Friday, December 16, 2011


There are plenty of people, it seems, who are willing and able to bid in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for baubles from the late Elizabeth Taylor's jewelry chest. I read in yesterday's New York Times that the Christies sale had brought in a record $116 million, no problem, many times the pre-auction estimates. Bidding, as they say, was brisk. I keep hearing the name Kardashian these days, in the context of outrageous ostentation; I have no idea who they are or what they do to make them rich and famous, but apparently they are the darlings of the media. One Kim Kardashian shelled out a cool $64,900 for three jade and diamond bracelets; the pre-auction estimate was $8,000.

Thanks to the Occupiers, the "One Percent" have acquired a certain notoriety--a fact that does not appear to discourage them from their conspicuous consumption. Ellie and I were chatting with an art dealer on our gallery rounds the other day. She had just returned from Art Basel-Miami Beach, the annual December mother of all American art fairs, proximate offspring of the granddaddy of them all, Art Basel. With a glee not unmixed with a certain horror, she told us that her hand was still sore from writing out invoices. She and her two associates, she said, had expected a little fun time at the fair; instead, the three of them were kept busy without a break from opening to closing time each day. We heard much the same from several other dealers. Most were not only delighted at the fair's success, but also aghast at its social implications. Art dealers are people, too. They represent artists who, for the most part, are gifted with a social conscience.

You have to wonder a bit, though, about art folk like the dealer Larry Gagosian and his milk cow (one of them!) Damien Hirst--he of the formaldehyde shark and diamond-encrusted skull fame. Hirst had the inspired idea to take over every one of the eleven palatial galleries in Gagosian's global fleet, in order to showcase his early "spot paintings"...

(photo purloined from the New York Times, with apologies to Andrew Testa)

... many of them already sold into prestigious collections and reassembled for the occasion. Some will undoubtedly be available for resale--at many times their original price. Do we dare to hope that Hirst is using the occasion to make a grand statement about the venality of the art world?

And then, the crown jewel of the moment... Thanks to an article that caught our attention in yesterday's Times, we tuned in to watch a show called Selling Spelling Manor on House & Garden Television. Poor Candy Spelling, an empty-nester who also found herself a widow after her husband, TV producer Aaron's death in 2007, came to the heart-breaking decision that it was time to down-size and move to smaller quarters. The modest, 56,500 square foot family home was on the market. Asking price: $150 million. She had to settle for $65 million less. (You'll find some of the details on the site above. Curiously, the Beverly Hills realtor who did the deal turned out to be the same woman who negotiated our daughter's purchase of a tiny, starter home just off the San Fernando Road in Glendale years ago--for a hundred and some odd thousand! We still get her Christmas cards...)

Well, let's not forget that billionaires are people too. Does Candy Spelling suffer any the less than the rest of us, for all her wealth and social connections? She freely boasted having designed every last detail of her mansion, and supervised its construction. With her designer,

1 comment:

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Yes, it's terribly sad about poor Candy Spelling. I wonder if she would have been less vacuous if she had not been named for a confection.

I don't watch reality TV (whose reality do they mean?) and have thus escaped ever seeing a Kardashian, but they are the latest folks to become famous for being famous.

I know it's uptight of me, but I wonder why people are so eager to shell out shocking amounts of money for baubles when they could use it to make a difference in world hunger instead.