November 23, 2014

"What struck me about the Georgia O'Keeffe sale was not the high price paid for the work."

"Nor was it the discrepancy between what the market will pay for art made by men and what it will pay for art made by women... Is it ingrained sexism, or, as Germaine Greer told me in her opinion, historically work by female artists has generally not been as good as that produced by their male counterparts? No, what caught my eye was the institution selling the painting, which was The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Doesn't that strike you as odd? A museum selling an artwork by the artist it was founded to represent? I can't imagine it happening in this country.... The Americans take a more strategic approach when it comes to buying and selling work in and out of institutional collections. They generally have a policy of 'trading up,' whereby lesser works are sold to raise the necessary money to buy better examples from an artist's oeuvre."

Writes BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, opining on the sale of a painting of "the simple white blossom of a weed" for $44.4 million, which is the most ever paid at auction for the work of a female artist. So... presumably, this painting — would it kill you to give the title?* — is a lesser O'Keeffe. Actually, Gompertz assumes otherwise — it's "considered to be of the highest quality" — as he questions the sale by the O'Keeffe Museum.

But one could reason the other way: The Museum's off-loading of the weed pic is evidence of its opinion that it is not her best work. Or perhaps: It's like other paintings in the collection — a closeup of a flower — and not the one they like best. I see 9 other flower pics at that link that could easily be considered superior to the painting the BBC assumed was "of the highest quality" but couldn't bring itself to name. It's "Jimson Weed/White Flower No 1," by the way.

Jimson weed — AKA Devil's snare, datura, hell's bells, devil’s trumpet, devil’s weed, tolguacha, Jamestown weed, stinkweed, locoweed, pricklyburr, and devil’s cucumber — is "a powerful hallucinogen and delirian... used spiritually for the intense visions it produces... fatally toxic in only slightly higher amounts than the medicinal dosage." That's some kind of metaphor for Georgia O'Keeffe. Take the right dose.

Now, let's get back to Germaine Greer. I love how Gompertz got out the opinion that female artists have just not been that good by slapping the name Germaine Greer on it. Women are so useful when it comes to insulting women. I didn't say it. Germaine said it.

* ADDED: The 7th paragraph of the article does — at least now — have the title of the painting. That's after referring to it as 1. "Georgia O'Keeffe painting," 3. "the simple white blossom of a weed,"  3. "A floral painting," and 4. "O'Keeffe's work." The separate section by Gompertz does not use the title of the painting.

22 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

It didn't look as much as a vagina as the other ones, so it was considered a lesser work.

Also: It didn't look as much as a vagina as the other ones, so it was apt to sell easier, raising the price.

Some people don't want a painting of a vagina above their couch; insert Lena Dunham family reference.

Laslo Spatula said...

This also serves as a helpful note to young men: take down all the "Scarface" and "Star Wars" posters from your walls and put up Georgia O'Keeffe posters instead. That way when you get a women inside she will believe you to be sensitive and appreciative of what a talented woman can do. Also, all the subliminal vaginas can't help but make her think of sex. Lesbians decorate this way all the time, but frame the posters. Classier that way.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

If I were to land a rocketship on a comet I'd wear a shirt covered with Georgia O'Keefe flowers. All the feminists would be happy and all the men would be asking "What are those on that guy's shirt? They look like a bunch of vaginas. Dude."

Laslo Spatula said...

" Now, let's get back to Germaine Greer. I love how Gompertz got out the opinion that female artists have just not been that good by slapping the name Germaine Greer on it. Women are so useful when it comes to insulting women. I didn't say it. Germaine said it."

If I were a woman I wouldn't trust other women. But I'd probably still want to have sex with them.

I am Laslo.

phx said...

Now, let's get back to Germaine Greer. I love how Gompertz got out the opinion that female artists have just not been that good by slapping the name Germaine Greer on it. Women are so useful when it comes to insulting women. I didn't say it. Germaine said. it.

The thesis of Greer's book The Obstacle Race wasn't simply that women as artists weren't as good - it was the reasons why they weren't as good. Clue: it wasn't an inherent inferiority.

Laslo Spatula said...

" Clue: it wasn't an inherent inferiority."

I had that moment where I thought that I always knew what a word meant only to find out it means something else entirely. So I looked up "inherent" but it turns out it means what I thought it meant.

phx said...

Good contribution to an interesting discussion, Laslo.

Victor Ulmer said...

Regarding Germaine Greer's opinion about work by female artists; and your comment that "women are so useful when it comes to insulting women"; remind me of this comment by Camille Paglia at http://privat.ub.uib.no/BUBSY/playboy.htm:

I feel that genius and obsession be the same thing. It is rare when a woman is driven by obsession. Similarly, it is rare when a woman is a genius. That's why I said one of my most notorious sentences, that there is no woman Mozart because there is no woman Jack the Ripper. Men are more prone to obsession because they are fleeing domination by women. They flee to a chess game or to a computer or to fixing a car, or whatever, to attempt to complete their identities, because they always feel incomplete.

PB said...

If everything sits in a museum, it has only artistic/historical value. But if there is a market for the work and occasionally a headline for some vast sum paid for a piece, it drives up interest in the artist's work and attendance at the museum. The museum had to make headlines.

David said...

$44 million goes a long way to explaining the sale. Not only does it provide them with cash (museums actually need cash), it enhances the value of the rest of their collection.

dustbunny said...

I believe the thesis in "the Obstacle Race" was a lack of training, in that women weren't allowed in classes, as apprentices etc unless they were from a family of artists willing to defy convention. The GuerrillaGirls made a number of posters pointing out this and other issues concerning women in the art world. Women now have access to the training so I'm not sure how the discrepancy in numbers is being argued presently. As to women insulting other women I wonder if it hasn't in the past been a way to be part of the boys club which in the art world was way more powerful and cooler than anything the girls were getting up to. I think Paglia is right about men and obsession.

Sebastian said...

"I love how Gompertz got out the opinion that female artists have just not been that good by slapping the name Germaine Greer on it. Women are so useful when it comes to insulting women."

It isn't an insult if it's true.

Normally you would consider that obvious interpretation.

I invite you to think deeply about why you didn't in this case.

Ann Althouse said...

"I feel that genius and obsession be the same thing. It is rare when a woman is driven by obsession. Similarly, it is rare when a woman is a genius. That's why I said one of my most notorious sentences, that there is no woman Mozart because there is no woman Jack the Ripper. Men are more prone to obsession because they are fleeing domination by women. They flee to a chess game or to a computer or to fixing a car, or whatever, to attempt to complete their identities, because they always feel incomplete."

"They always feel incomplete"... that's why men pursue their grand accomplishments.

In this context -- all of you who love Paglia but malign the feminists who criticized Matt Taylor's shirt — reassess why it was precisely apt to call attention to the shirt on the day of the comet landing. The reason for landing on the comment IS the same message as the shirt festooned with sexy ladies: I FEEL INCOMPLETE WITHOUT WOMANHOOD. And yet I must flee! Flee! Away to the comet! Away from the powerful women with guns coming at me from all over!

Laslo Spatula said...

I think Althouse's 9:54 post was a roundabout way of stating that my 8:01 post was textually correct.

kcom said...

The name of the painting is right there in the story. The part you quoted was directly attached to it and labeled "analysis". But the main story provided the facts. Unless they changed something since you read it.

Ann Althouse said...

"The name of the painting is right there in the story. The part you quoted was directly attached to it and labeled "analysis". But the main story provided the facts. Unless they changed something since you read it."

Thanks. I see that and genuinely don't know if I missed it or they changed it. I did read the whole thing looking for the title, which is pretty buried in the article with the painting referred to by description several times.

Anonymous said...

Jimson weed is also called "Datura." I grew one from a seed once. The bloom only lasted a short time. It was gorgeous. *HUGE*. There were fields of them that grew natively in Carpinteria, CA.

kcom said...

Should painting titles go in quotes or italics or something? As you say, it doesn't really stand out.

RecChief said...

wouldn't this just be a lot easier if the (world) government set a fixed price for all art sales? There you go, an end to sexist sales price differential, taken care of.

Right after they set fixed prices for wages, hamburger, kleenex, and so forth, of course.

David said...

SoJo, my wife is from Carpenteria. Datura is a form of nightshade, and a particularly toxic one. My wife fortunately is not toxic.

Jeff Teal said...

Ann I don't think Matt Taylor was fleeing from the Women with guns.I think he wanted to find them.All of us SF geeks have been looking for our Ginnie Heinlein forever.We LIKE empowered women -not man blaming victims.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann I don't think Matt Taylor was fleeing from the Women with guns.I think he wanted to find them.All of us SF geeks have been looking for our Ginnie Heinlein forever.We LIKE empowered women -not man blaming victims."

You'll have to ask Camille Paglia. I was only channeling her for effect.