This just sold for 110 million and change, the change being half a million. It proves the old adage of P.T. Barnum: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I’m not going to argue the merits or lack thereof of Basquiat’s work; make up your own mind. But I do think the price tag is indicative of the sickness permeating our culture–the obsession with celebrity. The pr machine was up and running before this artist’s death but really got cranked up after his early demise. The son of immigrant parents (hardly poor though), a drug addict who hung out with Warhol et.al. and he died young–perfect! Let’s make some real money off this guy. Not that he’s benefiting. I have no problem with artists getting as much as they can for their work, but let’s start judging on the merit of the work, not celebrity status; and that goes for everyone. Kim Kardashian has a big ass and made a sex tape and converts those two accomplishments into a multi-million dollar empire.
I know I said I wouldn’t comment on the merit of the work, but I admit there is a certain visceral quality to this guy’s painting that appeals to me. But then I always thought there should be a certain savagery in an artist’s work, but I prefer a controlled savagery. Otherwise you get a muddle. There’s a kind of savagery in late Rembrandt, Hals, Velasquez, Goya, Delacroix and on and on, all the way through to the abstract expressionists. It’s up to future generations to decide the real merit of Basquait’s work after the fashionable dust settles. But that’s true for anyone. Till next time.