Stephen Bové - Art, Technology, Right Action

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ronald Lauder and his $135M Klimt

People who pay exorbitant sums for art by dead artists are not patrons, nor collectors, nor appreciators of what art is about.

They are at best merely shrewd investors, and mostly egoists, taste-fascists, and living-dead-examples of what it means to be an anti-patron.

They buy art that should already be in museums for the benefit of all humanity and use it for their own aggrandizement, cloistering it away in private halls or displaying it in self-important mini-museums bearing their own names (The Lauder Collection).

And their insane bidding runs up the prices legitimate Art Institutions must pay for these works to the point where they become completely impossible to justify.

A great patron finds living artists and nurtures their careers through purchase or commission (see the amazing work done by San Francisco's Fisher or Anderson families). A great patron takes risks at the front end of the appreciation curve, not the tail end, where Christies or Sotheby's intermediate the sale and where quality and importance is self evident.

For $135M, Mr. Lauder, you could have patronized essentially *all* the significant living artists in America and Europe for several years. Who knows what magic would have come of it.

Instead, you pay 12 full-time people to research and catalog your enormous program of acquisition/hording of dead-artist-art, and you dump $135,000,000 on a single canvas.

Compare your actions to the healthy collecting and true patronage of the early Medici (Giovanni di Bicci, Cosimo & Lorenzo di Giovanni), or Francis I (Renaissance King of France). These patrons knew the artists, nurtured the artists, commissioned the artists. They did not spend wildly and disproportionately on art created in the past. The bought the present and reveled in the rich HUMAN relationships they enjoyed with the creators.

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