Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The World’s Most Expensive Photograph

The World's Most Expensive Photograph
(No, I Don't Get It, Either)

Sigh.  As if yesterday’s story on Peter Woytuk’s “installation” on Broadway was not enough to break the fragile crystal of this aesthete’s heart, now we have news that Rhein II, a 1999 photograph by Andreas Gursky, was sold at Christie’s New York for the world-record-setting price of $4,338,500.  You can see the photograph yourself, above.
Well .. where to begin?  Let’s start with Christie’s own Web site, which reads that the photo is a “breathtaking masterpiece of scale and wonderment, as well as the icon of Andreas Gursky's pioneering photographic oeuvre."
Well, at least the Christie’s copywriter is earning his or her money.  This ink-stained wretch goes on to write, “reaching out towards infinity, the work invokes a contemporary take on the ‘sublime’ with the astounding perfection of line and color achieved through the invocation of an apparently natural landscape."
The 73x143 in. color print is face-mounted to Plexiglas (no note if the buyer paid extra for that) and was bought by a “distinguished German sucker collector.”
Now, I’m sure that printing a picture that is 73x143 is a formidable task itself; and I’m sure that the good Mr. Gursky (born 1955) photoshopped it to his heart’s content.  However, this is a perfect example of the breakdown of our collective aesthetic sense, and how the hucksters have invaded a once rarefied realm.  Then again, I’m sure our “distinguished German collector” is not really interested in the arts, but is that most horrible kind of parasite, the art speculator. 
Perhaps a scam of such magnitude is only possible in our current Balkanized intellectual environment, where the world’s most famous auction house would engage in such monumental flummery as to pawn a holiday snapshot off as art and expect a gullible public with deep pockets to buy it as such.  Regular readers of this blog will think back to our recent examination of various masterpieces based on the Biblical David, and wonder what has happened to both the arts and the people that support them. 
I know I do.
I would like to break precedent here at the Jade Sphinx and make a direct offer to Christie’s.  Below are two recent camera-phone snaps taken while visiting Stony Brook, Long Island.  To quote Christie’s again, the viewer is "not invited to consider a specific place along the river, but rather an almost 'platonic' ideal of the body of water as it navigates the landscape".
Yeah.  That’s what I meant.  An opening bid of $1 million (I’m not greedy) can take them away.  Surely there is a “distinguished German collector” for me, too?

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