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Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Call It Extreme Collecting

I’ve always been fascinated by auctions, particularly those involving antiques, artworks by renowned artists (of any form/medium), and objects that were previously owned by or linked to famous and historic personalities.

Aside from the huge amounts of money that are involved in such auctions, I find most of the stories behind the auctioned items equally, or sometimes more, intriguing. Take the story of ‘Tres Personajes’ for instance.

In 2003, ‘Tres Personajes’, an abstract painting by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo, was found by a Manhattan resident in the trash during her morning walk. Although she did not know anything about modern art, she took the painting home because, according to her, she “knew it had power”. True enough, last month, the painting was sold for a little over a million dollars (US) at an auction. Following is the full Associated Press article:

Mexican painting found in NYC trash fetches more than US$1 million
Wed Nov 21, 10:54 AM ET

Tres Personajes

NEW YORK - A masterpiece by a Mexican artist that was found in the trash by a woman who knew little about modern art has been sold for more than US$1 million.

The painting "Tres Personajes," by Rufino Tamayo, was discovered in 2003 by Elizabeth Gibson, who spotted it on her morning walk on Manhattan's Upper West Side. She said she took it home because "even though I didn't understand it, I knew it had power."

The brightly coloured abstract work was purchased for $1,049,000 by an unidentified private American collector bidding by phone at Sotheby's Latin American Art sale on Tuesday night.

Gibson spent four years trying to find out about the painting, finally discovering on the "Antiques Roadshow" website that it had been featured on the popular PBS program and described as a missing masterpiece stolen in 1989.

Gibson has received a $15,000 reward for turning in "Tres Personajes" and also will get a percentage of the sale price.

Painted in 1970, "Tres Personajes" was purchased by a Houston collector for $55,000 as a gift for his wife at a Sotheby's auction in 1977. Ten years later, as the couple was moving to a new home, it was stolen from storage.

The husband has since died, and the widow, who wished to remain anonymous, has decided to sell it.

Tamayo was born in 1899 and died in 1991. His early work has similarities to that of famed 20th century mural Diego Rivera. His later work features the vivid colours and expressions of his native state of Oaxaca.

Then, there’s the one about Che Guevara’s hair.

Che Guevara hair sold at auction
BBC News - Last Updated: Friday, 26 October
2007, 04:02 GMT 05:02 UK

Che Guevara's hair

Strands of hair said to have been taken from the corpse of Ernesto Che Guevara by a former CIA operative have sold for $119,000 (£58,000) at auction.

It sold to the only bidder, who runs a bookshop near Houston, for the reserve price, plus a buyer's premium.

The Dallas sale prompted protests from Che's widow and his supporters.

The sale is not a first for Heritage Auction Galleries, which has sold locks from the heads of Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.

Bill Butler, 61, placed his bid by telephone for the 3-inch (8cm) strand of Che Guevara's hair.

In the same lot were photographs of the dead revolutionary's body and fingerprints taken after he was shot in Bolivia in 1967.

Mr Butler says he plans to display the hair at his bookshop.

Political icon

Heritage Auction Galleries had tightened security for the sale, because of fears of
protests from socialists unhappy that profits were being made from the revolutionary's death.

Che is considered an icon by left-wing movements, but critics accuse him of brutally executing his opponents.

An Argentine who became a Cuban guerrilla leader, the 39-year-old was tracked down and killed in the Bolivian jungle by a group of CIA-backed Bolivian soldiers on 9 October 1967.

A former CIA agent, Cuban-born Gustavo Villoldo, who oversaw Che's burial, said he removed the lock of hair and took photos and fingerprints as proof that the mission was completed.

It is these items which have now been auctioned.

Auctioneer Tom Slater said that Mr Villoldo was unhappy with the iconic status Che now has.

"He doesn't like the way Che has become a political icon, so he's anxious to get the whole story out," Mr Slater told the AFP news agency.

"He feels that Che was a murderer and a bandit and it was appropriate to hunt him down."

That’s for the “intriguing stories” part. For the “money” part, well, all I can say is if you were surprised at the US$1,000,000 price tag of “Tres Personajes”, your eyes might just pop out of their sockets when you find out about the “bigger” amounts that exchange hands during major auctions. Remember, we’re only talking about “antiques, artworks by renowned artists (of any form/medium), and objects that were previously owned by or linked to famous and historic personalities”, so, auctions that involve company/stock mergers and real properties are excluded here. Auctions of these things, by the way, involve money that amount to several billions of US dollars.

As of January 2007, the biggest (confirmed) amount paid for an artwork at an auction is US$135,000,000 (that’s 135 million) for the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (by Gustav Klimt). 135 million greenbacks for a painting!

portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

But, then again, if you’ve been following auction-related news, you’ve probably already noticed that paintings are among the highest-valued, if not THE highest-valued/priced auctioned items of all.


Neogorbash said...

Personal opinion: it's kind of creepy collecting hair off corpses. Extreme collecting, indeed.

I love paintings by Klimt; it's as stylistic and erotic as works by Erte and Beardsley. I think I'll stick to checking out images on the net or prints, though, thank you very much. :)

BCS said...

Hi Neogorbash! ;)I had a question for myself in the earlier version of this post... it went "if I had millions/billions in the bank, would I spend it on something that's sold at an auction? Probably not, I'd rather spend it on high tech gadgetry, sprawling real estate, flashy cars, probably a plane or two, and a whole bunch of businesses." :)

Toulise Romantico said...

Tol, suferfanalo ang kablag mo. pero ba't walang porno? he he.

Toulise Romantico

fee es (p.s.) nga pala wala na akong celfone. babalitaan kita ulit kong may bagong phone na ako para makapag phone sex kami ni luscious Sexy Joy Cuales. he he

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