Being the student of the contemporary art scene and learning what the rich and famous buy and sell these days, it's difficult not to notice the relatively short span of time that these collectors enjoy the expensive art toys they acquire before getting bored with them and putting these toys back on the market. For today's ambitious collectors, to own one of the shiny, bubbly and very expensive sculptures by Jeff Koons is simply a must. The amazing amount of craftsmanship that goes into their production, and the obsessive perfectionism exuding -- like a heavy perfume -- from these sculptures, make them simply irresistible for big money collectors.
Therefore, it's not a big surprise that famous publisher Benedikt Taschen has been buying and selling Koons' art for many years. One of his Koons, Pink Panther, is up for sale at Sotheby's. Take a look at this almost life-size porcelain figure of a bare breasted blond with Farrah Fawcett-hair and a sad, lumpy Pink Panther resting on her shoulder. On it own merits, it will probably amuse you for a second or two but, when you learn that Sotheby's is planning to sell it for between $20 and $30 million, it will surely grab your attention for a little bit longer. My hat is off to Mr. Taschen for being able to live with this bubble of a sculpture for almost twenty years before saying goodbye to it. Even if someone gave it to me as a gift, I would be able to tolerate it, out of politeness, for maybe a month or two before trying to unload it.
There was a time when collectors made a lifetime commitment to their art. Last year, Christie's sold for more than $100 million an amazing Picasso painting belonging to Frances Brody, the legendary late Los Angeles collector, who lived with this Picasso for 60 years. It's tempting to describe such a life-long commitment to an artwork as a happy marriage. Many of today's collectors seemingly have much shorter love affairs with their trophy art. Just think of Las Vegas mogul and art collector Steve Wynn with his "buy today, sell tomorrow" modus operandi.
And talk about intense but short-term pleasures. No, silly, I'm not referring to the infamous "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." One of the listeners sent me a fascinating image of a gigantic carpet of hundreds of thousands of blooming flowers spreading across the central square in the City of Brussels. Every other year, this blossoming carpet appears there for a couple of days only and then it's gone. On my recent trip to this city, I had plenty of chocolate, beer and art, but, darn, it was January, so flowers were not an option.
I'm off next week on another press trip to Belgium, invited to attend the opening of a new museum in Antwerp, devoted to the rich history and culture of this city. I'm also looking forward to seeing, in the city, each and every painting by Rubens, who is one of my all-time favorite artists. Antwerp was his home and the house where he lived should be on everyone's must-see list.
So stay tuned for my report about this six-day trip to Belgium, in addition to short visits to Amsterdam and Barcelona. As they say, there is no rest for the wicked.
And now, let me end with a little bit of housekeeping, so-to-speak. Some listeners complain that they have stopped receiving the email with my weekly Art Talk, which comes not only with text but also with images of the artworks I'm talking about. If it happened to you, please send me a note so I will be able to take care of this problem.
To see images discussed in Art Talk, go to KCRW.org/ArtTalk.
Banner image: (L) Jeff Koons, Pink Panther, 1988, ceramic sculpture; (R) Pablo Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, 1932, oil on canvas, shown here at Christie's auction