Auction Ennui

Million-Dollar Bargain

The Daily Pic: At Christie's mega-sale, a work by Afro resists the masterpiece theory of art.

11.15.12 10:31 PM ET

This is “Porta Portese”, painted by the Italian artist called Afro in 1964, and my favorite work in last night’s record-breaking auction at Christie’s, about which I ranted on today’s Daily Beast. (And last night, live, on Twitter.) This Afro was the only unexpected work on offer, by an artist few people at Christie’s had  ever heard of and whose auction record was a paltry $1 million dollars. (Only Elizabeth Peyton had a - barely - lower auction history.) That means “Porta Portese”, which sold for $938,500 – or one fortieth of last night’s price for Franz Kline – offered an antidote to yet another noxious effect of splashy auction records: Their tendency to concentrate attention on a handful of “geniuses”, as though they’re all that could matter in art. The danger is that, under the pressure of auction headlines, new-minted collectors are now more likely to buy a lousy Warhol, as they wait to afford a better one, than something great by someone who’s not so well known.  Forza Afro.

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