My friend called me this morning—the one with the Biotech stock. Well, now that the stock seems to be at the end of its ride, the greedy investors who bought in at the crest are initiating a lawsuit, because that is the American way. Pass the buck, blame someone else. If these same righteous stockbusters had made their 80 percent and cashed out, they’d be sitting in the Hamptons with their sweating martini glasses, giving a little tilted head to the less fortunate.
But the new American way is…put your money down; if you’re unlucky and the wheel passes you by, there’s always the post-mortem lawsuit. It is the adult wealth-version of a tantrum. When things don’t go your manipulative way, kick and scream and stamp your feet, but don’t let anyone see this—you are too sophisticated. Hire a corporate lawyer. He will get rich and will even maybe give you a small kickback or open an account at your firm and you will get an annual 2% of their fat earnings. 2% of the monopoly money, that is, because remember this company has no profit, no viable product. Nevermind; its maybe 80 million shares have changed hands so many times now their trading statistics begin to rival the NYC rat-to-human ratio.
So what fuels this frenzy? Not the good-old American quest for profit, the healthy motor that drove our economy for years. It’s the massive Epidemic of Greed. The whole American culture is now a culture of addiction; we’ve admitted this. Overeating, overspending, overcollecting. The new American obese…and now you can get your stomach stapled off and develop another addiction. The addiction is secondary; the disease is primary. And it progresses from Greed to full-blown Addiction to Greed. These Wall Street guys are no longer content to reap reasonable growth statistics. Profits must be not even double-digit, but triple digit. Yes…why not? 200 percent return. Don’t just invest; pour your money into this machine and like alchemy it multiplies. Ahh, yes…double-percentage growth in a single day; this is what they like to see. Like crack addicts… heading ever-upward into the infinite realm of ‘more’. Supersize me, they say. Supersize my portfolio or I’ll sue.
I checked out the Richard Serras last night. Okay, he is a mainstream contemporary artist. I quite liked his work in the 60’s; those leather belts are awesome, the plinths, the thrown lead pieces— the lead and neon contrast, delicate steel planes leaning precariously like a house of cards. This took courage, a concept. It was real art. An acknowledged nod to Michael Heizer who really tipped the scales by using earth as his medium—the scale, the concept…awesome. And walking through the Serra curved walls was cool—the rough oxidized surfaces, like an industrial post-minimal 21st century scrap-metal version of a garden maze. Even though they were begging for a New York 21st century dose of graffiti to make them real. In fact, I put my money on someone daring to do that, although the crowds will be massive and the opportunity for a little unobserved subversive spraying will be rare. Because this show has been marketed-to-the-max as an event. Everyone who is anyone, and especially everyone who is no one will be there. The media has insured that. Even though just 3 short fiscal years ago you couldn’t give away a Richard Serra. Lot after lot passed at auction. Even though half the benefactors last night couldn’t tell the art from the bar.
But I couldn’t help thinking, as I navigated the rusty metal paths, feeling human and dwarfed… that somewhere among these corporate sponsors was one who is wrapping his head around the idea of taking this home. Like having a real tiger in your backyard, a trophy wife who won’t behave, the hugest of the football-field-sized houses in the Hamptons. Measuring. Supersizing. Owning.
Going up the escalator I am badly dressed and invisible. I looked down on these poor wealthy people, pitying that they will be forced to pay not 8 but maybe 9 figures of Monopoly money for these hunks of pitted steel which were maybe forged from scrap…while David Rockefeller only paid 5 figures for true timeless masterpieces, and had the wisdom to sell some off now, to take advantage of the supersized greed while he helps the poor and sick or the future generation of artists. Maybe.
Hanging in one of the stairwells was a great Baselitz…a man who understands painting. A great one… monumental but not massive. Like most of his work, pricey but in this context underappreciated..and with his edgy and smart sense of the art-viewing audience, upside-down.