I have said before that I have a blind spot when it comes to the visual arts. I just can’t get excited about viewing a painting. Poetry or music can move me to tears, but a painting is just there to break up an expanse of blank wall. Now I’m sure that the fault lies with me, not the artists, and that those who love paintings do so genuinely. But can a work that looks–to me, at least–as though it was perpetrated by a talented seven-year-old with his new box of crayons really be worth $120 million?
That’s the price realised at a Sotheby’s auction for Edvard Munch’s The Scream. I should say one of them, because he painted four pictures with the same title. Just to give some perspective on the preposterous price paid for this work: the same sum could build a brand new container ship equipped with a full suit of containers; it could buy 46 Bugatti Veryons, the most expensive car in the world, with change left over for a few cases of Pol Roger vintage champagne to drink in them; it could pay 66,667 thirld world workers for an entire year.
Compounding my confusion is the fact that one can obtain a printed copy of the painting–essentially indistinguishable from the original–for a few dollars. What is the advantage to owning the original apart from the mere fact that it is the original? The owner of this work will, quite apart from the initial purchase price, need to continue paying huge insurance premiums, as well as for the secure space needed to house the work. I could understand better if it was bought by a museum and there displayed for the public benefit, but I just can’t wrap my head around the reasons a private collector would want this work.
But then, as I said, I have a blind spot.
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.