Surely, You Jest, Professor Hammock?

August 7, 2013

Recently I received a link from a friend. The video gave me pause and clearly my friend, a professional sixty-one year old artist, was upset over the absurdity of it. The child in question, Kieron Williamson, while not untalented, is no genius. The paintings are B flat landscapes which were they done by an adult would, if they sold at all, go for a fraction, very small fraction, of what Williamson received. I am happy for him and his parents. I can see by the video of him playing football with his chums that he is just a normal boy who in his spare time flogs paintings for ₤50,000 a pop. His lifetime earnings, all five years of it, far outstrip that of most famous Canadian artists that come to mind.

Of course, if I were one of his parents, I would take the money and run and hope that kid keeps turning them out. I would set up a trust fund in his name, which I am sure has been done as ₤1,500,000 is a lot of money, but that begs the question that something is really wrong with the art market. The old adage of a fool and his money or victimless crime spring to mind. If somebody is stupid enough to pay that kind of money for mediocre art who am I to stop them and Williamson’s paintings seem to be a bargain compared to the idiot who paid eleven and a half million quid for British artist Peter Doig’s maybe canoe painting. What’s with these Brits like Doig and Hurst, leaving wunderkind Williamson aside, who make so much with so little talent? I am fully prepared to be proven wrong by history. If fifty years from now these artists and their works are deemed masterpieces by masters, you may use my name as an example of a narrow minded twit who didn’t know genius when it was in front of him. Of course, I will be dead for at least thirty years by then and sticks and stones may my hurt my bones, but names will never hurt me.

Durer-self-portrait-at-the-age-of-thirteenI am not against child genius artists, Albrecht Durer turned out a pretty wicked silverpoint self-portrait at the age of thirteen and Mozart was knocking them dead at seven. I would like to think that they were exceptional, but I have been assured by many parents that I know, particularly university colleagues, that their children are all exceptional as well and destined for great things.Wolfgang-amadeus-mozart_2 A golden age will surely emerge and we will live in a bright new world. It’s too bad we couldn’t have all had exceptional children a few generations ago and the world would not be in the mess that it is in now. We should leave things to progress (Capitalism), leave old ideas and old people behind, as the future is always going to be better. I, like everyone else, can hardly wait for the iPhone6. Although, my iPhone4S is already smarter than I am, but it is not about using it, but owning it

Detroit, in case you have been living under a rock and missed it, has filed for bankruptcy. There is talk of having to sell off all its assets which included the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts. If there was ever a dumb idea this one would have to top the list. The Institute is (or was) one of North America’s greatest art museums with a collection to match its reputation. Yes, the collection is worth billions, but not nearly enough billions to get the city out hock. Once sold, they could never be bought back at a price the museum could afford, in fact the real masterpieces of the collection, if sold at auction, would not be affordable to other major institutions. The works would end up in the private collections of the same sort of morons who pay eleven million plus pounds for canoe paintings and, very likely, stored in vaults in Switzerland never to be seen again.

I understand that if I were relying on a pension from the city of Detroit and had the choice between continuing to get my pension or viewing masterpieces that I would opt for my pension and that is the way this issue is being played in the media. Would that it were it that simple. Money collected from the sale of assets in this sort of bankruptcy go first to the needy like the banks and bondholders with the pensioners far down the list. All in and all, not a happy picture and likely to end badly for all concerned. Perhaps, the best thing is not to think about any of the issues that I have raised and hope that they will go away. We have, after all, the world we deserve as we, in North American, at least, have elected the successive governments that have created this mess, our mess.

© Virgil Hammock, Sackville NB Canada, Sunday, 4 August, 2013.

One comment

  1. What’s offputting is the fact that market prices in situations like these seem to be detached from established critical structures or historical evaluation vis-a-vis auction results. A frenetic market for a frenetic time.

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