Friday, May 9, 2008

Jean-Michel Crude

I had a minor meltdown moment in a ghetto grocery store tonight which promised 2 dozen eggs for $3 and predictably had no stock. When you’re paying with food stamps, this is no tragedy. When you are counting your own end-of-the-week available change, the wasted trek-time takes a toll. A year ago, these undersized eggs were everywhere and cost 99 cents.

For those complaining about the price of gas, the price of eggs is maybe less crucial. At least they have cars, and don’t have the added humiliation of hoisting overstuffed grocery bags onto public buses where the better-dressed and overdrawn move aside as though the symptoms of poverty are contagious.

On the bus someone has left a newspaper which informs us that Hilary has loaned her own campaign 6.5 million dollars, as though this is something to cause shame. What is shameful is a) the obscene sums of money spent on the most high-profile marketing campaign every four years, b) the obscene sums of money spent marketing any and all American products which double and triple their cost to the consumer, and c) how any true grassroots candidate can compete with the fast-lane politically overdressed A-list whose very income and portfolios are a chasm over which 98 percent of voters must step on their way to the polls.

Also in this paper is the report on this week’s impressionist and modern art auctions which are not much more than ‘flat’ but are tarted up as ‘healthy’ despite our impotent dollar value. Armed with $10 worth of this week’s pasta special, I begin to transfer my egg-wrath to the couple who purchased 22 million dollars worth of oil paint and canvas, and how they can live with themselves when they could have treated 10,000 kids at St. Jude’s for like 30 years, or fed the entire African continent. I’ll bet they complain about the price of gas, too. I’ll bet they try to act like anyone else when they pull their whatever-gas-guzzler up to the pump, sipping one of their mandatory 8 bottled water servings. Does anyone else find it strange that people are whining about gas and paying 1-2 dollars a bottle several times a day which amounts to …what…16 to 20 dollars a gallon…for something that is…absolutely free? Not to mention the environmental damage done by the masses of plastic debris which rivals carbon emissions any day and even has been shown to be a fairly effective carcinogen.

But back to the art market. Who sets these prices anyway? Those bow-tied sycophantic well-groomed figures with the catalogues who walk the auction-house floors like maitre-d’s smelling out the monied and aesthetically challenged who cannot confess they barely know the difference between Monet and Manet? The ‘market’? The unbridled, unregulated and highly manipulated art ‘market’? The 'haves' who want to entice the have-nots and will-haves to up the anti and keep desperate pace with ever-grander walls which need to be graced and hung with treasures which guarantee the taste and vintage of the owner?

And who decides what is genuine and what isn’t? The ones who know real Gucci from Canal Street? What about all those paintings with the dicey provenance that fall into a shadowy grey? Like religion, it is a kind of belief system. The Warhol Foundation sacrifies any questionable unsigned Warhol. They crank them out, too…we all know that…long after Andy’s large and over-silkcreened heart stopped beating.

And Basquiat, my old friend, whose work a handful of disreputables could identify without hesitation….what about that committee which documents his work? How many of you out there used to party and drink and drug with Jean-Michel and who of you can remember what you did or who you did it with the night before? Especially when there was a whole bunch of you doing the stuff together. I had a Basquiat--okay, I sold it for near-nothing, but a price I considered at the time to be obscene. And it was real. I watched him paint it, I gave him $100 for it. A bass player got drunk and pissed on it that night...I'll authenticate it anytime. I sold it to pay for an apartment. Unfortunately now I could have bought a townhouse. Or another 'cleaner' Basquiat. Which may or may not be real.

The barrels of oil begin to make more sense. Andy might be serving crude at his parties. At least $123 a barrel gets you something real, something which will power your truck or car or airplane as opposed to 3 million gallons worth you spend on that questionable painting of some mediocre camouflage which isn’t even signed but stamped by a foundation which stands to profit hugely by its sale? Makes the Campbell soupcans look ever more innocent.

And if our economy is ‘fueled’ by Wall Street, why can’t they figure out a way to make our cars go without making Dick Cheney and the Bush family and the Saudi Arabian bank accounts grow more obese every day? Looking at New York City during art week, those barrels of oil look damn cheap compared with all that art. Which in a dire energy crisis would heat your house for about 10 minutes.

How about that Elizabeth Peyton? Did she ever even meet Kurt Cobain? Sleep with him? I seriously doubt it, because that angelic portrait with the red lips looks more like Buster Brown. I’m not bragging, but I met him twice and both times he was stressed out and wrecked and had a wicked stomach ache. Somebody help me here. And while I’m on the unmitigated subject of contemporary art, does anybody remember that the Emperor in the fairy tale was Chinese?

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