York in England is a wealthy place compared to much of the rest of the country. York in England today has a food bank. In New York yesterday a very good Francis Bacon triptych of his friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud was sold for US$142,400,000 with a starting bid of $80,000,000.
The Guardian also reports that, “The auction set another significant record, for a price achieved at auction by any living artist, when Jeff Koons’s large sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange) fetched $58.4m.”
Apparently both works of art were bought by individuals. The Bacon was bought by Francesco De Simone Niquesa, a lawyer who advised the actresses Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida in the 1960s and made a separate fortune from bottled mineral water (according to the WSJ).
Francis Outred, the head of post-war and contemporary art for Christie’s Europe said of Bacon’s ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’, “The juxtaposition of radiant sunshine yellow contrasting with the brutal physicality and immediacy of the brushstrokes in this celebrated life-size triptych is what makes Bacon’s art so remarkable…” and that’s true.
The WSJ also reports that, “When the Bacon came up for bid about 20 minutes into the sale, at least four collectors took the bait. New York dealer Larry Gagosian and Korean collector and dealer Hong Gyu Shin bid in the saleroom against telephone bidders from the U.S. and China.
“Seconds into the bidding, Mr. Hong tried to spook his competition by lobbing a $100 million bid, but the telephone bidders remained undaunted and in the end, he bowed out at $126 million. New York dealer Bill Acquavella, bidding by telephone on behalf of a client, placed the winning bid of $127 million, or $142.4 million with Christie’s commission.”
You will have noticed that I’ve got a Bacon illustrating this piece. I’ve also decided that I’d like a Bacon, so I’m saving up for one.
There are food banks in York and Leeds and all over the country.
Now, I understand that the £89,000,000+ paid for the Bacon is an atom in a drop in the ocean of global debt and rigged market challenges that have caused the rise in demand for food banks. But that fact doesn’t make the situation any more moral or human. In fact, it makes it worse.
What also makes this Art Market (Capitalised for the pun alone) savage money feast more terrible is that fact that private buyers have the objects and are unlikely to make them available for public view.
It can be said that in this age of mechanical reproduction where ‘authenticity’ is over-valued in terms of human need or even merit, the wider public doesn’t need to benefit from the artist’s touch; doesn’t need to see the brush strokes or the corrections in the Bacon. But then nor does the private investor. But surely the original, with its direct connection to the human being who created it must be of more benefit when experienced by a larger group of people? Surely this benefit is also passed to the individual market speculator in terms of a more connected and socialised (happier and more productive) population?
Sorry, of course I meant ‘The Art Lover’.
There are food banks – not called ‘Volunteer Malnutrition Prevention Centres’ or ‘Anti-Starvation Stores’ mind because the word ‘bank’ has power – all over the Western World. All over the world created by the kind of people who are now buying paintings for $142,000,000 and calling people who can’t do this ‘weak’ or ‘lazy’ or ‘feckless’ for going to food banks.
At least the food banks serve one true banking purpose: they lend people food as investments for the future. Ideally the food being leant will enable the people borrowing it to gather enough energy to work with other people… to get more food, even surplus food to donate to that surplus food back to food bank, and so on.
Then maybe, with this energy, they can go to one of the remaining free libraries to learn how to make more food, and then to an art gallery or museum for the inspiration and joy in their fellow human’s ability to create wonderful things to be shared.
Probably not though. Probably not.
UPDATE – Since writing this piece I’ve come across this little gem: PRIVATE TREASURES – Top 10 private Art collections – END UPDATE