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Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold


On November 2, 2006, the art world basked in decadence.

It was on that fall day that David Geffen, wealthstar of the entertainment industry, sold Jackson Pollock’s No. 5, 1948 for a record setting 140 million.

The purchaser: David Martinez, a Mexican financier who makes his living by buying up Third World debt.

Here’s the painting:

I wonder if David Geffen misses this piece in his collection of post-war American art? It doesn’t seem like much to miss if you ask me. But I guess you have to understand the role Jackson Pollock played in the whole abstract expressionist movement, which, to be honest, is a little too – how do you say? – abstract for me.

I much prefer the piece that, until November 2, 2006, held the top spot for the most expensive painting ever sold. I’m talking about:

Gustave Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which sold four months earlier than Pollock’s, on June 18th, 2006, for 135 million, and held the record for most expensive painting ever sold.

What’s disturbing is that Klimt’s 1907 oil, silver, and gold on canvas is no longer even the second most expensive painting ever sold. This is:

Willem de Kooning’s Woman III. Yet another abstract expressionist piece previously belonging to David Geffen, that is, until he sold it for 137.5 million on November 18, 2006, just 16 days after selling Pollock’s equally messy and childish piece for what I consider an exorbitant sum.

Some believe that in 2006 David Geffen unloaded these post-war pieces, as well as a Jasper Johns for 80 million, in an effort to bid on the Los Angeles Times.

Would’ve been quite the coup.

What can we take away from this? Is there a lesson to be learned? Well, I’m sure there are many, but what I take away from this is pretty cynical.

Art for Geffen is a chit for buying chunks of media. Art for Geffen is power and sway and ultimately worthless,

not something to give him reflection and light. This explains why his collection lacks inspiration.

It’s a safe collection, a financially secure collection.

Geffen is definitely a follower of MOE




But Geffen is responsible for bringing so much entertainment to the masses, so much in the way of music, film, and art.

This probably explains why our culture is on the decline: people like Geffen, people so full of themselves they make it their priority to control the market. When will Geffen and everything related to Geffen realize the disservice they’re doing for us? When will moguls, tycoons, barons, and bosses realize that their opinions and tastes are just as tasteless and wrongheaded as everyone else’s.

More importantly, where does this leave us, in the Age of the Feuilleton?

March 3, 2010 3:58 pm

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