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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 2-4 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."

 

"THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING," OR, "DUMBO" V. DA VINCI

Larry Poons in "The Price of Everything"

One major topic of gossip these past few months in the little sub-community of the art world that I inhabit has been the 98-minute documentary entitled "The Price of Everything." The main reason we are interested is that for all practical purposes, its hero is our own Larry Poons, who has thus emerged at the unlikely age of 81 as a movie star. But the film has other attractions as well.

"The Price of Everything" opened at the Sundance Film Festival last January and has since made the rounds of nearly 30 film festivals held from San Francisco to Singapore and from Detroit to Moscow.

 

Between October and early December, it also played to general audiences in nearly 30 theaters in population centers across the U.S. and Canada.

 

It has gone on to television, with a screening by HBO on November, and streaming by HBO on into mid-December. That streaming may be over before this review reaches its readers, but don't despair!

 

More screenings are scheduled for 2019: one in East Hampton, NY, at the Guild Hall (January 26), one in New Haven, CT at Yale's Whitney Humanities Center (January 28), and one in Charlotte, NC, at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in the Levine Center for the Arts (January 28).

 

Also there will be one in New York City at the College Art Association's 2019 Annual Conference (February 13), and one in Frenchtown, NJ, at the Art Yard (February 23).

 

WHY?

 

Why should you want to see this movie? Well, if you have been admiring the paintings of Poons for the past ten, twenty or even forty or fifty years, it is a great chance to see them coming into being before your eyes.

 

We see Poons, in his paint-bespattered work costume, trotting through the snow to the studio at his upstate New York home.

 

We see the marvelous cocoon of canvas on which he customarily works (cutting it up into individual pictures after he's finished with his painting).

 

We see him painting away at his Monet-like, flower-garden abstractions with what looks like a small and very traditional paint brush.

 

Later, we see him and his artist-wife, Paula Poons (who exhibits under her birth name, De Luccia) greeting Dennis Yares, his dealer, in the Poons Manhattan loft, as a studio assistant rolls out completed paintings for Yares to make his selection.

 

Toward the tail end of the movie, we see the opening of the 2017 Poons exhibition at Yares, with all those luscious paintings on display and crowds of Beautiful People to admire them.

 

It all constitutes a happy little story-within-a-story, what film-makers like to call an "arc."

 

All this, however, is not what has drawn most moviegoers to this show, especially not your common-or-garden moviegoer, who – if indeed s/he has ever heard of abstract art -- most probably loathes it.

 

The story of Poons is not even a draw for the overwhelming majority of those movie-goers who believe they know a little something about contemporary art.

 

Most of them have never heard of him. As he himself says, "They think I'm dead!"

 

True, back in the early '60s, Poons was just as (or anyway almost as) famous as Rauschenberg, Johns, Warhol, Lichtenstein and the rest of that merry band who staged the Pop Art Revolution in the early '60s.

 

With his panoplies of brightly-colored, hard-edged "coin-dots," Poons was considered a maker of a short-lived offshoot of pop called "op," meaning paintings that played tricks with your eyes.

 

As such, he was featured in MoMA's 1965 exhibition of op art, "The Responsive Eye," and soloed with Leo Castelli, the dealer who had done the most to satisfy the popular appetite for art that could claim to be "avant-garde" yet was easy enough for even philistines to respond to.

 

For reasons best known to himself, Poons began evolving away from the coin-dots and toward a less gaudy, more painterly style.

 

Perhaps it was only because he wasn't satisfied with making the same picture over and over.

 

Perhaps he was looking for something less clever and more soulful.

 

Or perhaps he just wanted to get "better," as an artist defines the term.

 

I don't know, but it developed that these more painterly, less gaudy pictures demanded more from their viewers than the coin-dots ever had.

 

Poons had always been a colorist, but with these newer paintings, the colors became subtler, and strangely richer.

 

They didn't appeal to the mass market, the way that the coin-dots had. They did appeal to the far smaller circle of critics, fellow-artists, curators and yes, even collectors, who made or admired what had been known in the 1960s as "color-field" painting.

 

This kind of painting would become known in the 1980s as "modernism," thanks to the eruption of hot-selling, figurative neo-expressionism into the broader art market, and the rising use of the term "postmodernism" to describe it.

 

Poons, I think, understands why he is no longer such a red-hot seller. At a panel discussion following one screening of "The Price of Everything," he said something like, "A lot of people just don't get color."

 

I say this is not unrelated to the "multiple intelligences" theories of Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor who argues that standard IQ tests are poor indicators of future performance because different people have different skills or aptitudes.

 

We see this constantly in what people do and don't do, can and can't do. You don't hire a star pitcher for the New York Yankees to perform brain surgery, and you don't send a brain surgeon to the mound for the Bronx Bombers. Just because Picasso was a great artist doesn't mean he could have sung "Pagliacci" at the Met. And Enrico Caruso couldn't have painted "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon." So it goes.

 

I would argue that this aptitudes business applies to the consumption of art as well as the creation of it. Whether or not you agree with the theater reviews of Ben Brantley in The New York Times, you don't send him out to referee at a Knicks or a Jets game.

 

Gardner didn't invent aptitudes. When I was in high school (you don't want to know how long ago), my mother sent me to the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation in Manhattan to find out what career choices might be good for me.

 

They gave me a lot of little tests, and I scored low on finger dexterity (arguing that I shouldn't plan on becoming a pianist or a secretary) but high on "structural visualization," meaning the ability to visualize things in three dimensions.

 

This meant I should think of becoming an architect, a sculptor, an engineer or what was known in those days as an "interior decorator." For various reasons, I wound up becoming a writer instead.

 

However, I think my aptitudes help to make me a better art critic, and I would also suggest that the ability to see things in three dimensions applies in an intellectual sense as well as a purely visual one--the capacity to put things and situations into perspective.....

 

Anyway, I would argue that this issue of aptitudes means that certain critics (naming no names), curators, collectors and just plain art lovers have (or -- if now dead -- had) a greater sensitivity to visual stimuli than other critics, curators, collectors and art lovers.

 

I would add that this little modernist sub-community has many people in it who are more sensitive to color even than folk who inhabit the larger perimeters of the art world.

 

All of which goes to explain how Poons's paintings continue to reach a receptive audience -- and not only within what's left of the modernist sub-community at this late date – but on occasion, outside of it, too.

 

Since 2010 I have reviewed nine solo exhibitions (plus one two-man show) that Poons has held in Manhattan galleries– more than one a year for 8 years!

 

All or almost all of the paintings shown at them had been created since the coin-dot days, and somebody must be buying at least a few of them – for, in my experience, dealers do not give repeated shows to artists whose work they can't sell.

 

THE ORIGINAL SUBJECT

 

On the other hand, it is undeniably true that when a painting by Poons goes up on the auction block, the price it brings is not likely to get it mentioned in the New York Times, nor I suspect will Larry Gagosian be offering him a show any time soon.

 

And it is the kind of work that does enjoy this kind of popularity that was the original (some say still the principal) concern of "The Price of Everything."

 

The fabulous prices brought by postmodernist work, the dealers and auction houses that sell it, a critic who at the very least takes a permissive view of it, an art historian who diplomatically muses on it, the curators who show it, and the collectors who buy it (and sell it, and give it away to museums) are all lovingly presented here.

 

We are treated to many views of postmodernist work. Some of it is more conservative, in the sense that it is painting, or at least two-dimensional collage-type work.

 

However, what, I suspect, has already wowed at least some common-or-garden movie-goers, is the representational --- and presentational – art that can and does bring stratospheric prices – especially in the secondary market of the auction block.

 

Here I mean particularly the artwork of the Yankee Jeff Koons, the Brit Damien Hirst, and the Italian Maurizio Cattelan.

 

Koons, an engaging-looking younger man who used to work in hedge funds before he became an artist, is shown in his latter-day Factory, where he has 100 assistants to help him create his lifelike ceramics of -- among other subjects -- himself engaged in dalliance with his mate; his twisted balloons of both human & animal figures; and his other mixed-media creations.

 

Hirst is seen primarily through his pickled animals, but Cattelan gets more play with two provocative "sculptures."

One is his fully-functional gold toilet installed in a restroom at the Guggenheim Museum, with museum-goers lined up to see it and if the fancy takes them, use it.

 

The other is "Him" (2001), the small wax figure of Adolf Hitler, the sickest and most destructive mass murderer in history, kneeling like a child but fully identifiable from his little mustache and slicked-down hair (even 73 years after his death).

 

This statue, which exists in an edition of three, has a reputation for being "tasteless" and therefore "controversial," but one of its three replicas sold at Christie's in 2016 for $17.2 million, so being tasteless and controversial are obviously, from a financial point of view, not bad things to be.

 

In this movie, a different replica of "Him" belongs to Stefan Edlis, a Jewish-American art collector, who was forced to flee his native Austria at the age of 15 to escape the Nazis.

 

The movie's narrator and director, Nathaniel Kahn, in his on-screen conversation with Edlis, seemingly has a little difficulty understanding how a Jewish refugee could want a statue of Hitler in his collection.

 

I had no difficulty with the concept. When I was at Barnard, I briefly dated a Jewish grad student at Columbia named Stefan Moses who had been forced to flee his native Austria by the Nazis.

 

His idea of a good time was to take me down to Yorkville, where all the German-American Nazis had hung out in the 1930s, and ply me with beer at the 86th Street Brauhaus, whose owner had been the neighborhood Gauleiter (local Nazi party boss).

 

At the time, I was puzzled, but in retrospect, the way I see it is, this was Stefan Moses' dance of victory over his oppressors: they now had to serve him, not the other way around. Stefan Edlis similarly displays his 1940s Austrian passport, with "Jude" stamped in large letters on it -- he has saved it all these years.

 

Edlis is also responsible for the title of this movie. "There's a lot of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing," he remarks, paraphrasing Oscar Wilde, who in "Lady Windermere's Fan," gave this knowledge as the definition of a cynic.

 

But there's nothing at least overtly cynical about Edlis or Gael Neeson, his wife and co-creator of his collection.

 

And how noble is the final scene in the "arc" concerning this couple, with the two of them giving an art collection valued at $400 million to the Art Institute of Chicago!

 

There's nothing apparently cynical about anybody else in the movie, either, not even any of the financially-oriented people, from big-league dealers like Mary Boone, Jeffrey Deitch and Gavin Brown to Amy Cappellazzo, chairman of Global Fine Arts at Sotheby's, who repeatedly emphasizes (as best I understood her) that the value of art is determined by the price it commands, and that big money is essential to preserving it.

 

There's nothing cynical about any of the artists, not even the biggest celebrities, not Koons, Hirst or Cattelan nor any of the others.

 

And certainly not the German abstractionist, Gerhard Richter, shown touring a show of his work at Marion Goodman with his wife, Sabine Moritz-Richter, and democratically protesting that he wants his work hung in museums where everybody can come and look at it

 

There's not even anything cynical about the auction at Sotheby's that constitutes the final scene in Cappellazzo's "arc." It shows Oliver Barker, the handsome auctioneer, performing a graceful kind of song and dance as he points to each new multimillion-dollar bidder, and as the big electronic bulletin board next to him lights up with that bid in several currencies.

 

In fact, despite its title, there is nothing cynical about the entire movie. From start to finish, its tone is one of wide-eyed innocence. Sort of gee whiz, look at all these strange and therefore wonderful objects, and isn't it remarkable what huge prices they all bring!

 

I am reminded of an ancient detective story I love. In it, the heroine is going for a picnic in the country with the villain. She wants to make him think she is really dumb, in hopes of getting him to make a damaging admission.

 

After buying a costume suitable for a bimbo, the author writes, "she made up her face with just so much artful restraint as to suggest enormous experience aping an impossible innocence."

 

Admittedly, there was pontificating by everybody – not least Jerry Saltz, the critic, and Alexander Nemerov, the art historian – but none of it in my opinion dug beneath the surface and exposed anything that might have clarified the mystery of why some people will line up for gold toilets, or why other people should think Larry Poons is dead.

 

Maybe it was because my eyes simply glazed over when Saltz, Nemerov and so on were pontificating, but I didn't hear a word about the laws of supply and demand, which are after all what govern markets of all kinds, not least the market for contemporary art.

 

I didn't get a clue of how the rest of the world views the antics of the art market, the 98 percent of the US population that may well get to a museum once in a while, but practically never goes to an art fair or a commercial gallery, and wouldn't dream of paying more than a few hundred dollars for an artwork to hang in their homes.

 

I didn't hear any discussion of historical antecedents or the rival traditions represented on the one hand by all the representational or presentational objects, and on the other by Poons's abstract paintings.

 

In fact, as far as this movie is concerned, the art world is just one big happy family, with everybody doing their own thing – however mystifying it may appear.

 

It may be that all of these omitted topics, and many more besides, were dealt with in the movie's original stages, but that they were among the many, many minutes of film since deleted.

 

For the very surface innocence of this film is the strongest evidence that it was put together by a very knowledgeable team of people.

 

BEHIND THE SCENE: ENORMOUS EXPERIENCE

 

To judge from the literature at the movie's website, and the guidance of Director Nathaniel Kahn – who kindly granted me a telephone interview – five people were primarily responsible for the look of the finished film.

 

They were himself, the three principal producers and the film's editor, Sabine Krayenbuhl – who also worked with Kahn on "My Architect" (2003), the brilliant and moving film he made about his father, the distinguished architect Louis I. Kahn(1901-1974).

 

Two of the three producers of "TPOE," Jennifer Blei Stockman and Debi Wisch, are experienced executives in the business world and principals in Hot & Sunny Productions, which was formed to provide "content" about artists and the art world for film and television.

 

The third, Carla Solomon, is one of the founders of Anthos Media LLC, which makes a range of documentaries.

 

But Stockman is also a collector of contemporary art, has been president of the Guggenheim Museum since 2005, and serves or has served on a raft of other museum committees.

 

According to Kahn, she was instrumental in getting Edlis, Cappellazzo and other important people to appear in "The Price of Everything."

 

Wisch has served not only on museum committees but also on Hunter College's Art Advisory Board and the board of the Film Society at Lincoln Center.

 

Solomon is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst by training.

 

According to Kahn, all three of these producers had for some time wanted to do a documentary about the art world and the way it does (or doesn't) reconcile creativity with money. Kahn had, too – so at a certain point, the four of them got together and started to make the movie itself.

 

In my interview with him, Kahn said that in the beginning, he knew a lot less about contemporary art than he does now.

 

On the other hand, the way I see it, as the child of two parents in professions that demanded strong visual aptitudes, even his genes equipped him abundantly for the task.

 

Not only was his father a great architect, but his mother, Harriet Pattison (b. 1928), was a gifted landscape architect (among her best-known accomplishments is the landscape design for the beautiful Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, designed by Louis Kahn).

 

Growing up in Philadelphia, Nathaniel saw his father some of the time, but Lou was awfully busy, not only with his architecture practice but also with the two other women in his life -- each of whom had a child by him, too.

 

And Lou died when Nathaniel was only eleven, so to Harriet was left the largest part of her son's artistic education.

 

He recalled the many great museums she took him to – starting, of course, with the Philadelphia Museum of Art (though he didn't at that point relate to its Arensberg collection of dada).

 

Also he was taken to the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia (his father's favorite). He got to see the Art Institute of Chicago, for Harriet came from Chicago, and still had relatives there.

 

She took him to New York, so he saw modern art at MoMA, remembering in particular Picasso and explaining how he was able to relate to Pollock on the basis of his "emotion."

 

(Again, Warhol's soup cans left him nonplussed – though he also evaded my questions when I was working the conversation around to asking if he had seen any color-field painting, barking that he hated "labels").

 

In summer, he spent time with more Pattison relatives in Maine – both an aunt and an uncle were practicing artists.

 

Kahn also remembered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, where he became passionate about Rembrandt's wonderfully moody "Storm on the Sea of Galilee."

 

For college, he naturally went to Yale – where his father had already designed two museums, the classically-modernist Yale University Art Gallery (1951-53) and the monumental quasi-brutalist Yale Center for British Art (1969-1974) (my personal favorite, though I'm an Anglophile anyway).

 

A member of the Class of '65, Nathaniel studied art history with Vincent Scully, whom he recalled as "the greatest."

 

Scully's dual reputations -- as an unforgettable teacher of the introductory art history survey, and as an influential architectural historian who did much to further the early career of Louis Kahn -- earned him a lengthy obituary in the New York Times when he died in 2017 at the age of 97.

 

According to the Times, Scully used no notes when he lectured, and didn't expect his students to take any, either.

 

Some of this free-and-easy approach to what might be called "professional jargon" seems to have rubbed off on his pupil, who to this day avoids art-critical and art-historical terminology in his discussions of the visual arts—that aversion to "labels", for instance.

 

Then again, this avoidance of art-world jargon was obviously the way to go for a movie director who was doing his best to look at the art scene from the outside – not only in the interests of creating a unified whole, but also because he had to create a film that would be coherent and understandable even to moviegoers who might not know anything much about the visual arts.

 

Movie direction is also an occupation that demands visual acuity, and Nathaniel Kahn had been interested in theater & movies since he was very young.

 

Though he majored at Yale in philosophy, he had already had a movie-making mentor in Philadelphia and made films there even as a child.

 

While at Yale, he directed a production of "The Tempest" staged in his father's Center for British Art, and after he graduated, worked with a series of older moviemakers before striking out on his own.

 

"My Architect" was his first feature-length independent film, and sparked his interest in one day making a movie about the art world.

 

However, the concept and early stages of filming "The Price of Everything" focused almost exclusively on the multi-million-dollar reputations of and market for the big-name postmodernist artists.

 

This, of course, is not so surprising to those who know that all those '"gee-whiz" auction price statistics one sees quoted in The New York Times (and elsewhere) don't exist in a vacuum.

 

Nor do those prices depend exclusively upon the fancies of a few multimillionaire collectors, or the calculations of all those hedge-fund investors who are supposedly behind the current boom, and store their booty in warehouses in Switzerland.

 

What all these people know is that going to art museums and galleries is a major form of entertainment not only in the US, but also around the globe, and that world-wide it is a growing one.

 

It is predominantly entertainment for the college-educated, but in the US, roughly a third of the population between 25 and 64 is college-educated, another 70 percent of the three million high school graduates in 2016 were enrolled in college by the following fall – and the number of students in colleges and universities around the world doubled between 2000 and 2014, to 207 million.

 

Serving art lovers in the U.S. are about 2,500 art museums, and while some are reporting declining attendance, some – like the Metropolitan Museum of Art – are setting new attendance records.

 

The Association of Art Museum Directors, whose members represent 212 of the largest museums, reports stable attendance of some 60 million visits per year.

 

I couldn't find any statistics online for the number of art museums worldwide, but I do know that foreign visitors are responsible for something like 40 percent of the Met's record annual attendance.

 

Now, only a limited amount of historical art is available to provide eye candy for all those museum visitors – whereas the supply of contemporary art is virtually unlimited.

 

Moreover, a lot of museum-goers – especially the younger ones – seem to find it easy to respond to the more highly-priced contemporary work, maybe even easier than to the Old Masters.

 

So, although "The Price of Everything" quotes one or two of its spokespeople comparing museums to mausoleums (just as Marcel Duchamp did), museums can and often do end up as the repository for much and maybe eventually all of this kind of contemporary art.

 

Not even the Republicans who slashed exemptions of all kinds in their recent revision of the nation's tax laws dared mess around with those whacking great tax write-offs given to donors to non-profit organizations, including museums.

 

According to the Association of Art Museum Directors, 89 percent of all of its member museums' newly acquired objects came to them as donations or bequests.

 

(Nor is this new. While preparing my dissertation, I worked my way through Alfred Barr's listings in "Painting and Sculpture in the Museum of Modern Art, 1929-1967."

 

Time and again, I would see these entries including "Gift of…." or "Bequest of…"

 

From further reading, I deduced that even when a work was listed as "Purchase," the money for that purchase had most often come from members of the acquisitions committee, trustees or other museum benefactors when Barr passed the hat.

 

And, to judge from many more recent museum labels that I've read, such gifts continue to build museum collections).

 

So, although museums play a very minor role in the final version of "The Price of Everything," I would imagine that at least some of these sizeable museum attendance statistics might seem familiar to its producers and director.

 

It wouldn't surprise me a whole lot if some accountant somewhere didn't have to put together some kind of a budget for the film that included estimates of how many people might want to see it.

 

Its makers knew that they could count on many art-world insiders to come but even for a documentary, I suspect, an audience composed solely of art-world insiders might not be big enough to enable the production to cover its costs, let alone make a profit.

 

People who live and breathe art day and night tend to overestimate the size of their community.

 

They forget that there's a great big world outside of it filled with people who can't tell a Basquiat from a Botticelli and don't consider themselves missing anything.

 

But the surest way to hook such people into a prospective audience is to talk about prices, and MONEY, MONEY, MONEY.

 

It is one of the few big universals that can attract any audience, and with luck might lure in many people for whom art is not a vocation but only an avocation, a form of entertainment that leads them to marvel at those whopping auction statistics they read about in the papers, or see on the evening news.

 

So, as I say, the movie seems to have begun with filming those parts of it detailing the high-priced art and the artists who made it, but somehow this didn't satisfy Nathaniel Kahn.

 

Somehow, some essential perspective was missing. He began to think that an additional "arc" was needed, one that would center on an artist who had once been famous and had since dropped out of sight.

 

That was his only requirement.

 

In retrospect, I suspect that what he wanted was an artist who still made art for the love of it (love being another one of those universal draws). But I don't say he would have said it that way.

 

As he told it to me, it, he wasn't even faintly interested in what kind of art this artist made, just that he'd once been big and now wasn't.

 

He credited Lori Bookstein, the dealer, for first suggesting Poons. She sent him to Loretta Howard, a dealer who has staged many Poons exhibitions, and Howard put him in touch with Paula and Larry Poons.

 

Kahn recollected going to the Poons house in upstate New York and getting into conversation with Poons – who as all or most of us know – is highly articulate.

 

This was before Kahn had seen any of Poons's recent work, but five to ten minutes' worth of conversation with the artist convinced him that now "we had a movie."

 

Fortunately, he also liked Poons's paintings when he saw them.

 

He does have all this visual sensitivity, derived from both heredity and the environment he was raised in.

 

But he also said that he grew to like all the postmodernist work that figured in the movie. He seemed to feel that his artistic education had become more complete.

 

I'm sure it now includes a lot more of the fashionable sort of representational – and presentational – contemporary art that goes for high prices at auction and brings such large numbers of people in to art museums (as – supposedly -- does one of our newer blights, postmodernist abstraction -- an oxymoron represented in "The Price of Everything" by Richter).

 

To me, virtually all this kind of art is silly and shallow (even though it is often clever, and even when it most aspires to be profound, usually by promoting some extra-artistic/ political message).

 

But from all I have seen, to the overwhelming mass of humanity modernist abstraction (from Analytic Cubism on through Mondrian, abstract expressionism, color-field painting and present-day modernism as personified in this case by Poons) is what REALLY looks silly and shallow.

 

Very few of these people seem capable of being genuinely moved by abstraction: they just aren't happy looking at a painting where they can't put a name in words to its subject.

 

That being the case, they can't (or won't) tell the difference between art that is fundamentally radical and art that under its surface novelty is really lapsing back into the figuration of generations, or at least shares in the reverse esthetic of "ugly/tasteless is beautiful" that was inaugurated by Duchamp and re-sanctified by pop.

 

The fact that so many of even those college-educated people who form the majority of contemporary museum-goers simply don't "get" modernist abstraction explains for me why they strive to derive whatever esthetic sustenance they can from silly and shallow art whose subject matter they can at least identify in words.

 

To sum up: from the affiliations of the two main producers from Hot & Sunny Productions, as listed at the movie's website, and from what I know of the original form of "The Price of Everything," I'd guess that the more popular sort of art is what the movie was originally meant to be about.

 

But to me, the heart of the finished production is the art and personality of Poons, as set into the highly meaningful context of the follies of the rest of the art world.

 

The presence of Poons in the film owes its existence of the director, Nathaniel Kahn, so can I only hope that all this new education he's been getting about the current and far more fashionable higher-priced scene doesn't mean he's giving up on Poons.

 

For one thing, prices in my opinion have less to do with quality than they do with popularity, an index of the supply/demand ratio for a given artist at a given moment.

 

I'm willing to bet dollars to Dunkin's finest that the billions of dollars representing the combined box office for eight decades of the films of Disney far, far exceeds whatever monies have accrued over nearly four centuries to the owners of the combined works of da Vinci, but does that make Walt a greater artist than Leonardo, and "Dumbo" (or even the high-brow "Fantasia") greater art than the Mona Lisa?

 

I'm not saying that Poons is another Leonardo (or for that matter, that Cattelan, Koons or Hirst are in a class with Disney). I'm just saying that whatever they may tell you at Sotheby's, price is one thing and quality another....just ask Adam Smith

 

Smith could also have told you that prices can go down as well as up, or stall at a given maximum while the rest of the market goes up, up, up.

 

Kahn might want to check on what's happened to all those high flyers among the neo-expressionists in the 1980s, or the Salon painters of the later 19th century.

 

Whatever became of Julian Schnabel, Georg Baselitz, and even Anselm Kiefer, Gérôme, Meissonier and Bouguereau?

 

Moreover, while prices can go down they can also go back up. In his prime, Rembrandt was one of Amsterdam's most popular artists. Some of his defenders claim that he never went out of style, but he does seem to have been buried in an unmarked grave, which suggests that at his death, he was no longer rich.

 

In later centuries, his reputation rebounded & his oils were widely copied, but I have also heard it said that around the beginning of the 20th century, you could still pick up a Rembrandt etching for a song. No màs.

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