In the Stream

7 Nov

The first part of a serialized, monthly slew of columns on my experience working in the media is up at The Prague Revue. Many thanks to Editor-in-Chief Shaan Joshi for giving me the freedom, latitude, and basically carte blanche to write any kind of non-fiction for TPR. My column runs there the Wednesday of every month, but it’s looking like I’ll be stepping out of series and deadline to contribute other material.

At this point I’m working on coagulating what is looking to be a quite long and in-depth Op-Ed piece on the machinations of the art world and its inextricable connections to the political world. Recent news of the “discovery” of stolen Nazi art worth over $1 billion in a Munich apartment (actually found in 2011) and the German government’s two-year campaign of silence has piqued my curiosity. I hope to synthesize all my points into one coherent direction and talk about the surreal prices that are set on some of these paintings or sculptures, the behind-the-scenes wrangling by major museums and political figures in order to either permanently or temporarily house expensive collections in their respective cities, and the recapitulation of the unfortunate fate of Philadelphia’s Barnes collection…the world’s most valuable and, in my opinion, most important collection of art (valued in the billions, but truly having no tangible value according to most experts), which was in effect stolen from its private bequest by the Philly political machine, headed up by the muscle of various “reputable” foundations, trusts, and the direct involvement of former Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell. (Phew, that was a long sentence.)

To me, the illusion of what art is worth has always been interesting. I am possibly as much (or as little) invested in, or rather, curious about the valuation of art as I am in the worth of diamonds or other precious stones. There seems to be a disconnect in my brain when it comes to valuation of these two particular things; so if you show me a huge rock on a lady’s finger I cannot be impressed. I see science only. Carbon. I don’t see legal tender. Same with the exorbitant prices of art. I cannot fathom a number; I cannot fathom basically anything beyond the art itself.

Banksy’s recent “residence” in NYC presented a number of valid socio-political issues (as is expected from virtually each and every piece of his), but possibly the most important was raised toward the end of his tenure: a pop up art stand that sold a limited number of original Banksy canvases…three buyers gobbled up eight art pieces ($460 total), the most expensive selling for $60. Later, the value of the art was estimated at $31,000. Even later, that figure went up to over $250,000. I believe, at the time of this writing, the number has climbed to $600,000+.

This was a brilliant statement being made by an artist on the (perceived) value of art.

Of course, peppered around all this, will be the continuation of the “Tales from the Trough” series, which will eventually move from the business of news for radio broadcast (USIA-VOA) to the business of television political shows and the incessant, worthless babble of talking heads and “experts” still screaming their way into our afternoons and evenings on cable networks.

I hope you stay with me and visit  The Prague Revue  often, reading its fiction and poetry, as well as the non-fiction material In The Stream.


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