Vincent van Gogh’s birthday in 2005. Art and money

This video is called Amsterdam, Netherlands: Van Gogh’s Life and Art.

This blog post is from last year, from Dear Kitty ModBlog, recovered through the Google cache.

Today Vincent van Gogh’s birthday. Art and money Linking: 40 Comments: 46

Date: 3/30/05 at 9:56AM

Mood: Looking Playing: Painter man, by Creation

Today is the birthday of famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.

Part of his life he lived among the miners of the Borinage region in Belgium. He was on their side in their fight against poverty.

He died poor himself. He managed to sell just one of his paintings during his life, for little money.

However, after his death, in a cruel twist of economical mechanisms, he became an artist off whom some people made very much money.

Van Gogh was not atypical in this.

Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad of 6 May 2004 published a Top 10 of most expensive works of art. Paintings, all of them.

The most expensive one of all, by Pablo Picasso, was sold for 104,1 million $.

In the Top 10 are 4 works by Pablo Picasso. An artist with far more luck than many others, in that appreciation already came during his lifetime.

So, compared to the overwhelming majority of artists, he was able to live well from his art. Still, he was much less of a millionaire than the speculators dealing in his work after his death. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is widely seen as one of the most influential paintings, maybe even the most influential painting, of the twentieth century. Yet its maker got only 25,000 French francs for it, from a wealthy fashion designer. In 1937, The Museum of Modern Art in New York bought it for 28,000 dollars. While if some art dealer would sell the painting today, he would sell it for tens of millions of dollars.

As a French communist party member, Picasso opposed capitalism.

Pablo Picasso, Guernica

And what would he have said, if he knew that the copy of his anti-war painting Guernica, at the United Nations building in New York City as a warning, was covered up as “too realistic” during the 2003 speech by then United States Secretary of State Colin Powell?

The speech in which Powell preached war against Iraq, “because of Weapons of Mass Destruction” which did not exist (as Powell himself conceded later)?

One work by Rubens in the Top 10; sold for 76,7 million $. Also Rubens could live reasonably well from his art (and his job as a diplomat), but he certainly wasn’t a millionaire.

Also one painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Was poor during the first half of his life. Had some more luck later, though also not becoming a millionaire.

Also in the Top 10: three paintings by Vincent van Gogh, most after Picasso. We already discussed the cruel paradox of his life and work.

Last year, a distant relative of Vincent, Theo van Gogh, was killed in Amsterdam. See this article.

Completing the Top Ten of “rich” paintings, also 1 work by Paul Cézanne. Who, 56 years after his birth and 11 years before his death, could at last exhibit his paintings for the first time. Also he did not get rich by his art.

Others, who did not even contribute one drop of paint, did get rich off his art after his death.

One more example of the poor painters-“rich paintings” paradox.

And today, about a century after Cézanne and Van Gogh?

“Don’t give up your day job, a report released last November into the economic circumstances of professional artists in Australia, reveals that the overwhelming majority of artists are living in dire poverty.” See here.

More on art and economy and society: John Berger: here.

Basquiat Painting Sells for Historic $110.5 Million At Sotheby’s Auction. Work breaks record for most ever paid at auction for an American artist: here.

Julio Gonzalez and Picasso: here.

Mark Vallen: here.

On LA County Museum of Art: here.

On Judge Scalia: here.

On Andy Warhol: here. And here.

John Molyneux on Warhol: here.

The announcement by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts that it has sealed a deal with Christie’s to liquidate its remaining art holdings of reportedly 20,000 works has left many people scratching their heads. The foundation bearing the name of one of the most influential artist of our times intends to own none of his art? Here.

Yours for $200 Million: How Warhol overtook Picasso to become the most prized artist of the 20th century..

David Walsh: here; and here.

Rodin and Camille Claudel: here.

From ABC News:

LONDON Jun 20, 2005 — Monkey business proved to be lucrative Monday when paintings by Congo the chimpanzee sold at auction for more than $25,000.

The three abstract, tempera paintings were auctioned at Bonhams in London alongside works by impressionist master Renoir and pop art provocateur Andy Warhol.

But while Warhol’s and Renoir’s work didn’t sell, bidders lavished attention on Congo’s paintings.

Contemporary Chinese artist Yue Minjun and money: here.

Damien Hirst, art, and money: here.

“My transcription of Francis D. Klingender’s pamphlet, Marxism and Modern Art: An approach to social realism is now available at the Marxist Internet Archive”: here.

Picasso Sets New Auction Record: here.

The 10 most expensive paintings ever sold. A Gauguin painting has sold for a reported $300m, making it the most expensive painting ever sold. See how it compares with other pricey paintings that have sold for vast sums: here.

GOT A COOL $450 MILLION? Then you too can afford to buy “lost” Leonardo da Vinci paintings. [HuffPost]

Nick Wright reflects on the life and work of the influential Marxist art historian and theorist HANS HESS, who died 40 years ago today: here.

79 thoughts on “Vincent van Gogh’s birthday in 2005. Art and money

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  4. Monday 14th August 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    This week, the MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY explains how capitalism turned art into a commodity and gave rise to the cult of the artist

    MOST Marxists would say that the worth someone sees in a work of art such as a painting, or the pleasure they get from it — in its original or as a reproduction — is above all else an individual matter, not something that “experts” (Marxist or otherwise) can or should pronounce upon.

    And while experts can enhance that pleasure, for example by explaining the technique and methodology of the composition of a painting, this is no more the exclusive province of a Marxist than a commentary on the technical skills embodied in the design or manufacture of a washing machine.

    However, a Marxist approach may help to deepen the appreciation or understanding of an artwork by revealing the historical context of its production and the relation of a work of art or of an artist to society.

    Art, just as any other human activity, is always created within a specific social and historical context. This is why Marxists argue that one can only fully begin to appreciate and understand a work of art by examining it in relation to the conditions of its creation.

    A fruitful starting point for discussion is a materialist view — looking at the production and consumption of art, the position of artists in relation to different classes, and the conflicts embodied in a work of art and in the history of which it is a part.

    Ernst Fischer’s seminal essay The Necessity of Art (1959) is a Marxist exposition of the central social function of art, from its origins in magic ritual, through organised religion, to its varied and contradictory roles within capitalism and its potential in building socialism.

    Fisher argued that cultural expression is characteristic of all human societies and that while art and society are intimately connected, the former is not merely a passive reflection of the latter. The relationship is a dialectical one. Marx himself declared: “The object of art, like any other product, creates an artistic and beauty-enjoying public. Production thus produces not only an object for the individual, but also an individual for the object.”

    Art (as in painting, on canvas) is sometimes presented as the highest point in the development of “civilised” culture. But the concept of art — especially oil paintings, on transportable framed canvas — is specifically a product of capitalism, personified in the Florentine artist Giotto, “the first bourgeois painter” of the Renaissance and his successors.

    Under the patronage of the Medici and other nouveau riche Italian patrician families, the “artisan” workmanship of frescos on church walls or decorated altarpieces was superseded by the moveable (and marketable) canvas. In short, it was commodified. People no longer wanted a “Madonna” or a “Descent from the Cross” but a Leonardo da Vinci, a Michelangelo or a Bellini. The cult of art and the artist was born.

    Yet it was not until the 18th century that the distinction between “artisan” and “artist” became fixed. Even today people can be heard asking — of everything from the Lascaux cave paintings to some suburban topiary — “But is it Art?”

    High art, of course, also produced its supposed antithesis — the artist in his garret (women artists were to a degree excluded from the equation), suffering, sometimes starving in the cause of art, unless they are lucky enough to be “discovered,” often only after death. With capitalism, for the first time the artist became a “free” artist, a “free” personality, free to the point of absurdity, of icy loneliness. Art became an occupation that was half-romantic, half-commercial.”

    Even when art is oppositional, capitalism has an uncanny knack of appropriating it.

    Banksy’s graffiti, a determinedly uncommercial form of art “for the people” (maybe a modern equivalent of the Lascaux paintings?) is now “in the gallery” — decidedly a collector’s item with a price tag to match. Another (dead) graffiti artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1981 depiction of a skull was auctioned in May this year for more than $100 million.

    And the Royal Academy’s recent exhibition of Russian revolutionary art was accompanied by vicious (and ignorant) curating — presumably to disabuse any who might otherwise have been inspired by the works on display.

    Within capitalism, as its crisis deepens, “high art” (provided it is portable, saleable, in a word, alienable) is — next to land and other property — one of the best investments that there is.

    An example is Sir Edwin Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen, which was “saved” for the nation in March at a cost of £4m paid to its owner, the multinational drinks conglomerate Diageo (which made profits last year of £2.1 billion, 15 per cent up on the previous year). The company graciously agreed to accept just half of the paintings “estimated value” of £8m. More than half of this money came from the National Lottery, sometimes described as a “hidden tax on the poor.”

    Paul Gauguin would ask his agent what “the stupid buying public” would pay most for and then adjusted his output accordingly. His When Will You Marry?, painted in 1882, presents a romanticised view of Tahiti. It sold for $300m in 2015 — topped only by de Kooning’s Interchange last year.

    The majority of artists, and their artworks of course, never reach such dizzy heights.

    And millions of “ordinary” people derive great satisfaction from their own creative endeavours.

    The role of the artist in society remains a complex subject and one for discussion.

    However it is clear that art and artists are important and that artistic freedom and license are crucial.

    In both the appreciation, understanding and, indeed, production of art, and whether you love or loathe his own designs, one assertion that all socialists would surely agree with is that of the communist William Morris, who declared: “I do not want art for a few; any more than education for a few; or freedom for a few.”


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