Art Log: May 22, 2023

A thought-provoking paragraph in Nassim Nicholas Teleb’s 2005 book Fooled by Randomness got me thinking. He writes that if you bought a painting for $20,000 and it’s now worth $40,000 but you would not repurchase it for $40,000, there’s no rational reason to keep it; it’s an emotional investment. First, as many of us know too well, paintings and antique objects more often can’t be sold for what we paid for them. And that’s fine with me (just make sure you really want it before you buy). So the flip side is, in most cases, you surely would rebuy for less than you paid, so there’s all the reason in the world to keep an object that has gone down in value. Even when things have gone up in value somewhat, selling can often cost up to 30% or more of the realized price. The counterargument and it may not be rational, to Teleb’s statement is since art is not a stock or a precious metal, you don’t sell something you may never find again. Or, in the case of real estate, sure, you wouldn’t repay what your home would currently cost, but if you sold it you could no longer live where you want to be.

Mary Gabriel’s book Ninth Street Women brought to my attention the fact that the antique market has probably been ebbing and flowing for 100 years. She mentions a retailer named French & Company that, faced with a decline in the antiques trade in the early 1950s, tried to move into the contemporary art market. According to the book, that venture lasted only a few months. The company appears to be alive and well, however and according to the website currently buys and sells European paintings from the Renaissance to the mid-20th century.

Keep Dallas Peculiar. Writer Graeme Wood grew up in Dallas and suggests in a recent article in the Atlantic, “Inside the Garden of Evil,” that Harlan Crow’s collections of statues of fallen dictators are in line with the brand of oddity the city is known for. “Austin is proud of its bumper sticker KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD. But Dallas’s weirdness is so deep that it perpetuates itself unintentionally, without noticing it,” Wood writes. He continues… “Crow has statues of fallen dictators in his yard, and those baffle outsiders. But I remember that Goff’s, the burger joint down the street from my house, had a statue of Lenin out front…” Crow keeps his collection out of view from the general public. It’s an interesting contrast with a statue in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle which also attracts controversy. This one is privately owned and on private property, but in full view for a confused public. Incidentally, the neighborhood’s motto is “Libertas Quirkas” — freedom to be peculiar.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s