November 15, 2018

Chop Suey sells for $91.9 million.



"The 1929 'Chop Suey,' described by Christie’s as 'the most iconic Hopper left in private hands,' depicts two women sitting across the table from each other in a Chinese eatery" (Bloomberg).
“‘Chop Suey’ is an icon and it belongs in a museum,” said Heinrich zu Hohenlohe, a dealer based in Berlin who attended the auction. “As a dealer I see this as an opportunity, of course. As a citizen of the world, I see it as a cop-out.”
Yes. Truly. I agree.

77 comments:

Leslie Graves said...

I've never seen an image of that painting. Gorgeous.

rehajm said...

The view from atop the high horse is spectacular.

GoFundMe or shetup.

Ann Althouse said...

@rehajm

I can't understand your comment and it's unaccountably hostile. Please explain within 15 minutes or I will delete.

Phil 3:14 said...

Millions for a painting named “Chop Suey”. Could you get a similar price for a similar painting named “Long time, no see”? (Or would you only be able to charge “five dollar”.)

Ignorance is Bliss said...

$91.9 is more than enough to buy that poor lopsided woman a boob job.

rhhardin said...

I did a Hopper
https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhhardin/11479055684/in/album-72157644229825680/

gilbar said...

i love Edward Hopper paintings! They capture the true essence of what life is like without trouts: Cold and Barren

If I had a spare $91Million, i'd have bought this; but since i don't i (atop MY high horse), wish it was in a museum ... Maybe i should have started a go fund me account to out bid ?

John said...

Heinrich zu Hohenlohe,

A zu! A von is cotton stockings next to a zu. You know your family has done well when there is a wikipedia section dedicated to your castles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hohenlohe#Castles_of_the_House_of_Hohenlohe

Fernandistein said...

Quite derivative of Kliban's HARDW, he sniffed.

Ann Althouse said...

It's been 15 minutes, but I'm not going to delete rehajm.

Coming back to his post after the timer went off, I'm less annoyed, perhaps because there are now more posts, so it's not sitting there screwing up the flow. But also, I see his point now.

He's suggesting that if anyone, like me and Heinrich zu Hohenlohe, thinks a great masterpiece belongs in a museum where everyone can gaze upon it, we ought to just shut up, because it's all about the money, and those who can come up with great gobs of money and snag the thing deserve to be left alone to feel good about hiding the masterpiece away in a vault as an investment for some billionaire who may not even his object of commerce.

I think speech is an important counterweight to money, and I want to make it seem less advantageous to use wealth this way.

Maybe rehajm agrees and was just being sarcastic.

Dave Begley said...

Ann:

You could paint something better this afternoon.

The entire art market is the Greater Fool Theory at work.

Dave Begley said...

Clarification. I do like that painting but not at that price. Maybe $10k.

Dave Begley said...

What's the difference between the paintings of George W. Bush and Hopper?

About 91 million.

MarkCh said...

How long would a painting called "Chop Suey" last in a museum before there was a protest and it got moved to a basement vault where nobody would see it? At least the new owner and his friends and family will be able to look at it now.

rhhardin said...

Did Hopper do a "mixed vegetables?"

Fernandistein said...

My preferred Hopper painting is "Gas"; strangely enough, the gas is implied and the medium is oil.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Bloomberg reports the owner promised it to the Seattle Art Museum in 2007. Somehow that fell through, I can think of 91.9 million reasons why, which raises the question, where is the cop-out:

(1) No museum raising the $91.9 million to buy the painting.
(2) The owner going back on his promise to the Seattle Art Museum (which we have to assume was nonbinding or the painting wouldn’t have been sold at auction).
(3) The heirs who were left the painting deciding to sell it rather than give it away.
(4) The government not taking paintings like this by eminent domain.

Of course, it may still end up in a museum. Paintings like this get loaned out for special exhibits, or are put on temporary or permanent loan. I know an art collector in Iowa who bought a closed Carnegie library building to start her own museum to exhibit her extensive collection.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Oh, I see that Althouse may think the cop-out is something else

(5) The private buyer buying the painting at auction.

tcrosse said...

I know a guy who owns the original.

Birkel said...

Come up with $92,000,000 and you can gift the painting to a museum.
Otherwise, who gives a shit?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Cop out means to avoid doing something one ought to do, so how can it be (5)?

Birkel said...

We are owed nothing in life.

sparrow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sparrow said...

Honestly, I really don't see value in the painting. Maybe I'm just ignorant and unschooled, but I wouldn't buy it if it were only $91. Even more strange is the notion that this little oil on canvas is worth more than the price of over 350 houses at ~250K each.

Fernandistein said...

"‘Chop Suey’ is an icon, and it belongs on the internets", said Fernandistein zu Fancypantsnamester, a commenter based in the USA who attended an auction. "As a commenter I see this as an opportunity, of course. As a citizen of the world, I see it as an opportunity to order some Chinese take-out, the appropriated kind, not the musty tasting stuff they eat in China."

JHapp said...

Spending that kind of money on a painting is much like changing your sex. Get a life.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

One can buy a Chop Suey print on Amazon.com for $10 to $15, so private ownership does not completely deprive public appreciation of the artwork. Or the 725,000 residents of Seattle, the vast majority of whom have not opted to buy the print, could chip in $126 per person to have the original in their museum.

CJinPA said...

Another reminder that the art world just doesn't want my kind around. That said, I'm still taking my family to the Philadelphia Art Museum this spring.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Ann Althouse said...
@rehajm

I can't understand your comment and it's unaccountably hostile. Please explain within 15 minutes or I will delete.

11/15/18, 7:19 AM



You mean, That's not funny?

Interestingly, when you write badly or obscurely or think poorly, as people request clarification, you are the first to blow them off - 'I don't supply answer keys to my tests,' etc. Of course, nobody is in a position to delete your posts.

Part of your problem is that you have no generosity of spirit. You could have expressed the sentiment, or endorsed the sentiment, nobly - "the virtue of the artwork is such that it merits being made available to the many; close possession by a private individual has the effect of depriving the populace of its cultural patrimony." Or, more concisely, "Chop Suey is too good not to share."

But no, more bullshit-level slang: "it's a cop-out." As if people aren't fully entitled to do as they see fit with their money and their property. As if there were no reasons other than "meanie." As if the item won't likely be lent for display in, yes, a museum, which is now spared the dent in its purse.

And a museum doesn't mean accessible to all. It means accessible to those who can gain admission. True public access would be more along the lines of a White House "hard pass." We should be able to see it at full resolution on the Internet so the Althouses of the world needn't bother themselves with travel or cost. Is Huhu zu Kuku prepared to supply that? Are you? Ach, nein.

Fernandistein said...

Even more strange is the notion that this little oil on canvas is worth more than the price of over 350 houses at ~250K each.

Social status signaling is bounded only by the signals of other status seekers.

Imagine if people paid $ millions for tiny rocks that are almost indistinguishable from chunks of glass with a high index of refraction. That would be wacky.

John said...

Social status signaling is bounded only by the signals of other status seekers.

It's more than that, it's also a form of extremely portable wealth. $91 million in gold weighs 2 tons. Per the shakedown in Saudi Arabia, if you can grab this off the wall and make it to your jet before the authorities find you, $91 million can keep you comfortable for a while.

MadisonMan said...

As a citizen of the world, I see it as a cop-out.

I've no clue what that's supposed to mean. Is it a cop-out (how?) that someone has money to spend on a painting, rather than diverting it to a more worthy cause?

Jessica said...

I wouldn't have said it like @rehajm, but I do see his point. If one feels a strong moral conviction that this item belongs in a museum, why not try to raise the money -- perhaps from hundreds or thousands of like-minded people -- to buy it and donate it? Or, here's another idea: Aim your arguments at the buyer! Perhaps the buyer could be persuaded to loan the painting to a museum? There are lots of ways to approach the goal of publicly displaying this painting, but simply saying "this belongs in a museum" seems like moral preening without any creative thinking or work.

prairie wind said...

The 2018 Blue Devils (a DCI drum corps) performance, Dreams and Nighthawks, was inspired by the more famous Hopper painting. Beautiful performance.

Jessica said...

>>I've no clue what that's supposed to mean. Is it a cop-out (how?) that someone has money to spend on a painting, rather than diverting it to a more worthy cause?<<

I also don't understand the "cop-out" phrase. Is his own attendance at the auction a "cop-out" because he doesn't believe in private ownership of masterpieces? Hm.

Amexpat said...

I'd never seen that painting before, but I immediately recognized it as a Hopper. There are only 20 or so painters that I can say that about. That's one criteria for being a great painter in my book.

gilbar said...

it's actually been a dream of mine (one of my wilder dreams of avarice), to have enough money to buy Nighthawks from the Art Institute of Chicago.

1st i'd offer them 10 million dollars, and they'd haughtily say: Our Art is NOT for sale!
then, i'd offer 100 million dollars, and they'd say no, but we'll gladly name the wing after you
Then, i'd offer them a Billion dollars, and they'd say....

Seriously, how many zeros Would it take before a museum would say; HELL YEAH! ???
(you could pay for a LOT of salaries with a Billion Dollars)

The Cracker Emcee Rampant said...

People that don't get Hopper have never seen that light. Or they saw it but it didn't register. Which is also the point.

The Cracker Emcee Rampant said...

Plus, the guy had a genius for shading bosoms.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Here's how the Althouse cop-out tax might work. If you own an artwork worth more than $1 million, you have to pay an excise tax of 2.5% a year unless you publicly display it for at least than 90 days during the year.

In this instance, the new Chop Suey owner would pay $2.3 million a year if she keeps it in the vault, but $0 if she puts it on display for a few months a year.

2.5% is the Massachusetts annual excise tax on owning an auto, and any value over $15,000 is essentially a luxury item like a painting, so there is ample precedent for this type of tax. At 2.5%, the public would be recouping the value of the artwork every 40 years. Maybe the Althouse cop-out tax rate should be set at 5% or 10%, which would reduce that to 20 or 10 years.

Some details to work out: This would have to be a federal tax, so that the buyer couldn't simply move the painting to a no tax state, and there would have to be a higher excise tax, perhaps 25% to 50% of value, if the artwork were taken out of the country. We might have to have a program where the tax could be reduced or waived for someone bringing a $1 million artwork into the country, so as not to overly discourage people from doing that.

Todd Galle said...

gilbar -
Most museums can't sell collection pieces for a variety of reasons, some legal, others institutional. Who would donate anything if it could just be resold? What 501c3 group could take the loss of the tax exemption qualification if they become art dealers? Forget it at a public institution. First the piece would have to go through a committee to agree it should be deaccessioned, then it would be offered to other public museums, in descending order and if agreeable to their collections policy, then if not claimed, it would be sent to auction, with the proceeds restricted to collections care and future acquisitions of the selling museum in a 'deaccession fund'. My historic site has a small one that I will probably never use for a variety of reasons. Most of my deaccession objects get sent to 'For Use' where historic trade demonstrators get to utilize the items. Think moulding planes, hammers, blacksmith tongs and the like. These also go through the deaccession committee as well before being sent into the field.

rehajm said...

Oh lordy- well, my intent was to be appropriately hostile to it belongs in a museum and the idea underlying its usage ad nauseum- a virtue signalling populist rant every time an artwork sells for a high price. A quick goolge of ‘museum sells...’ returns numerous articles of paragraph one reporting the sale and the price of some work followed by multiple pragraphs spouting of vulgarity and elitism. No mention of the immense value a vigorous market provides to museums and patrons alike. Valuable funding what keeps art accessible...

Will the new owner now lend the work to hang in a museum? Maybe. Is that what Ann meant or was it the knee jerk moral reaction to the price?

Birkel said...

Yeah, let's tax wealth because we want people to share what they own.
Great idea if you're that kind of ass hole.

rehajm said...

...and thank you for reading my post, noodling on it, and not deleting it!

CWJ said...

"2.5% is the Massachusetts annual excise tax on owning an auto..."

Is this the same tax that John Kerry avoided by docking his yacht in Rhode Island? I'd have to check Missouri's personal property rate, but I generally think twice about virtually anything that Massachusetts thinks is a good idea.

Etienne said...

How can they just assume they are "two women" in the painting ??

They might not associate their genders that way, and in fact - they might be talking about their hormone injections and penis removal, and bitching about how hard it is to be a shemale in a male dominated society.

Harrumph!

gilbar said...

Todd Galle said...
with the proceeds restricted to collections care and future acquisitions of the selling museum in a 'deaccession fund'.

Todd, thanx for the inside info; but...
The Art Institute wasn't Donated Nighthawks; they bought it,
and you could buy A LOT of future acquisitions for X Billion dollars.

You and i would agree that the Institute would be VERY Hesitant to sell it...
But, at some point (and that's what's fun, thinking about where that point is); the admins would HAVE TO think, wait; for the greater good.

Re donations; people give farms to Iowa State University ALL THE TIME, with the explicit instructions that the farm has to remain with Iowa State...
Iowa State SELLS these farms ALL THE TIME, then, people go to court, and Iowa State explains while they agreed to the restriction; they weren't bound by it in any way.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

meanwhile, you know what the guy who painted "Chop Liver' feels like right about now...

FIDO said...

Meh. The people who own these paintings LOVE these paintings.

Museums...well...let's just say that when the Jacobins, the Marxists, the Academics and ISIS decide that 'culture needs changing', they are pretty fast with the matches and the explosives.

So I am ambivalent about where this thing belongs.

Andrew said...

"I'd never seen that painting before, but I immediately recognized it as a Hopper. There are only 20 or so painters that I can say that about. That's one criteria for being a great painter in my book."

I could say that ("immediately recognized") about several modern artists who I don't care for, and who I think are greatly overrated. Mondrian and Rothko, for example.

I share the critique of much modern art (including 20th century abstract art) that a lot of it is garbage. In many cases the emperor wears no clothes, and only us uneducated rubes and philistines dare point it out. But there are some modern artists who work for me - Klee and Kandinsky, for example. I don't know what accounts for this.

Hopper of course isn't "abstract." For what it's worth, I've always liked him. Nighthawks deserves its reputation.

Unknown said...

Holding out till General Tso's Chicken is found....

Amexpat said...

But there are some modern artists who work for me - Klee and Kandinsky, for example. I don't know what accounts for this.

It's hit or miss for me as well. I like most of Miro but Picasso's abstracts do nothing for me. But, even though I don't care for much of Picasso (except for the blue period), I'd still classify him as a great artist because of his impact.

I love Nighthawks, not only for the painting itself, but how it's a window into a specific time and place in the US.

gerry said...

“As a dealer I see this as an opportunity, of course. As a citizen of the world, I see it as a cop-out.”

Ah, so that's how a postmodernist does hypocrisy! It's so obvious, I am embarrassed.

But wait...if he sees it, but does not feel or do it, he's not really a hypocrite.

I get it now. One must simply use the proper verb to convey a nuance that is the escape one needs. I am no longer embarrassed.

JAORE said...

I like Hopper. Nighthawks is, as noted, something special.

As far as abstract I always dreamed Andy Worhol/Mondrian and Pollock would hold a press conference to announce, "It was a joke. All a joke. But you rubes will NEVER catch on and we grow weary."

Darrell said...

I've owned "Chop Suey" for at least a dozen years--in digital form. The internet is a wonderful place for that.

Roy Jacobsen said...

So we have claims that "It belongs in a museum." OK. At the same time, however, there are chunks of museum collections that the public never sees. Prime example: Less than 10% of the Louvre's collection is on display. "The Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments." (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louvre#Collections)

So what's the point of having those pieces "in a museum, for the public to see," if they're never (or seldom) put on display?

Sam L. said...

I don't care where it is. I recall having seen a picture of that painting before, and that's enough for me.

Bill Peschel said...

As far as abstract I always dreamed Andy Worhol/Mondrian and Pollock would hold a press conference to announce, "It was a joke. All a joke. But you rubes will NEVER catch on and we grow weary."

I remember one of Pollock's splatter paintings, and felt a little electric shock from it. It was the explosion of color and energy that I liked. I wouldn't want a whole room of it, but I wouldn't mind seeing it on my wall.

I remember a newspaper photographer in South Carolina who did one better. He painted a Van Gogh sunflower painting himself. Even used thick smears of paint to give it that sculpted effect.

On the wall of my bathroom downstairs is a Picasso bullring print. I like looking at when I'm otherwise occupied. I find it wonderful that he could convey a feeling, an image, with so few paint strokes.

We have such a rich culture that one more or less Hopper, does it really mean anything? Whether it's in a museum or on someone's wall, there are only so many eyes that can see it at a time, so many opportunities to view something. Right now, I'm looking at the snowfall in Hershey, at a rabbit skittering along our chain-link fence. Isn't that art, too?

Andrew said...

"It's hit or miss for me as well. I like most of Miro but Picasso's abstracts do nothing for me. But, even though I don't care for much of Picasso (except for the blue period), I'd still classify him as a great artist because of his impact."

Couldn't agree more.

One of the best museum experiences I ever had was at the Miro Museum in Barcelona. It was exhilarating. I couldn't get enough of it. But Picasso doesn't do that for me.

rehajm said...

So what's the point of having those pieces "in a museum, for the public to see," if they're never (or seldom) put on display?

Here's a fun one, too: some private collectors with major works store the originals in the vault and have copies made to hang in the house...

Unknown said...

"It belongs in a museum."

"So do you, Dr. Jones!"

tim in vermont said...

A similar comment was made when the last stretch of land that had extent ivory billed woodpeckers was sold to a lumber company rather than made into a park. The spectacular birds went extinct in order to make furniture.

tim in vermont said...

We are also creating extinctions due to plowing up virgin prairie for ethanol.

Sigivald said...

Well, maybe that "world citizen" can organize with others to buy it for a museum, then.

Otherwise he's just demanding someone else make a very expensive gift or ... expropriate an object of great value, either taking it by fiat or spending an immense amount of public money as compensation.

gahrie said...

A similar comment was made when the last stretch of land that had extent ivory billed woodpeckers was sold to a lumber company rather than made into a park. The spectacular birds went extinct in order to make furniture.

How do you know those birds weren't supposed to go extinct? Extinction is an important part of evolution.

Andrew said...

Birds! Who needs 'em?

Andrew said...

Birds! Who needs 'em?

Andrew said...

(Oops)

Yancey Ward said...

He was making the point that complaining about it being bought by a private party was empty, and pointless virtue signalling. In this day and age, like minded people can actually act to buy these things for museums, so stop complaining.

Yancey Ward said...

Chopped Liver

FullMoon said...

Have always been a Hopper fan. Just saw him in True Romance last night.

Amexpat said...

One of the best museum experiences I ever had was at the Miro Museum in Barcelona. It was exhilarating. I couldn't get enough of it.

Agree. His studio and house in Palma de Mallorca is also worth visiting.

William Chadwick said...

I like Hopper, and I seem to be in the minority about the sense-of-life expressed in his paintings. I don't find them downers at all, but maybe it's because I am a loner and don't mind being alone.

The Cracker Emcee Rampant said...

"FullMoon said...
Have always been a Hopper fan. Just saw him in True Romance last night."

I know how you feel.

Andrew said...

"His studio and house in Palma de Mallorca is also worth visiting."

Now added to my bucket list.

"I like Hopper, and I seem to be in the minority about the sense-of-life expressed in his paintings. I don't find them downers at all, but maybe it's because I am a loner and don't mind being alone."

Likewise. In particular, I've always enjoyed eating out alone, and Hopper reflects that kind of public solitude.

Ann, thanks for the Hopper posts today!

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

" I just wish the artist had highlighted my boobs more," sighed the woman in green

mikee said...

Glad to see the self-interest in making a large sale outweighed the world citizenry of the unsuccessful bidder, Heinrich zu Hohenlohe. At least up to his bidding limit, at which point he became much more of a museum-phile for the piece.

Hayek smiles.