“I like money on the wall. Say you were going to buy a $200,000 painting. I think you should take that money, tie it up, and hang it on the wall. Then when someone visited you, the first thing they would see is the money on the wall.”–The Philosophy of Andy Warhol
Manipulating a representation of some estimated value until it delivers insane dividends to a group of privileged investors appears to be a skill shared by Wall Street and Warhol, whose 200 One Dollar Bills sold for $43.8 million at Sotheby’s last week.
My understanding of moral hazard is slippery (is it possessing information that is used to the detriment of others or is it engaging in risky behavior based on a presumption of protection?)–more intuitive than precise–but the phrase makes me think that sales like these must stick in the craw of Joe Simons and others who have been prevented from partaking in Warholian currency while folks like Larry Gagosian, Peter Brant, and Jose Mugrabi swim in it.
To read more about the superfreakonomic, morally hazardous accusations that underscore Simons’s lawsuit against the Warhol Foundation, read Richard Dorment’s “What is an Andy Warhol? in last month’s New York Review of Books and “Authenticating Andy Warhol,” an article I wrote for ARTnews in 2004.
Strikingly, on the day that 200 One Dollar Bills went on the block, a front-page article in the New York Times questioned the ethics of the New Museum of Contemporary Art for its decision to turn the museum into a private showcase for mega-collector and New Museum Trustee Dakis Joannou and his favorite art star/investment/yacht painter Jeff Koons, who has been engaged to curate the exhibition of Joannou’s holdings.
“Sure, I am a trustee. Would it be different if I weren’t? Some people may think some things,” Joannou told the Times. “For me, it’s a nonissue. I know who I am and what I am doing.”
In the NYT ArtsBeat blog, Deborah Sontag, an author of the Times article, took a stab at revealing the “dizzyingly insular circle of art world insiders” and their connections to programming at the New Museum. I propose an addition to Sontag’s list – Pauline Karpidas, the seller of 200 One Dollar Bills (she paid $385,000 for it at Sotheby’s in 1986–lucky girl), a major benefactor of the New Museum, and a neighbor of Joannou’s in Hydra, Greece, whose most recent Hydra Workshop was devoted to Joannou-collectible Nate Lowman (with Mary-Kate Olsen in tow). In 2005, the featured artist of Karpidas’s Hydra Workshop was Urs Fischer, another Joannou collectible and the subject of the New Museum’s current exhibition. As Jerry Saltz points out, Fischer is represented by Gavin Brown who has secured exhibitions at the New Museum for four of his artists in the last two years.
But at least someone out there (who are the Erasers? perhaps these guys?) has a sense of humor: www.dakisjoannou.com. So, apparently, does society scribe Christopher Mason (eh hem): The Bowery’s New Museum Song.