Known as a painter of nurses and photographer of Marlboro men, appropriation artist Richard Prince has been quietly creating an arts retreat deep in the Catskills, a few hours drive from New York City. As the Wall Street Journal wrote about this week, Prince is preparing to open the estate to the public. Large works, like the car above or others coated in image screens from his ‘Girlfriends’ series or the installation of framed rubber below, are scattered throughout the property along with works in progress. For me, though, Prince’s library would be the treasure trove. The artist is also a prodigious book collector, especially of the 20th century, and he has rows upon rows of bookshelves in white-shelved studio library. Moreover, book-collecting has inspired his work, so that covers of pulp fiction turned into his successful Nurses series of paintings. I’d drive the 200-miles to see it.
More on the WSJ website here.
“Without Wall Street many forms of books, incunables, high spots of modern literature, are already unobtainable by the average collector or even fairly well-to-do collectors. Think Great Gatsby at over a $100k…Look what happened in the art market, where paintings that used to cost thousands are now hundreds of thousands, and paintings that used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars are now millions of dollars….
If Wall Street gets hold of books and turns them into high priced investment widgets, then look out. No one will be able to afford them any more and some of the joy of collecting will be gone.”
This quote from The Man who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession came from a book dealer upon hearing that book collections were being characterized in Worth magazine as good investments. It certainly hard to imagine people like to Vogels collecting in todays market, which bounced back from the financial crisis without losing much of the gains it has made over the past 20 years.
Does the rare book market share the same future? If so, I’d better scrounge up my first editions. It’s interesting that this book dealer, who would profit for this more than the average collector potentially, doesn’t like the idea of pricing people out of their collecting hobby. The dealers arguably benefit more than the collectors or artists, because many collectors are priced out and because fewer contemporary artists make the cut for the higher prices being paid at auction. But on the other hand, perhaps it is a sign of the health of the art market than it can command such record high prices.
By the way, the book itself is proving quite enjoyable. It’s the true story of a book thief who stole rare books and hoarded them in the modest apartment he shared with his father, not unlike the art thief of my novel who steals to create his own personal collection that he keeps at his mother’s house.
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.–Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species
I have a gripe against Darwinism. Why did my species evolve to create buildings on cold, snowy islands like Manhattan without developing super thick skin? Or better yet, why does my species not live only on tropical islands? Yet another snow storm in progress here at Art Ravel’s shivering office. (It’s so cold the office itself is shivering.)
Darwin is everywhere. More and more books keep coming up on him. My ears now prick up at the name, since I attended a book tour lecture that links current aesthetics with our evolutionary past. (That book, too, got a mention in the New York Times.) Yet Darwinism and evolution isn’t the prickly subject it once was. Why the spout of interest?
Perhaps it’s because his 200th birthday is coming up. It may be that radical thinker Charles Darwin himself was a fascinating man, no doubt party true. However, it is also the case that biographers feel that they need to argue either that racism is inherent to Darwin’s theories or, on the contrary, that he was an abolitionist and his theories show a common origin for all mankind.
If people are still arguing about him and theories are still sprouting from his ideas, perhaps Darwin’s worth the glut of pages. I have it on good authority that The Origin of the Species is fascinating reading. Im not actually going to read it, but I thought I might put up some lovely gorilla art in Darwin’s honor. Unfortunately, there is no lovely gorilla art. (See above.)