June 21, 2006

My Parents Escaped From a Concentration Camp, and All I Got Was This Lousy Painting

First let's talk economics. There's this thing called inflation, which sounds like something is getting bigger. What that means is that over time--and for different reasons--the value we attribute to currency gets smaller and smaller. My grandfather worked for Pullman Car Company and supported his family on $7.00 a week. Now days I can exchange that same seven bucks for lunch. In a world of constantly shrinking value, the superlative, "most expensive ever," will constantly be surpassed. Why just a few weeks ago, I bought my most expensive tank of gas ever!

In additon to this, we have more rich people than ever before. Traditionally, they've placed their surplus cash in investments like stocks, bonds, and real estate. Currently those investments are showing less of a profit than they have in the past, so some of these folks are funneling their greenbacks into art. And as we've seen with other commodities, the more dollars that are chasing after limited resources, the higher the cost.

Recently the blogsphere has bemoaned the sale (and cost) of the Adele Bloch Bauer portrait, which has elbowed its way to the front page as the most expensive objet du jour:

Here we can read about the triumph of commerce over art.

Chris Benfey at Slate had this to say:
"What's a reasonable price for a one-of-a-kind masterpiece? If the Texas Rangers once paid Alex Rodriguez twice that amount to play shortstop for 10 years, hasn't Lauder gotten his Klimt, which he owns in perpetuity, for a steal? (I'd rather have Adele on my wall than A-Rod on my team.)"

Culture Grrl Lee Rosenbaum laments the Klimt passing into the private domain, and calls the family "fortunate" to receive restitution. As Lee might paraphrase a now headless French queen, "Let them eat Klimt!"

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