Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Is she worth the money?"

As I mentioned in a post last week, Michael Kimmelman of the Times clearly thinks so, saying the $135 million Ronald Lauder recently paid for Klimt's 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer "may even come to look like a bargain." In this week's New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl considers the same question. His answer:

"Not yet. Paintings this special may not come along for sale often, and the hundred and four million dollars spent for a so-so Picasso, 'Boy with a Pipe,' two years ago indicated that irrational exuberance could be the booming art market’s new motto. But Lauder’s outlay predicts a level of cost that must either soon become common or be relegated in history as a bid too far. And the identity of the artist gives pause. The price paid is four and a half times the previous high (already a stunner, in 2003) for a Klimt; until a few years ago, the artist ranked as a second-tier modern master both at auction and in the estimation of most art critics and historians. . . . Klimt and his world remain marginal to the battered but still persuasive avant-gardist chronicle of Western modern art: roughly, Paris to New York, and Cubism to abstractionism, with special status for futurism, Dada, Russian Suprematism and Constructivism, Dutch de Stijl, and Surrealism. The purchase of 'Adele' tests the possibility—ever less to be sneezed at, these days—of rewriting art history with a checkbook."