(Rich) People-Watching At Christie’s

Art auction skeptic and non-millionaire Henry Alford wrote a fascinating / ridiculous piece for the Times about interloping at the record-breaking art bonanza that was last week’s Christie’s auction:

Waiters wandered through the galleries bearing six-foot-long poles from which were suspended shelves heavy with Bloody Marys or dishes of scrambled eggs; generating the din of French and Russian and Japanese well-wishing were enough age-inappropriate couples to suggest that the event’s unannounced theme was Father-Daughter.

The auction, as you may have read, brought in $691.5 million dollars and included the all-time highest price for a piece of art sold at auction (Francis Bacon triptych; $142.4 million) as well as the highest priced work ever sold by a living artist (Jeff Koons Balloon Dog; $58.4 million).

Henry, on the other hand, spent nothing:

…At the end of the two auctions, I experienced an unanticipated sensation of buoyancy and uplift. In short, it felt amazing to have witnessed such a cavalcade of overspending. Suddenly all the indulgences I’ve fallen prey to in my life were reduced in size. The last-minute trips to Europe at peak flying times, the unnecessary massages, the $5 bottles of mango juice — all seemed, by comparison, weeny, baublelike.

This mild euphoria returned the day after the Sotheby’s sale when, needing to wrap a present for a friend, I tore a 12-by-15-inch reproduction of an abstract painting by Joan Mitchell out of the 6.8-pound, $60 Christie’s catalog, and wrapped the gift in it. It looked terrific. With 447 more pages of the catalog left to go, my savings on wrapping paper over the next decade should be considerable. Many art lovers hemorrhaged cash this past week, but suddenly I’m minting it.

Photo: Benedict Francis



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