No “Readymade” “Stratergizing”* Here, Just “Hauntingly Beautiful” Handmade (Though Unusable) Urinals
Christie’s bullshit is so totally audacious that the listener’s mind boggles at the notion that anyone with that kind of money would be stupid enough to buy it.
*And do note the spelling error!
Daily Paywall (not working today, but quoted by Fred Lapides) was appropriately skeptical.
Among the many records set at Christieâ€™s astonishing $852.9m contemporary art sale in New York…, one has so far gone strangely unreported; the highest price ever paid for a urinal.
Robert Goberâ€™s 1988 installation Three Urinals sold for $3.52m, which works out at just over $1m per urinal. They do not actually work â€“ that is, they only take the proverbial in a figurative sense. But this is a good thing, for according to Christieâ€™s their â€œsmooth contours invite the viewerâ€™s touchâ€, and hand sanitiser was not included in the price.
That a urinal by an artist you have probably never heard of is worth more than a masterpiece by one you have (a Gober urinal will buy you a fine Rubens) is down to the unique way in which the contemporary art world functions. There, the merit of works such as Goberâ€™s is not judged in any traditional and objective artistic sense, but by value.
Expensive, say the experts, equals good. After all, Three Urinals is indistinguishable from three actual urinals except by virtue of its price, and several paragraphs of impenetrable art-speak in a catalogue. And if Goberâ€™s urinals are worth $3.5m, then one of his sinks (he does a whole range of toilet ware) must also be worth millions.
In other words, we have collectively lost the ability to assess art for ourselves and on its own merits. Instead, we follow such indicators as fashion, price, and, in this case, hype. You may say it was ever thus. But the result today, when allied with an ever wealthier elite for whom buying contemporary art has become a form of conspicuous consumption, is an unprecedented art boom. Can it last?
Normally, speculative bubbles end when an underlying financial reality hits home. The subprime boom ended when homeowners stopped making repayments. But in the art world there are few such constraints. The only requirement is that works keep edging up in value.
Read the whole thing.