I would guess) with the next rebound. In other words, when considering the question of whether it's worth it, and whether I would buy it at that price (and, yes, whether or not it will increase in value), I took what an eventual sale from my estate would likely mean into account. Assuming I'd keep the piece until my death (hopefully at least 40 years from now), would it appreciate beyond the 71 million when it then was sold? I'm sure it would.

Two things convince me of this. First is the evidence provided via the market. The low estimate of the piece was already a record price for Warhol, suggesting intense interest in the work, from more than one buyer, before it began. Also part of the market evidence was Gagosian's willingness to jump in at $65million. Other secondary market galleries may be questioning the value of Warhols at the moment, but I'm fairly convinced Larry's take is a fair indicator of what they're worth. At the very most, if overvalued at all, it's only over by a million or two, based on Larry's interest. (Yes, all kinds of alternatives to that theory are possible [Gagosian wanted to drive up the price, he knew what the buyers' limits were, etc. etc.], but that's speculation, not evidence.)

The second factor that convinces me that Warhol will appreciate within 40 years is the fact that, as I noted in the interview, the best Picassos are already picked over and collectors who want to build a serious collection of high-quality work need to move on to the post-war / contemporary market. The relevant question, then, is who is Picasso's heir in the market? Whose work will set the standard moving forward? It seems pretty clear to me that it must be Warhol. Yes, contributing to nervousness about his prices going that high is the fact that there are plenty of Warhols out there, and many of them not all that good, but the same can be said of Picassos. There's no question in my mind, however, that Green Car Crash is from a very important series and if Warhol does prove to be the heir to Picasso, then it's potentially on its way toward that rarefied realm we call "priceless."


What Bill Griffeth alluded to in the interview that still serves as conventional wisdom about some overvalued art never really rebounding is the height of auction madness we witnessed in the late 80s/early 90s (symbolized perhaps by no sale as much as the 1990 price of $82.5 million for van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet Dr. Gachet). The difference here is that "Dr. Gachet" is far from one of van Gogh's best paintings, whereas, despite not being among his most popular (yet), I can't see how the Death and Disaster paintings will not prove to be among Warhol's most valued.

I could be wrong, of course. But those are my reasons for sticking by my assessment that the Warhol was worth it. Have at it...

*This series represents to my mind the pinnacle of Warhol's insight. It wasn't just that he saw how popular culture was infiltrating our lives to the point that we were becoming culturally trivial, in this series he warns that commercialization and the cheapening of imagery (via mass production and irreverent treatment) had begun to trivialize the least trivial aspect of existence: death. The repetition of the images, the mass production process, the mundanely fashionable colors: they add up to a brilliant but biting indictment of how callously we had begun to sell (and buy) death. Reportedly Warhol began the series in response to a headline in the Daily News that Henry Geldzahler pointed out to him: "129 Die in Jet." So many lives lost in such a senseless, meaningless tragedy, reduced to a catchy bite-sized message. By magnifying the absurdity of this growing ambivalence, Warhol meant to held up a mirror, a warning, if you will. I feel we're still just beginning to understand what he was trying to tell us. I think as it becomes clearer, the works in this series will become even more important to us.

Labels: ,

35 Comments:

Anonymous bambino said...

As I noted before, it's ok if work is worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it. But I wouldn't pay $71M.

My personal opinion it's overpriced.

5/21/2007 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yes, but if upon my death you could sell it for twice that price would you consider it worth it then, Bambino?

5/21/2007 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

For $71M I'd want my own castle or something.

5/21/2007 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who made this Warhol?

mls

5/21/2007 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

This is the best explanation I've read anywhere. But even if Warhol is indeed the heir to Picasso, I'm still surprised this piece cost SO much more than Warhol's other iconic works. The previous record for a Warhol -- $17 million -- was reached just last fall. Green Car Crash fetched $54 million dollars more than the previous record-holding Mao. That big a price jump in less than a year seems awfully steep. Do many people feel Green Car Crash is his best piece ever, or close to it?

5/21/2007 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm still surprised this piece cost SO much more than Warhol's other iconic works. The previous record for a Warhol -- $17 million -- was reached just last fall

yes, but that was a Mao, which was a well-known and (at the time it was made) sensational piece, but not as art historically important as a Car Crash.

There's no question that the auction last week changed everything about Warhol's market and no one could have expected it to jump so high so quickly, but it wasn't as if he hadn't been steadily heading toward the insane-money strastosphere for a number of years. Perhaps I was too influenced by Polsky's book, but I've been expecting these numbers in my lifetime, so, again, when pressed on whether the 71 million was worth it, I had to conclude yes.

5/22/2007 08:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is buying these and others?

mls

5/22/2007 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Who is buying these and others?

The Times rumored that Green Car Crash was bought by Lau, who bought the Mao, but as the editor of ArtNews who appeared on CNBC told me, the Mao was purchased openly (with Lau acknowledging his purchase happily), but the Car Crash was bought anonymously, so why the switch if this is Lau as well?

Short answer: no one's entirely sure at the moment.

5/22/2007 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

For $71M I'd want my own castle or something.

At these prices you might be able to afford several.

Based on a cursory glance at the global market, US castles actually appear overpriced at $15M a pop. Kinda puts $71 million for a painting into some perspective. On the other hand, paintings are easier to insulate.

5/22/2007 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Has anyone calculated these figures taking inflation into account? Because 1990 (as in the van Gogh example) was a long time ago and quite a few percentage points back.

Inflation since the 1970s has been surprising. I still get sticker shock when I see how much hardcover books are going for, but I read an article not that far back where it was worked out that hardcover books, in constant dollars, cost almost exactly what they cost in the 1970s. That alone gives you an idea of how wild inflation has been over the last thirty years: $5 in 1975 is now $25, give or take.

Anyway, I'd like to see someone work this out taking inflation into account.

5/22/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

I want that castle, goddammit

5/22/2007 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger inchoherent mumbling said...

Since i came in late to this debate the last time I will restate myself.

There are three reasons to collect art. Two are old and one is new.

1.Because you love art and want to collect it for the enjoyment of it or perhaps because you have OCD.
2.Because you want to show off the power of you wealth and have a wing of the museum named after you when you donate your collection to the museum.

Both of these are as old as art itself. After the first caveman made his first drawing and invented art and all the other cavemen went WOW YOUR TALENTED!! The next caveman stood up and tried his hand at this new thing called art and found out he sucked, no one said wow to him. So he asked the first one how much for his painting and became the first collector. Then a third caveman stood up and said how much for the painting you just bought and a dealer was born along with the art market. Everything went along fine until the 1960's when someone decided that you could track art like stocks and invest in art regardless of your opinion of it.

Hence reason number 3.

Because it will prove to be a good investment that will outpreform the stockmarket in the short or long term.

And that is the problem with the red hot market today. The first two reasons still exist and always will but with the inclusion of number three you have a different mindset. They dont care about the art, only the return. Wether Warhol was good or bad doesn't matter, as long as the returns are there. When the returns prove to be less than the stock market, or the liquidity of these high dollar purchases proves to be difficult to cash in on, they will leave the market and the first two reasons will return to being the defining factors of value.

So was the Warhol worth $71 720 000. If you are a collector then maybe. If you are looking to show the power of your wealth then defintely yes. If you are a colloctor then we will see, but I am hard pressed to believe that that painting will be worth 140 million in five years and if it takes longer than eight years you could have bough stocks. If you carry that forward 280 million in ten years seem very unlikey.

5/22/2007 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would a connoisseur buy this painting and others (record ones')?

Who are these people? Paying these amounts?

mls

5/22/2007 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

So was the Warhol worth $71 720 000. If you are a collector then maybe. If you are looking to show the power of your wealth then defintely yes. If you are a colloctor then we will see, but I am hard pressed to believe that that painting will be worth 140 million in five years and if it takes longer than eight years you could have bough stocks. If you carry that forward 280 million in ten years seem very unlikey.

I get your overall point, but the timescales here are a bit skewed. Ed was modestly asserting at the end of his lifetime that the painting will be valued at double that purchase price. I sincerely hope Ed has more than 5 years left to blog.

Regardless of Ed's longevity, 100% return on any strictly financial (meaning no labor, sweat equity, etc.) investment in only five years in matured markets is extremely unusual. 400% return in ten? Almost impossible. That sort of money is usually only made through the purchase of presidencies followed by illegal war profiteering and price manipulation. But that's another topic altogether.

5/22/2007 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger inchoherent mumbling said...

What I am impying is that for investors, returns must exceed that which can be expected in the stockmarket. 8 years is a return of only 9%. I can acheive that easily and maintain liquidity. To take on that risk of holding onto a painting with a limited market at a potential profit would require a greater return of at least 5 years or 14%. as for the 400% return, if you invest 100 dollars today and it doubles in 5 years and then doubles in 5 more years it is worth 400 in 10 years.

5/22/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Comparisons to the stock market are simplistic and inapt. The only criterion necessary to call a work of art an "investment" is that it not lose its value. If it's of high quality, and it's unique, rare, or uncommon, you have a good chance of that. If it's important, like the Warhol, you have a chance that it will increase in value.

To start whipping our your abacus and comparing ROI to the stock market is beside the point. The term "investment" does not automatically imply a comparison to the S&P 500. Bonds are investments too. Homes are investments too. Educations are investments too. You don't go around slapping "relative to the S&P 500" on your goddam masters degree, for God's sake. "Gee honey, I'm so glad I married you!! You've given me a rate of return greater than the S&P 500!!!"

Art is also meant to be enjoyed, which stocks are not. You get other "returns" from a work of art. You enjoy the work itself, you get to affirm your financial power, and you get to signal your social relevance. The pride of ownership of an important work of art is tremendous. You can't easily put a price on that. The fact that you call a work of art an "investment" doesn't mean you get to whip out the damn sliderules. It just means the work will remain valuable, and maybe even increase in value as it becomes more rare with age.

So Edward's justification, on art-historical grounds, is perfectly valid and apt. If the Warhol remains unique and historically important, then it will remain in the upper tiers. Warren Buffet once said about Internet companies during the stock market bubble of the 1990s: If I were a finance professor, and I gave a homework assignment that asked my students to value an Internet company, I would immediately fail anyone who handed in a paper. It's impossible to put a price on uniqueness, power and pride. The ability to use the term "investment" does not automatically confer the ability to compare something against the S&P 500.

5/22/2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

What I am impying is that for investors, returns must exceed that which can be expected in the stockmarket.

First of all: What Henry said!

Secondly, though, even within the context of this comparison with stocks, there are two sides to return for collectors. What an individual piece of theirs is worth, and what their total collection becomes worth because of the gems in it. (Look at the Ganz's collection for example.)

Further, as Henry notes, part of why collectors will part with such sums to become a "player" in the art market, is the access to a higher class of society (i.e., potential future business partners, etc.) than they can buy via any other means. That may not be pretty, but it real terms, done smartly, it can be a bargain.

5/22/2007 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger inchoherent mumbling said...

Again you are misinterputing what I am saying, I agree with you about arts value. What I am saying is that their are a lot of people buying art for the sole purpose of investment. They won't even hang it on their walls because of insurance concerns, simply put it in a bank vault and take it out when it is to be sold.

I am only refering to people who are buying art stictly because it is outpreforming the stock market, in some cases by a fantastic ammount. They don't care one iota about the aesthetics only the return.

5/22/2007 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

Further, as Henry notes, part of why collectors will part with such sums to become a "player" in the art market, is the access to a higher class of society (i.e., potential future business partners, etc.) than they can buy via any other means. That may not be pretty, but it real terms, done smartly, it can be a bargain.

Ed, can you clarify this notion of "becoming a player."

I've heard of incidents where high-end dealers refuse to sell works to collectors because they do not think they will maintain or advance the value of that artist's work. The versions I've heard are always hushed and details are, at best, implied. This has left me wondering if these accounts are actually art-world myth.

Does "becoming a player" relate directly to this dynamic? These collectors aspire to never be refused the opportunity to purchase future works at a good price? Do dealers assume that by some sort of fiscal osmosis, the value of adjacent artists in such a collection will now appreciate more rapidly? Or is buying an expensive piece like this similar to a country club membership in terms of access? When is tee time, by the way?

5/22/2007 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Incoherent sez:
After the first caveman made his first drawing and invented art and all the other cavemen went WOW YOUR TALENTED!! The next caveman stood up and tried his hand at this new thing called art and found out he sucked, no one said wow to him.

Clearly you don't know your History of the World. The next caveman stood up and urinated on the first drawing; thus began art criticism.

5/22/2007 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I agree there's a difference, i.m., but even within the context of people buying art only to profit, there is the accumulative effect of each work's value (i.e., the stronger your collection overall, the more valuable each piece becomes, because usually such collections take on legendary status and come to auction, if they don't go to a museum, as a unit and getting even a minor piece from that collection becomes exciting, so the minor works' prices can easily go higher than they would from some other source) and the other financial reward opportunities that open up to you because you enter into the higher social strata. Both of these are purely financial. I don't know that it's possible to do the math (or that it's possible for me to do the math), but I'm fairly confident both concerns often go into deciding whether to pony up untold millions for a single painting.

Ed, can you clarify this notion of "becoming a player."

Having tons of money won't guarantee you access to artwork, membership on museum boards, or invitation to lunch at one of the big 10 collectors' summer cottages. None of the super collectors puts all their money into art. They have it in all kinds of ventures, and such ventures are often funded via networking and access. Building an important collection will place an upstart in the right setting frequently enough to give them a better shot at such access.

No one is going to cite specifics, because it's bad form and bad taste. But New Money always needs help breaking through into the upper eschelons of society, and art has proven to be a highly effective way of doing so for many.

5/22/2007 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

Clearly you don't know your History of the World. The next caveman stood up and urinated on the first drawing; thus began art criticism.

Sounds more like good performance art to me! ;P

No one is going to cite specifics, because it's bad form and bad taste. But New Money always needs help breaking through into the upper eschelons of society, and art has proven to be a highly effective way of doing so for many.

I figured that was why if the stories were true, the details always get omitted. Thanks for the clarification.

5/22/2007 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

We were looking at property in the Berkshires shortly before we saw that CNN article on the castle, and I had it in mind in the above comment. Of course, at $15M, if you had $71M, you could insulate it with down if you wanted to. My comment to my wife was that it would look funny with solar panels. Otherwise I have a Balthus fetish and would really feel at home. I might even go around the house in a kimono. Ah, well. A boy can dream.

5/22/2007 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous fboyd said...

Chris Rywalt said...
Has anyone calculated these figures taking inflation into account? Because 1990 (as in the van Gogh example) was a long time ago and quite a few percentage points back.


You can easily calculate this with the CPI calculator: http://www.bls.gov/cpi/
Scroll down until you see "Get Detailed CPI statistics" and click on "Inflation Calcualtor". From there you can do translations forward and backward. In response to your query re Dr. Gachet, $82.5 million 1990 dollars would be the equivalent of $206,936,832 dollars today for CPI purposes. Which makes it look VERY expensive. Of course the $10,000 that Rockefeller used to buy the Rothko in 1960 would be the equivalent of $69,826 2007 dollars. (Which would still make such a painting out of reach of most Americans, as $70K is more than the average annual salary in this country. But obviously a very good buy for him.)
Of course investing, ROI etc. is a completely different set of calculations. But the CPI can be a very enjoyable little tool.

5/22/2007 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I'm sympathetic to IM's 1-2-3 list of reasons for collecting art.

Art as a collectible is at least a store of wealth one can enjoy (or flaunt). However, some of the arguments for art as an investment vehicle seem flawed to me for all but a special class of art objects.

Sample investment returns for basic fixed rate investments.(approx.)
Invested at 5%, funds double in 15yrs
Invested at 6%, funds double in 12yrs
Invested at 7%, funds double in 10yrs

Assuming any collectible will be worth 2x tomorrow (next year, decade etc) is a spurious assumption. Prices may trend higher but more often than not, they fluctuate erratically. If one buys at a temporary peak, it changes the nominal rate of return, even if the trend stays the same. (i.e. riding through a price valley, uses up time with no price appreciation)

I’ve always liked this group of Warhol’s paintings. This one is out of play for awhile, so for all those budding art investment advisors, and to the art "investors", the real question is, "where do you put your money now to make a big score?"

5/22/2007 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger aurix said...

i'm surprised no one's mentioned this but i think when people talk about a work of art being "overvalued" or "not worth" the x million dollars someone paid for it, implicit in this suggestion is the value that society gives to "art." it's not just about art as an investment. if someone pays 70 million dollars to buy a castle, for example, it's not as big a piece of news. the warhol sale made headlines because the commodity in question was "just" a painting.

when i told a friend about the record price, her reaction was "that's disgusting." whenever people discuss the prices of artworks, the underlying assumption seems to be that the amount of money paid for it could've been put to "better" use: build a hospital, cure AIDS, stop global warming, etc. and that's the crux of it and i think that's what the CNBC guy was getting at, too.

of course this is not fair since it's true that a commodity is worth however much someone's willing to pay for it, and those who can afford to splurge tend to spend lavishly on everything, not just art: castles, islands, private jets, whatever.

so, in a way, the 'better use' critique is, in fact directed more towards the buyer's judgment towards the commodity in question (even as the value of the commodity is being seriously questioned. and for some reason of all the expensive things that the extremely rich buy, 'art' seems the easiest target of the 'better use' argument. a castle at least has some utilitarian aspect, the thinking goes.

yet there's the moral question and i might be hypocritical or misguided, but i have to say that my reaction when i first heard about the warhol sale was, like my friend, not positive either. in pure investment terms, the $71 mil. might or might not be worth it--only time will tell. but in moral terms, it has really made me think twice about the art market and what it has become.

5/23/2007 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

it has really made me think twice about the art market and what it has become.

I think it's time to take that meme out back and shoot it dead, dead, dead...a post is pending...

5/23/2007 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Aurix sez:
...the amount of money paid for it could've been put to "better" use: build a hospital, cure AIDS, stop global warming, etc.

The funny thing about this belief -- and it is prevalent -- is that you'd think someone took $71 million out back and burned it. That money didn't disappear: It went to the auction house, which will use the money to pay its employees and other workers, who will then spend the money however they see fit, and so on. Building a hospital or some other use would simply involve giving the money to some different group of people -- and then who would pay the auction house employees?

I'm not sure the money could've been spent any better -- it just keeps circulating around.

5/23/2007 07:58:00 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

you'd think someone took $71 million out back and burned it.

Speaking of a meme that needs to be shot dead, Tim made nearly the exact same comment on the "Auction Madness" thread. He wrote, "it is not as though he took the cash and burned it out behind Ed_'s wood shed." You're both making a classic Reaganomic argument (yes, that Ronald Reagan) -- that is, when the wealthy spend money it's good for everybody, because the wealth just "trickles down." It's absolutely ridiculous to argue that when a wealthy person buys expensive shit for their mansions that the economically destitute ultimately benefit. It didn't work during the explosion of wealth during Reagan's 80's and it's not working now.

I'm surprised that more on this thread aren't willing to discuss the $71,000,000 in moral terms. Have we all been so indoctrinated into the American capitalist mindset, that we don't even question whether the buying and selling of paintings for $71,000,000 is morally repugnant?

BTW Edward_, when you're writing your post to shoot this meme dead, please don't suggest that anyone here has singled out wealthy art collectors as the sole purveyors of economic irresponsibility. The $71,000,000 Warhol is merely a symbol of how wretched and abusive our economic and cultural systems have become.

5/23/2007 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I'm not looking to restate the trickle-down theory, which I think is absurd. It's not that the money is going to help the destitute, it's just that it's going to pay someone. Not everyone at the other end of the $71 million is wealthy. While I don't think trickle-down is a viable economic practice, I also think the opposing view -- that somehow if this money were not spent, it'd help somebody -- is wrong. Both views, to my mind, think of money as some solid object, like gold, which gets handed from person to person. When we're talking about sums like $71 million, we're not even talking money any more. We're talking about an abstract idea -- a concept. Usually, these days, represented as bits in any number of computers.

The bits are moving around all the time. They never stand still. So some bits just got moved around some more. In real world terms, nothing's really changed, except some new guy gets to hang this Warhol on his wall and some people at Christie's can buy groceries.

I'm not sure that selling paintings for $71 million is morally repugnant. That someone has $71 million to spend might be.

I think it's funny that Tim and I would make such similar arguments. I don't read his blog (does he even have one?) and I don't remember reading the "Auction Madness" thread.

5/23/2007 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

While I don't think trickle-down is a viable economic practice, I also think the opposing view -- that somehow if this money were not spent, it'd help somebody -- is wrong.

You are absolutely correct here. I think it was Brian Arthur and John Holland that helped mathematically prove such. In any complex system, there are exchanges--be they neurotransmissions in a brain or organic compounds in a rain forest or money in an economy.

They were actually able to show that the value of an element of exchange, in other words the value of a dollar, is increased the more hands it passes through. And when I say value I mean the work that the system gets out of that element. From their studies, the biggest hazard to any complex system is when resources coagulate in small regions.

In short, you can get work out of a dollar by passing it through as many hands as possible. But passing it circularly in too tight of a loop is one version of that coagulation of resources. At that point, the dollar ceases to do work.

Jason's reaction seems like a solid intuitive response that from a distance this money is just going from Ritchie Rich to Daddy Warbucks and back again. But Chris is pointing out that at least a small portion of this cash is going to the security guards, the caterers, the doormen, etc. They in turn will spend this at the grocer, buying shoes for their children, etc etc.

The problem with Reaganomics is that it asserted that we don't need to take many (if any) measures to ensure that a large enough portion of that $71M goes to those other places. Just a little bit could slop over the sides.

Along with proving this chain of returns, Holland has also observed that every thriving complex system we have explored has some sort of built in limiting mechanism that inherently halts the pooling of resources in a system, such as neural firing fatigue inhibiting the constant retriggering of the same brain cell over and over. This has led him to conclude, for better or worse, a healthy sustainable economy requires a significant degree of taxation and reallocation.

5/23/2007 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

James Leonard sez:
This has led him to conclude, for better or worse, a healthy sustainable economy requires a significant degree of taxation and reallocation.

I've never read Holland but now I think I should; it sounds like I'd agree with him.

My argument against our current economic system -- we're a little off topic but -- is that it's capitalism for the poor, socialism for the rich. Of course as P.J. O'Rourke pointed out, when legislation controls what's bought and sold, the first things bought and sold are legislators.

After that, they move on to Warhols.

5/23/2007 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

think the opposing view -- that somehow if this money were not spent, it'd help somebody

No, the opposing view, in my case anyway, is not that it should not be spent at all, but that the wealth should be redistributed directly to those who need it most (preferably by the individual, and not through forced action via taxation and government redistribution). It may seem impractical to expect such an unselfish act, but can we not agree that it is socially irresponsible to spend $71,000,000 on one's art collection, when such a large portion of humanity can't even afford to eat?

And yes, Chris, we should also be questioning why someone has $71,000,000 to blow on a painting in the first place.

5/23/2007 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Jason suggests:
No, the opposing view, in my case anyway, is not that it should not be spent at all, but that the wealth should be redistributed directly to those who need it most (preferably by the individual, and not through forced action via taxation and government redistribution).

If there's anything we should have learned from many long years of public programs -- and this is from P.J. O'Rourke again -- it's that you can't end poverty by giving people money.

Further, you can't just give away an amount like $71 million. Any movement of a sum that large involves an exercise of power. It's inherent.

Which may be unfair and immoral -- I sort of think it is -- but it's not something one art collector can fix. No individual can do anything about it; that $71 million isn't sitting there in a big static Scrooge McDuck-style vault -- even not spending the money is an exercise of power, because the money is still doing something. So what is this nameless collector -- or any wealthy person -- supposed to do? Walk away and go live in a cardboard box? All that does is abdicate responsibility -- it doesn't make the wealth disappear.

I think what it comes down to is this is a very complex system with complex problems and no easy solutions. Would we like it to be better? I'm sure almost all of us would.

5/23/2007 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous KJELL VARVIN said...

Dear Edward Winkleman

I send you this short account after having read your Auction Madness only this morning.

Some of Andy Warhol’s variations on Car crash and other Disasters were shown at the Sonja Henie-Niels Onstad Art Centre, near Oslo, Norway in the early1970’ies.
The prints were exposed in a room close to the collection of Sonja Henie’s many trophies as a figure skating champion. Elder Americans touring Europe came in groups as pilgrims visiting the museum to honour their favourite skating and movie-star who had passed away in -69 at the age of 57.
As I was working at the Art Centre at that time, I often followed groups around to introduce them to the art-collection and the temporary shows. On entering the room where the Warhols were exposed, one lady stared at the Car crash and exclaimed in horror: Oh, my God! I didn’t know she died that way!

Yours
Kjell Varvin

6/17/2007 03:53:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home