Contemplation Of Art Appreciation

An auction at Christie’s today, May 15th, features works by such artistic giants as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Jeff  Koons.

The event is likely to set a new record, with buyers expected to pay a combined total of £250 million for the 72 pieces.
One work by American pop artist Lichtenstein carries  an estimated price tag of $16 million (£10.2 million), another by abstract expressionist Clyfford Still is valued at around  $20 million (£13 million), and  a piece by Andy Warhol could fetch around $9 million (£5.7 million).

The works of lesser artistic giants from more than 100 galleries  will be on sale at the London fair in Hampstead, North London, from June 13 to 16th.  Those modern works will have a significantly lesser price tags, most under £500. 

With this in mind, The Mail on Sunday selected 12 paintings and has set readers a challenge: to try to work out whether they are featured at Christie’s or at the London fair.

Here they are:

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See the article here:    Spot the modern art masters? Can you tell which six of these artworks are worth millions… and which cost just a few hundred?

I guessed, or, rather, recognized, paintings of only 2 “artistic giants”, Warhol and Koons, but couldn’t guess the suggested/projected price of any of the works, for reasons I wouldn’t disclose here for fear you wouldn’t like me anymore.

Andy Warhol Camouflage Self-Portrait 1986 Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 6,997,000 USD

Andy Warhol Camouflage Self-Portrait 1986 Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium: 6,997,000 USD

The answers (Spoiler alert!) are listed below. The “lesser artistic giants” aren’t named.

1 — Roy Lichtenstein’s Nude With Yellow Flower;   £10,200,000
2 — £500
3 — Ed Ruscha’s Mint (Red);  £2,200,000

4 — £100

5 — £100

6 — Jeff Koons’ Plate Set; £3,800,000

7 — Andy Warhol’s Flowers; £5,700,000

8 — £500

9 — Willem De Kooning’s Woman (Blue Eyes); £10,200,000

10 — £225

11 — £250

12 — Clyfford Still’s PH-1; £13,000,000

If you guessed  that neither one of the painting are among the ones  I particularly appreciate, including  those of Lichtenstein, Warhol and Koons, you guessed right. I won’t apologize for my lack of such appreciation. Let’s gently leave everyone to one’s opinion.

Speaking about art appreciation.

Some years ago, I was hired to do some IT consulting work at The Progressive Corporation (an Insurance company) at their Mayfield

Clyfford Still PH-21, 1962 Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 20,885,000 USD

Clyfford Still
PH-21, 1962
Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium: 20,885,000 USD

Heights, Ohio, headquarters — a fabulously modern, airy workplace with atrium and glass ceilings everywhere, and lots and lots of pricey art objects — paintings, sculptures etc.

Although I wasn’t particularly thrilled with any of the paintings (original works all of them), there were some objets d’art that made me look heavenward through the ceiling of the atrium as I ascended the stairs, and say a little prayer.

You see, I was weary of the ancient motorcycle suspended from a great height on corroded chains, directly above the landing. It was  very authentic, thoroughly rusted motorcycle, must’ve weighted at least a ton, and for reasons ominously unexplained, it swayed ever so slightly. But that last bit could’ve been a figment of my imagination and lack of art appreciation.  There were a few other oddities hanging off the glass ceiling as well, but that blasted motorcycle…

I remember two colossal white canvasses, each featuring one or two huge asymmetrical blotches, as though a giant pen was dipped into a giant inkwell and Splat! — droplets of black ink fell off the tip and spoiled the 2 large, high quality canvasses for everything that might have but never will appear on them.

These paintings, however, were of non-threatening sort, and no one paid attention to them. Just as people paid no attention on an artsy display of 2 identical earthenware pitchers, one black, one white set on a little corner shelve in the hallway leading to the cafeteria. So that people wouldn’t  mistake the art objects for lowly kitchenware, a “Don’t touch! Art!” note was attached to the wall next to the pitchers. Newcomers, unaccustomed to such overexposure to the art, often pointed their fingers at them and laughed. It was an attraction, all right, the pitchers, the airborne motor-vehicles and black-on-white canvasses with some ridiculously ponderous names…

But then the day has come when the management received an order from the higher-ups to stop the mass giggling and the finger-pointing and start appreciating art as if that particular art indeed deserved appreciation instead of derision. 

The higher order was immediately implemented. Once a week for  several weeks of-duty school buses were taking people off the company premises for a half-day art appreciation classes. Everyone but consultants and contractors who were left behind to tend the Insurance business.      


Jean-Michel Basquiat
Untitled (Julius Caesar on Gold), 1981
Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium: 6,885,000 USD

Speak of benefits of continuous adult education! The effect of those lectures on those who attended was immediate and profound. The stampedes  along the art-exhibit hallway to the cafeteria suddenly changed their tempo. People walked slower, often stopped, staring on some of the canvasses, as though trying to apply their newly acquired art appreciation to the previously under-appreciated objets d’art on display.

Some tried harder that others to act enlightened. Others might’ve suspected to be watched… To an untrained eye of, say, an alien, it might’ve looked like a mass practice of some perverted social masochism.

Art appreciation is good for you. Contemplating blotches can bring the best in a person. Contemplation is good, generally, unless you contemplate inflicting harm on others.

So, perhaps, art appreciation would allow you to call black smidgens on white background great art and not flinch even once.

If that motorcycle is still hanging off the atrium ceiling, I hope it’ll never fall down and hurt someone. They must’ve been routinely checking  the strength of those ropes. After all, Progressive is an insurance underwriter, used to be high risk insurance provider a few years ago.

The images that not in the challenge game slideshow were sold by Sotheby’s yesterday.

Don’t you feel like you’d benefited greatly from some inexpensive art appreciation course just to calm your nerves?

Ah, well… Perhaps not.


2 comments on “Contemplation Of Art Appreciation

  1. ” Contemplating blotches ” moves one to a higher enlightened state, not unlike buddhists practice of contemplating “nothingness” under magical spell of “ohm” .
    Some potent psychotropics could often help to prepare the mind. I’m curious whether they used any “enhancers” at their art appreciation drills at Progressive

  2. Pingback: 手機保護殼

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