Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Rothko – what makes the art market tick

A painting sold for a stupendous price of $72.84 million at an auction at the Sotheby, New York on May 16, 2007. I was introduced to this bit of information while watching an old Documentary.  We generally accept that art can be very expensive but this work by Rothko baffled me completely.

Name of the Artwork: White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)
Dimensions: 6’- 9” X 4’ – 8”
Painted in: 1950
Style: Color field – Abstract Expressionism
Name of Artist: Mark Rothko (Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz) An American painter of Russian Jewish descent. 25 September 1903 to 25 February 1970.

I gathered these information but miserably failed to equate the product with its price tag and decided to dig deeper.

Expressionism was an artistic movement of the mid-twentieth century where the artists were at the liberty to convey attitudes and emotions through nontraditional and usually non representation means (Merriam Webster). Tate org further elaborates that this new forms of abstract art was developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning during the 1940s & 1950s. It is often characterized by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making and the impression of spontaneity. They were inspired by the surrealist idea that art should come from the unconscious mind and by the automatism of artist. 

They were broadly classified into two groups:

Action painter – they attacked their canvases with expressive brush strokes. (Jackson Pollock & Willem Kooning.)

Color field painters – filled their canvases with large areas of a single color. (Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman & Clyfford Still)

Now I have a description for our painting. A "color field abstract expressionism" with “superposed color bands of uneven size with blurry edges”.

But I still had my puzzle unresolved. After more deliberation, I found an answer that was somewhat acceptable. 

“Value is not the only link to quality” and there are other factors that influences the value.

In this market where high value art are traded, name of its former owner is as important as the artist and his/her piece of work. The provenance is important.

This particular work of art has been glamorized by its provenance. It was part of the collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller. Part of one of the most powerful family if not the most powerful family in the history of the United States.

The bottom line therefore is "billionaires love to own property of fellow billionaires".

Since then, there were two more similar works by Rothko sold in auctions. Both could be attributed to the "color field - Abstract Expressionism" school.

Orange, Red, Yellow
Sold at Christie on 8 May 2012 for $ 86.88 million
Painting No 1 (Royal Red and Blue)
Sold at Sotheby on November 2012 for $ 75.1 million

 All images has been downloaded from Wikipedia. In case your are interested to glance at the list of Most Expensive Paintings please click the link.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Somenath, Friends, Hostel 16, Campus life, Et al.

It was 11th May 2015 and I was sitting on an airplane traveling to Kolkata to meet Somenath’s family. Memories of the past 20 years came rushing to my mind like a giant waterfall the realization that life is a one way traffic got me thinking. Somenath was one of my closest friends and has now left us forever on the 9th. Kolkata, I knew will never be the same place again. I argued with myself “wouldn’t it be a great way to remember a friend by sharing some of those golden moments with rest of the world.”  The opportunity to re-live those moments once again got me tempted to this narration. I knew the word processor would help me bring back incidents from deep inside my memory lanes.

Our college experience would have been half as interesting had it not for Somenath. With him around there were hardly a dull moment and fortunately for us, he was always around. No matter how grave the situation was, it was never serious enough to be serious. For those who do not know, he was perhaps one of the most enterprising entrepreneur that our alma mater has ever seen. But he has paid a stiff price for this phenomenal success.
We joined hostel 16 of B. E. College, Shibpur, young, vulnerable and most of us coming out of our home for the very first time. We needed hands to hold. We also wanted to break out of the stereotype of departmental friendship and formed a group with enough diversity to set an example. Ten close friends settled in adjacent rooms in one of the wing.
What we did made little sense and at times those were so blatantly stupid that we could have given the three stooges a run for their money. As time passed, likeminded students from new batches got indoctrinated and the tribe increased and our legacy continued even after we left. To put it in an expression of Majrooh sultanpuri ….
“Hum akela hi chala tha jaanib-e-manzil; magar log sath aate gae aur karwan banta gaya... “
Colleges and hostels, all around the world, have been fertile grounds for lifelong friendship. So many friends tied in a single string like us probably is not as common. They say university builds our wings so that someday we can fly away and live independently. We were became the birds of same feather who continued to flock together even since. Staring out at the clouds outside the window, I promised that even death would not do us apart.
Our time together
Political parties during those days played a significant role in the campus and often ended in dangerous confrontation. We did not shy away from openly expressing our political affiliation or participating in political activities. But politics never came between our friendships. Three amongst our ten close friends fiercely fought the college elections representing the two most dominating political parties of our time, CP (Congress) and SFI (Left Front).  This could easily have qualified as one of the seven wonders of BE College.
Creativity may come in many forms and shades but Nicknames has its own place in the history. I have not seen another maestro like Somenath, with such versatility when it came to assigning creative names that instantly caught up with the general public.
 Madness in boy’s hostel is not a myth and I got the first taste of it quite early in my first year. A senior student was nicknamed khyapa for his eccentricity and he carefully cultured it as if to live up to his reputation. One night after dinner, we got called up to participate in a daring mission impossible…. so to say. We were excited and proud to be considered worthy of being part of that yet to be disclosed mission. Later that night he led us to a crazy mission to fox with mosquito nets. To the amusement of anyone who was still awake at that late hours, we ended up roaming the campus holding the four corners of mosquito nets desperately looking for a fox to trap. We were constantly encouraged by repeatedly swearing and description successful past missions. But over the years, we realized that those jackals whom we heard growling from our rooms never came anywhere near the students, leave alone getting wrapped in a mosquito net.
A year later, another such late night mission to steal sugarcane ended up in switching off the main power of other hostels and getting into unnecessary troubles.
Our campus was engulfed with thick smoke one night and we panicked remembering Bhopal gas leak. One of the professors advised us to run to the botanical gardens as it was an open area with plenty of trees. While that decision was questionable during that night, we proceeded in that direction. We ran out of the campus in our pajamas and bathroom slippers eager to save our precious lives.
Soon we were joined by a couple of batch mates wearing trousers with shirts tucked, shoes and the whole nine yards. They cleared our astonishment stating that it was not about being stylish. There was a fair chance that the girls from the ladies hostels were also going to join us too and a few more minutes to dress up properly was a risk worth taking.
Golden Heart:
We all were compassionate to others but he was special. Not because he was one of my roommate and the closest friend but because he was a person with a golden heart. He was always there to help others and everyone used to love him for that. During the time when we used to count our pennies to manage our finances, he used to pick up the canteen bills of hostel mates coming from difficult background spending money he used to earn providing private tuitions to school students.
RIP Somenath, we shall always miss you!

 ‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’ 
08 August 2017