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Entries in scream (1)


An Appeal to the Government of Qatar


Basket Case (11 x14 watercolours on Cold Press paper)


The LA Times reports Eduard Munch's iconic 1895 painting The Scream fetched just shy of $120 million last night at a Sotheby's auction in New York. That was $40 million over the expected hammer price and is apparently the highest price for an auctioned artwork in history.


To put this in perspective, you could buy at least 120 of my paintings for that kind of money. You also could fund the activities of the National Rifle Association for an entire year or pay off the 2013 debt of the State of Rhode Island. Your choice.


Personally, let me express disappointment that so little has been said about the purchaser of The Scream, which I note is executed in pastel and therefore not likely to last very long since it's really just glorified crayon.


Most pertinent question

For a painter - or as the French would say peintre - the issue of who paid $120 million seems the most pertinent question. If someone is prepared to spend that much on a painting, I want to know exactly who and where they are so that I can immediately get my work in front of their quite obviously gentle and discerning retinal palette.


Who then are they? I'm thinking of one singularly astute New York investment banker who purchased a painting called Northwest Angle from me a couple of years ago. But no, I think not even he, a gentleman greatly esteemed and very high in my eyes, would have the fiscal wherewithal to buy the Munch.


So, really, who bought The Scream? After sale reports suggest the government of Qatar might have taken it up for a museum that’s to open there in 2014. Other names that have come up: billionaires Leonard Blavatnik and Paul Allen.


State of the art market

And what might this record-setting development say about the state of the art market? In my experience, based on the attempted sale of 40 of my acrylics and watercolours at Studio 317 last November, such sensational auction prices tend to be specific to a select group of artworks and a narrow range of marquee artists, and are not suggestive of broader trends in the market.


I am nonetheless a glass-half-full painter, and hopeful. According to Forbes magazine, there have been works fetching even higher prices than The Scream on the private market. Greek shipping magnate George Embiricos supposedly sold his Cezanne painting, Card Players, last year for $250 million. Embiricos died last fall and we therefore cannot shake him down to substantiate this. But no one has stepped forward to claim ownership of the piece, though it’s been reported that the government of Qatar was the buyer.


All this has me thinking about security considerations for my inventory of unsold works. I mean paintings are just languishing around in the basement studio. They are not locked up or even in Class 3 air-conditioned archival storage space. They are there. And there are hundreds of them.


Charcoal nudes

I took safety precautions in the spring of 2012 when concern arose that some framed works might be damaged in the spring melt if we had seepage. But that did not transpire and of course we were glad for that. Because like the newspapers with which Samuel Beckett's Molloy swathed himself to protect the rear of his trousers against farts, there are hundreds of paintings lining my studio walls, along with dozens of graphite and charcoal nudes on paper, and they all offer excellent insulation value as temperatures plummet around here between October and April.


Still, let me tell you, winter survival techniques notwithstanding, security concerns are nonetheless real. My well-loved colleague Edward B. Gordon had the traumatic experience a couple of years ago of having several of his paintings stolen from a Berlin gallery. I don't recall if Edward's works ever were recovered but I do know that little could mitigate his sense of violation at the time.


A confession: it has occurred to me that should I be forced to endure similar trauma at the theft of one of my works, that the ensuing pain might be assuaged somewhat by the almost certain knowledge that the value of the remaining inventory would increase, once word got out that my art was worth stealing.


I want to say though, here and now, that I'm more concerned about misplacing a work, or having the cat vomit on it, than having artwork pilfered.


This is a real issue because more than one serious art collector has inquired about one or another of my works that they have spotted in an online gallery or via the wonders of Google. And it has taken me days of anxious rummaging to find whether I still have the work in question, and after that, to examine it for size, media, condition, and for its overall existential merit before delivering a reply.


So should our inbox ping today with a query, say from the Government of Qatar, you should know that we promise to shake dust from your future acquisition as quickly as greased pastel - and undertake to hastily deliver once payment has cleared and the cash is reposing, all warm and snugly, in our account.


(Image: Basket Case 14 x 12 watercolours on Cold Press paper)