See that photo up there? The one above these words? The one with the grass, and the little concrete bike path or something, and then more grass, and the water, and then even more grass, and then a gorgeous overcast fall sky on the horizon? Pretty nice, huh? Perfectly-composed, a nice range of colors and textures, could maybe make a nice desktop background or something. Or, you know, if you wanted the original to frame in your house you could buy it.
For $4.3 million dollars.
That's what the untitled photo, by artist Andreas Gursky, sold for at an auction last week, breaking the months-old record of a Cindy Sherman photo going for $3.89 million. Now, there's no accounting for taste, and the art-buying world's one where actual value means nowhere near as much as perceived future value, so it's tough to justify or condemn this price. But, still. How does a photo sell for so much? Jakob Schiller at Wired has a possible explanation:
A gallery professional, who asked not to be named for concern over adverse professional repercussions, thinks the price is a bit of a farce. He says he’s noticed a growing trend where photographers are working hard to re-brand themselves as “artists” so they can sell their pieces in the higher-priced fine art markets that don’t traditionally trade in photography. This sale, he said, smacks of that change.
While he tries to take a balanced approach and realize that any sale of this kind has the potential to reflect positively on the medium of photography, he also said it’s important to call a spade a spade and avoid turning photography into something it’s not.
So, you know, maybe if you're looking to buy art, get yourself a guaranteed earner like one of those old-school legit paintings. Meanwhile, my own theory for how this happened: someone stretched at the wrong time during the auction. That's how it always happens in sitcoms.