What’s with the art market? Van Gogh was surely a genius, but still, why pay over $100 million for a painting of a bunch of irises when you can buy a real bunch for a couple of bucks. Same with sunflowers. Just buy the seeds and grow your own.
As for the nudes, surely they come cheaper in real life than a Modliani (last sale $73 million).
But now this: Francis Bacon’s portrait of Lucian Freud. I don’t know if it’s a true likeness, but it makes Freud’s face look like a pile of dog shit. I mean, would you really want something like that to adorn your home? And if so, why pay $142 million? Why not just scoop a poop and pop it on a silver tray as a dining-table centre-piece?
But is that the point? Is that the message the purchase is intended to convey: I’m so goddamn rich I can piss away $142 million on a load of crap? That could certainly make Kenneth Thomson, second Baron Thomson of Fleet, turn in his grave. He picked up the delicious throat-cutting, belly slitting, Massacre of the Innocents (snuff porn for the plutocracy), for a mere 49.5 million quid — and it’s not even crap. It’s by Rubens, who could certainly paint.
Or is there something else going on here. Are we seeing the monetization of art? Like BitCoin for the hyper rich? A sort of invisible money beyond the purview of the taxman or Homeland Security, and lighter by far than gold — just roll it up, tuck it under your arm and take it with you wherever you want. And as a display of conspicuous consumption it’s better than stacking 100-ounce gold bars about the house, which would seem crass — speaking comparatively, that is.
Does the canvas money theory explain the extraordinary price paid for the Freud portrait? It’s a triptych (or should that be tripshit?) Think how handy that could be. Need some cash but not all $142 million or billion or whatever the thing’s worth today? No prob. Just clip off a panel (leaving you with a dipstych) and redeem one-third the value.