Sunday, October 19, 2008


On Saturday afternoon I went to another art auction, despite the fact that I have no money, because it’s always interesting to see what’s around and get a feel for the local market.

As usual, 99% of the pictures up for auction were insipid. As I see it, you can paint a overused subject if you have something interesting to say about it, or you can paint an unusual subject without having to communicate a lot. But rolling out yet another vase of flowers or rural landscape in which nothing is happening isn’t good enough.

Judging by the bidding, it seems that I’m not alone. The only paintings that didn’t go for less than the action house’s estimate were the ones that had a bit of flair or confrontation to them. Of course the painting I eventually bought was one such picture… damn my excellent taste and artistic judgement!

I must admit to being conflicted about this picture. On the one hand, it’s a little gauche. It’s illustration, rather than "proper" art. It didn’t spring out of the artist’s deeply felt need to communicate a personal truth - it was probably commissioned to illustrate a magazine article about business ethics, or some such thing.

But on the other hand, there’s nothing to say that illustration can’t be art; you wouldn’t see galleries full of E H Shepard drawings, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec posters and Norman Rockwell paintings if this were not the case. I don’t know that it says a lot, but nevertheless it’s a picture that grabs your attention. It’s not something that you can just let your eye wander past.

This painting is also a marvel of technical talent, so flawless that you can’t believe it isn’t a print. It’s only when you hold it in at a certain angle, and just make out the fact that the individual brush strokes in the man’s hair reflect differently in the light, that you can prove that it’s an original.

So now I have even less money, but I guess I can just eat blogmeet dinner leftovers until the next pay day.


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