Art, Politics, Money...
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With just one week left before the election, it's difficult to think or talk about anything else. The political drama –- or comedy, if you will -– of the presidential election proves that we Americans do have a National Theater after all. Sure, it doesn't function the same way as, let's say, the Royal Shakespeare Company or the Comédie-Française, but the suspense and the star quality of the ‘actors' on our political stage leaves any storied European theater company in the dust. And with the hundreds of million dollars spent on the theater of our National Elections, we get a fantastic pay-off -- night after night -- in the form of a huge public turnout. Makes me feel especially patriotic.
The two weeks I spent recently in Berlin and Florence turned out to be less idyllic than I'd anticipated; watching CNN and reading the International Herald Tribune, with its day-old coverage of political and economic developments in the US, kept me in a constant state of anxiety. It was difficult not to think about how all that was going to affect the art scene generally and the art market specifically. One hears stories about museums canceling scheduled exhibitions and dealers dreading the outcome of the Art Fairs they committed themselves to in more prosperous times. And still, among the dark clouds, there are a few rays of sunshine.
It was heartwarming to read that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art received a $45 million gift from Stewart and Lynda Resnick for a new museum pavilion to be built by Renzo Piano. A few days after I admired Norman Foster's renovation of the Reichstag Building in Berlin, I read the news that this British architect was chosen to redesign the New York Public Library. You might remember the enthusiastic response to his renovation of the British Museum a few years ago, so one hopes that the impact of his latest project in New York will also provide a much-needed boost to the city's economy and spirit.
The Getty Museum just announced the acquisition of two life-size, bronze casts of ancient marble sculptures, for which it probably paid a small fortune. These bronze copies were made in Florence in the 18th century and acquired by a British collector in whose family they stayed for more than 200 years. As coincidence would have it, on the last day of my stay in Florence, I was invited by Ferdinado Marinelli to visit the foundry run by his family for three generations. A dozen or so skillful artisans work there to make exact copies of ancient and Renaissance sculptures, and one cannot help but be impressed by the patience and precision that goes into the process. It seems that now, in the 21st century, the demand for Classical Art – or at least for excellent replicas – is as strong as it was in the past.
What's also interesting is that in comparison with the bloated prices for contemporary art, the classical works of the past, though not cheap, are much more reasonably priced. So one can understand why some worried investors are turning away from the stock market and starting to think about investing in art. I have experience advising people who love art on how to be smart collectors; it's much more difficult to help those who just want to buy art for profit -- or at least to keep their fortunes from sinking. So if you are trying to figure out what to do with that pesky $50 or $60 million of yours, buying a painting by Van Gogh or an early Picasso would definitely be a safe bet. And if you're lucky to find a drawing by Rembrandt or Michelangelo for just a few million dollars, grab and hold onto it, because this investment would be as safe as putting your money into a Swiss bank account.
Banner image: Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy