Auction Envy

Obviously, the most bizarre work in this afternoon’s Under the Influence auction at Phillips de Pury is the portrait of America’s Sweetfart (and I mean that in the best of ways) Stephen Colbert.

Really, if I had a few extra thousand dollars to spend on a piece of 21st-century pop culture, this would be a prime choice. With its comedic subject, mash-up nature and completely made-up medium (LOOKED-AT-EDNESS!), this picture is to art what Girl Talk is to music. I’m not saying it’s good; I’m not saying it’s bad; all I’m just saying is that both things make me want to get drunk and party. See kids? Auctions are cool.

But let’s get serious (relatively) for a minute—contrary to Mr. Colbert, there are other things in this auction, lots of other things, 286 lots of other things, to be exact. (Colbert is Lot 1, naturally.) And while I find much of this other stuff intriguing, I wouldn’t want to live with most of it. Francesco de Molfetta’s SNACK BAR-BIE quickly comes to mind…

Lot 227/ Francesco de Molfetta/ SNACK BAR-BIE, 2009/ Automotive paint on figerglass with vinyl doll parts and resin smallware/ Est. $3,000-$5,000

On second thought, This looks like Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal. I am no longer even intrigued. (Save for Jack Black’s singular “banana hands” comment to Tony Robbins, that movie was just terrible.)

But for real, there are a few really good things in this auction I want to point out, especially since these artists are still alive, meaning you don’t have to have made a Forbes list to bid. (Yes, the world of art is a macabre one, in which death is good for your stock.) Here are a few of my favorites:

Lot 189/ Clair Harvey/ Two Works: i) The Walk; ii) The Sticks, 2004/ Oil on canvas/ 10 x 13 3/4 in. each/ Est. $5,000-$7,000

Lot 50/ Sage Vaughn/ Cardinal, 2007/ Mixed media on linen/ 31 3/8 x 37 in./ Est. $10,000-$15,000

Lot 285/ Miltos Manetas/ Cables, 2007/ Oil on canvas/ 72 x 84 in./ Est. $3,000-$4,000

Lot 17/ Kehinde Wiley/ Fall, 2009/ Oil on canvas/ 72 x 60 in./ Est. $50,000-$70,000

OK, so that last one is pretty pricey, but then again this is the same painter whose phenomenal portrait of LL Cool J hangs in the National Portrait Gallery here in Washington, DC.

Clearly, the man’s shit is tight. He brings the best of the 18th century to the 21st century, with technique to make any aspiring artist green-patterned with jealousy. Do want. Happy bidding!

[All photos courtesy to Phillips de Pury & Company, except for the last one, which comes courtesy of the NPG.]


Lot 1—$26,000
Lot 227—$4,000
Lot 189—Bought in (didn’t sell)
Lot 50—Bought in
Lot 285—$5,250
Lot 17—$104,500

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