The Big, Bad World of Over-Priced Art
It was my first visit to this swanky, snobbish hotel in Mumbai – no wedding of any celeb is apparently complete without at least one function being held here (am reliably told that new functions are being devised just so that this hotel can be included in the Wedding Program). Anyways, was having a meeting with a Lah-Dee-Dah brand re social media and realized the hotel had just been taken over by the swish, upmarket brand of Starwood. I guess it was the thought that I could actually use some of my points and stay a night there which was making me peer at things in greater detail. And that’s when I saw it…
Art put up in hotel isn’t usually great anyways – most of it is like the guy playing piano in the lobby – just meant to be a sensory filler, remain in the background rather than be a conversation piece – but this was quite extraordinary, in a bad kind of way. Imagine one of those wooden toys from Gujarat or Rajasthan – you know, the ones I’m talking about – the kind the NRIs and the very stingy rich relatives buy for your kids to ostensibly show they are green, environment conscious when all they’re doing is saving money – well, this was the same, replete with gaudy colours except it had been made life-size. And to top it all, it was like a transgender, multi-headed Hydra-esque Centaur, albeit with a turban. When I went closer, the mystery cleared up – a bit. It was a Paresh Maity.
Now the funny thing is – if my wife had made this and gone to aforesaid hotel – she would’ve been laughed all the way back to Pune. But because it was a Paresh Maity, an artist who rich, pretentious Madu’s in particular seem to love, these guys were happy paying top dollar for this overblown kids toy. Which got me thinking. Which would be the top 5 over-priced works of art ? I could probably make a global list and then an Indian one. I mean, I love art and am an enthusiastic collector but my principle is to first buy something I would be happy to hang in my living room (within my budget, of course) and only, as a secondary criteria, bother about who made it. Which is why artists like Bijay Biswaal and Dilip Choudhury continue to delight us and occupy pride of place in our hall.
Anyways, I digress. So here goes my global list…for the 5 most over-priced works of art…
Artist : Willem de Kooning
This looks like something I would make while playing Pictionary. The most redeeming thing that can probably be said about it is that you discover new elements to dislike everytime you look at it. Was the artist drawing a woman or a concept for a horror movie ghost ? Did the painter suffer from cacomorphobia or ‘obesophilia’? Why is it so grey, so wavy, so dirty, so cluttered ? Could it be used as a form of torture – ie put toothpicks under a person’s eyelids and force him to gaze at it for a few hours – much as we do in India, with particularly recalcitrant people, with RGV’s Aag?
Price : $137.5 million
Balloon Dog (Orange)
His Wikipedia page describes him as an American artist who does reproductions of banal objects. So there’s not much left to say, is there ? Apart from the fact that this work of art is actually available in 5 colours – so all hope isn’t lost yet. I can sense thousands of clowns, who do this everyday in a circus, or child carers – who’ve made a half a dozen a day for their wards – wailing in grief
Price : $58.4 million
No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red )
I last saw something similar when I was asked to go through the school books of friend’s child. Ever since I’ve begun to teach in IIM-A, parents want me to look at their kid’s educational books and Give My Opinion. This zealous tiger mom wanted me to look at her precious baby’s nursery books and tell me what I thought of the curriculum
They had a whole page, exactly like this work of art, under the heading Colours. They had symmetrical squares of colours with the names in block letters underneath. The next page admittedly got a little tougher (this artist may not have been able to pull it off), with slightly more abstract concepts – they had a whole rainbow in there with each colour identified separately…
In any case, something crushing about your entire net worth (20 years of being an ace performer) being less than three strips of colour, but I shall soldier on…
Price : $186 million
Dora Maar au Chat
Am sure I’m an art philistine who doesn’t get what Picasso did for the cubist and overall art movement. Am sure he’s made some profoundly moving pieces of art, contributed to classicism, surrealism and several other –isms and the fact that I have yet to see one, has nothing to do with anything
But if I made a portrait of my girlfriend which looked like this, I know one thing for sure, she ain’t ever seeing me again. The fun doesn’t stop here. An American pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein, cannily smelling money, makes a version of this – it looks like the Queen of Hearts in a deck of cards is getting strangled and guillotined simultaneously – and even this print, grandly titled Woman With A Flowered Hat, sold for $56.1 million – which is probably more than the GDP of Liechtenstein (non sequitur)
Price : $95.2 million
This is the cheapest one in the list here but there is something wonderfully regressive about taking a billionaire art collector’s wife, making a wax topless model of her and selling it back to him. There are so many things deliciously wrong about this that it features prominently in the title and the book The Supermodel And The Brillo Box by art-buster Don Thompson
The back story is, indeed, fascinating (you can read it here) and is made even more interesting by the fact that he made two more models in different hairstyles and put them up for sale !
Price : $1 million (estimate)
Marshall McLuhan once said “Art is anything you can get away with”. Don’t the above paintings prove him right ?
ArtAuctionsBalloon Dog (Orange)BrandtChristie'sCollectorsDon ThompsonDora Maar Au ChatJeff KoonsMark RothMarshall McLuhanMaurizio CattelanNo 6Pablo PicassoRoy LichtensteinSotheby'sStephanieStephanie SeymourViolet Green and RedWillem De KooningWoman IIIWoman With A Flowered Hat