That $120 Million

Mary Beth Edelson, Some Living American Women Artists: Last Supper, 1972- 2012, digital archival print with mixed media, 23.5" x 36.75" Click pic to view larger
(Original in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York City)

Yeah, yeah, so a pastel version of Edvard Munch's The Scream went for $120 million at Sotheby's.*  Holland Cotter knows how he would spend that money: on what he calls "an encyclopedic mini-museum."  Here's what he wrote in The New York Times on May 3 in "If I Had the Cash I Wouldn't Buy That": 

"My museum would focus on, for starters, work produced by women, internationally, over the past 50 years. Some of the artists I’m thinking about call or called themselves feminists, though many don’t or didn’t. A huge percentage of current art comes right out of their work. Together it would be more than a collection; it would be a force. And given the low interest in and low prices of such art, I could probably pick up most of the work straight from studios and estates — no Sotheby’s commissions, thank you — and touch only a fraction of my $120 million museum fund."

I'm with Cotter, though I think it's also important to buy from the galleries that show these artists' works. (And, of course, as artists we get to trade.)

Installation view of Mary Beth Edelson's solo show, Hail to the Feminists Who Produced the Revolution, at Accola Griefen Gallery in Chelsea through May 12

I'm not waiting for $120 million. I trade a lot, and I also buy. To be completely upfront about it, the work that opens this post and which you see on the far wall in this picture will be delivered to me when the show closes.

What art would you acquire with that $120 million?  

Coming next week: a full visual report on Lush Geometry, the group show I'm in at DM Contemporary, plus Ruth Hardinger at Creon, and Kevin Finklea at Giampietro Gallery in New Haven.

*While its art handlers are locked out of a decent-wage contract. See Pablo Helguera's related cartoon here


kim matthews said...

With $120M I could buy major works of underrepresented living artists whose art I love (Jay Kelly and Hadi Tabatabai for instance) PLUS an Eva Hesse, a Louise Bourgeois, and who knows what else--maybe even a Jackie Winsor and a Bontecou. It's true: sales like this remind us of the huge difference between people who love art and those who are investing. Hurray for artists willing to trade and galleries with payment plans. The entire world isn't cynical but the media certainly is: it's such a disappointment that the mainstream conversation is all about money.

Casey Klahn said...

winglies chnownefThose of us in the pastel- schlepping community are over the moon that this pastel work went ballistic in the auction market.

Although these artworks you mention are relevant to today, it is also a very great event when an expressionist work about human emotion-an edgy emotion, at that-gets recognition.

My 2 cents.

annell said...

Wondrful post!

prairieknitter01 said...

With $120M, I would love something by Anne Truitt and then I would go after the untitled Philip Guston painting of the battered head looking up the hill. I would stare lovingly at them for a while and then let a museum have them because I would feel guilty having them all to myself!

Michelle Arnold Paine said...

The amazing thing about $120 million dollars is that I could buy literally HUNDREDS of high-end quality artworks. Enough to start my own museum, or decorate every room of my non-existent mansion... or both, and still give some art to my favorite institutions... I don't even have to make a list because I would be able to buy most anything I've ever wanted... minus Van Gogh, and Monet, but they are happy in their museums. A mind-blowing amount of money.

Casey Klahn said...

"winglies chnownef" is secret code for: good post.