Edvard Munch's existential icon The Scream shattered auction records several nights ago. After months of buildup and a televised diss by New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, The Scream's 1895 pastel (the sole version of four not owned by a museum) sold at Sotheby's for $120 million. Guests posited whether or not it will be headed to Qatar. Me, I wondered if I'd ever see it in person.
I have complicated feelings toward owning art. I “get” that galleries show sellable commodities, a few of which may enter a museum's permanent collection. Most disappear to private collectors, until they return to the auction block or the unpredictable exhibition loan. And I'm not the type who entertains many invitations to visit these collectors' homes, if you know what I'm saying.
Nor am I immune to art-lust. I discovered, waffled about, and ultimately missed my first chance at ownable art in the two-artist show “Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers” at Jonathan LeVine Gallery. I was infatuated withJonathan Viner's ennui-immersed canvas The Fluidity of Power, and for like two minutes I had a shot at it. Stymied both by the price and the thought of fitting the huge thing in my tiny studio, I capitulated. I'm still kicking myself.
I am reminded of one of literature's most scene-stealing artworks: Hans Holbein the Younger's hauntingly skinny painting The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb. It captivated Fyodor Dostoevsky and is a mortal catalyst in The Idiot, where the plot shifts from rosy-glassed Prince Myshkin laughing with the cute Yepanchin girls to tormented Rogozhin musing about putting a knife in somebody. By positioning a copy of this grotesque masterpiece in Rogozhin's flat, the characters effectively splinter into darker realms. Who knows how it would've gone down if they encountered Holbein in Kunstmuseum Basel, where Dostoevsky saw it in 1867 and where it permanently hangs?
I'm mulling another mood-maker: Fix Me Doll by Tokyo-based artist Trevor Brown. It's a 180 from Holbein but right up my aesthetic alley. I've been a fan of Brown's subversive style for years and wear several tattoos inspired by his work. Fix Me Doll was in Brown's latest show in Ginza, Tokyo's Span Art Gallery, and the clock is ticking before another hardcore fan snags it.
Totally more attainable than The Scream, and perhaps more fun to look at? Ah, I'll probably wuss out.