CH­RO­NICLES OF AN UNDERCOVER RE­POR­TER FROM LON­DON TO MÁ­LA­GA

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By Ni­co­las Trem­bley, pho­to by Jes­si­ca Craig-Mar­tin Jen­ny Sa­ville has be­come the most ex­pen­sive li­ving wo­man ar­tist in the wor ld. Prop­ped, her 1992 nude self- por­trait, made over $12 mil­lion at a sale that has al­rea­dy gone down in the an­nals, held at So­the­by’s in Lon­don at the be­gin­ning of Oc­to­ber. The new ow­ner is a Rus­sian in­ves­tor, but wo­men still cost less than their male col­leagues. The re­cord hol­der is Geor­gia O’Keeffe, one of whose can­vases sold for over $ 44 mil­lion at a 2014 sale in New York, al­most 30 years af­ter her death. O’Keeffe ca­te­go­ri­cal­ly re­fu­sed all “fe­mi­nine” in­ter­pre­ta­tion of her work ( which most­ly fea­tu­red flo­wers), just like Elaine Stur­te­vant, who de­ci­ded to drop her first name in or­der to “de­gen­der” her oeuvre, both see­king pa­ri­ty with their male coun­ter­parts.

I f the So­the­by’s sale went straight down in his­to­ry, it’s not so much be­cause of Sa­ville but ra­ther be­cause of the Bank­sy hul­la­bal­loo. Just as one of his dra­wings was ham­me­red down at over £1 mil­lion, it par­tial­ly self- des­truc­ted, cau­sing consi­de­rable conster­na­tion among the au­dience and auc­tio­neers. A pa­per shred­der had been hid­den in the frame, which was pre­su­ma­bly set off by so­me­bo­dy present in the sales room just as that night’s mas­ter of ce­re­mo­nies, Mr. Branc­zik, cried “Sold!” Ever yone thought that So­the­by’s was in on the stunt and that the whole thing was a sort of hoax in­ten­ded to in­crease the work’s va­lue and ge­ne­rate pu­bli­ci­ty for the ar­tist, who usual­ly ex­presses him­self through street art and whose prices have re­cent­ly been going up. On his Ins­ta­gram ac­count, Bank­sy pos­ted a vi­deo of the shred­ding me­cha­nism, which, at the time of wri­ting, has been vie­wed over ten- mil­lion times. It was ac­com­pa­nied by a quo­ta­tion from Pi­cas­so: “The urge to des­troy is al­so a crea­tive urge.”

It’s not the first time that an auc­tion “tro­phy” has been pu­bli­cly

des­troyed and af­ter­wards in­crea­sed in va­lue. In 2006, Steve Wynn, the Las Ve­gas ca­si­no ma­gnate, who was about to sell Pi­cas­so’s pain­ting Le Rêve, ma­na­ged to put his el­bow through it as he was sho­wing it to friends. A contract that had al­rea­dy been si­gned with a buyer for $139 mil­lion had to be can­cel­led and the pain­ting wi­th­drawn from sale. Af­ter its res­to­ra­tion, the can­vas, which had en­joyed consi­de­rable me­dia ex­po­sure be­cause of the ac­ci­dent, went for $155 mil­lion, i.e. $16 mil­lion more than the ori­gi­nal as­king price.

Tal­king of Pi­cas­so, he’s eve­ryw­here right now, in­clu­ding in Má­la­ga, where the lo­cal Pi­cas­so mu­seum ce­le­bra­ted its 15th bir­th­day with a sym­po­sium about the Má­la­ga­born mas­ter and the theme of his­tor y. The Fun­da­ción Al­mine y Ber­nard Ruiz- Pi­cas­so pa­ra el arte ( FA­BA), which is run by the ar­tist’s grand­son and his wife, the gal­le­rist Al­mine Rech, had in­vi­ted do­zens of spe­cia­lists ( in­clu­ding all the di­rec­tors of the world’s Pi­cas­so mu­seums, of which there are quite a few) as well as their friends and fa­mi­ly, among them Ira von Fürs­ten­berg, Jean Pi­goz­zi and Pa­lo­ma Pi­cas­so.

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