Marla Painted That

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com / Personal / Chat / Favorites / Art /

My kid painted that? Marvelous Marla painted that. I’ve heard of Marla Olmstead, last night was my first watching of the documentary on her. Complex subject, art: complex girl, family, market …history. I’ll scribble this and that but let me get straight to the wrinkle that irked me into launching this blab: it has to do with the complexity of the fine art market more than anything specific to do with Marla or this doc:

Marla Olmstead
thanx sundersartwork

The documentary brings up the subject of the uneasy truce between modern art and the art market. What makes a Jackson Pollock painting great can be explained, but not to anyone not at ease with abstract expressionism, Pollock paintings, Pollock prices … art, physics, fractals … Just say to someone who does know what fractals are, Look at Pollock, fractal! and let the companion take it from there. One you see it, if you hadn’t already, no price is too high. The first Pollock I ever saw was Autumn Rhythm in the Met, 1958, ’60. Jezz, it grabbed me: and I wouldn’t hear of fractals for another twenty-five years! I was writing them though! Especially after 1982, ’83: still a few years before the fractal book got written: I bought it in Fort Lauderdale, out by the ‘Glades, mid-’80s.

Notice, people whom Harvard would not hire to explain what “art” means, don’t hesitate to pass judgment on what is art, what isn’t … to set prices, to be indignant … Does the same moron who accepts Rafael or Rembrandt as “art” but slams the door against Pollock, deKooning, Rothko believe themselves qualified to dictate prices at a Van Gogh auction? Do they interject their opinions at Ford board meetings, setting the prices for trucks?

Furthermore: 60 Minutes covered Marla’s paintings, made a big issue of whether or not Marla had any assistance or interference in painting. It was hinted strongly that her father gave her pushes, shoves, guidance. Can’t prove he didn’t, but so what? What does that have to do with the quality of the work? Leonardo had people assisting around his studio, of course he could have heard somebody urge him to do thus and so with the Mona Lisa … No matter what was said should it affect wither the Mona Lisa, at auction, should open and five hundred million? or a billion point five?

Here’s something obvious: the father provided big canvas for her to paint on. Bigger canvas than you could expect a three year old to stretch and gesso for herself. Complex source, complex market. What right did 60 Minutes have to sabotage that family?

Also, the family was justifying her $250,000 in earnings from her paintings as in her college fund: why should this neat artist want to go to college? what college would be worthy of her tuition?

Now, angle in something genuinely fraudulent: Wolfgang Beltracchi’s work. He forged “original” Max Ernst. Say a real Ernst of a given size might autction for $80,000. $20,000,000, I don’t know. However much, why should the Baltracchi auction also for a good price? $40,000 anyway. Why not for more than the real Ernst: the fake is also a work of art: an original however much a fraud.

It wouldn’t embarrass me to sell a Beltracci Ernst for $40,000.

Understand, I’ve been in one or another form of art business since 1958 when I sold pre-Colombian pottery. In 1974 I was selling multiple serigraphs for $600, $1,200 … By 1979 I had Vickrey lithographs for $750. I would proudly have sold a Marla Olmstead for “$10,000”, or $25,000: yes, working through her local guy, the photo realist. I’d proudly sell it whether the father had given her hints or not. And the painting of Marla’s that 60 Minutes insulted? That should sell for $100,000!

I repeat: I once said to Will Barnet, the great Will Barnet, as we were strolling up Madison Avenue, 1974. I said, Any work of art has three values: 1) there’s the value that creating it created for the artist: that may be incommunicable. 2) there’s the value it might generate in the owner on buying it. & 3) there’s the market value, what you can sell it for: and the three values have

nothing to do with each other!

Will said, That’s profound. He agreed, in scope and detail.

Consider the case where Dali walks into his studio, shows an assistant something he’s scribbled on a cocktail napkin, says to the assistant, I want this in teak, 30 x 40, and varnished … Dali goes out for a drink, comes back, sees the assignment completed, signs it … Is it a Dali? Of course it is.

I repeat further, I once watercolored a Cuca Romley etching. She told me she’d do the clouds and the meadow, I could do all else since I was doing such a good job, far better than she or I had expected. It would up I did 80% of that particular graphic; but it was still 100% Cuca Romley. It didn’t matter what the assistant had done.

Now: what if the museium is looking for a Leonard actuallly painted by Giuseppi? Well maybe the Giuseppi Leonardo should be worth more than the plain Leonardo. It depends on that day’s / year’s / century’s market.
Imagine an artist in Napoleon’s France who does etchings that he sells for ten francs. Now imagine Napoleon spilling cognac on one! That particular etching the artist tries to peddle for twenty francs: spilled on by Napoleon.

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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