Masterpieces and Idiots

By W R Jones

The Teacher
The Teacher    14″ x 18″   Oil on linen panel


I was at a framing shop when I noticed a beautiful large, 8′ x 10′, maple frame.  I commented on it and the frame shop owner showed me the large painting for which it was intended.  The painting was solid black, purchased at an auction for $80,000.  The buyer felt he got a bargain.    I was astounded.  The shop owner told me the painting was by a well known artist – never heard of him.  I looked him up using Google.  He is mostly known for sculpture which is as minimal in design as his painting.  A slab of steel for equally weighty sums of money.  

I thought the outlay of $80K for a solid black painting was stupid in the extreme.  But then I read in the Wall Street Journal of a solid red painting that sold for $34 Million.  What the hell is going on here?  My first thought is to question how  people that stupid can get their hands on large sums of money.  But then – maybe they are actually very smart.  They are investing, looking for a real idiot to purchase from them for even more money.   I suppose it is a pretty good business model.  There will never be a shortage of idiots.   I can’t help but wonder if somewhere down the line there may be a terminal idiot.  The last in the line before the rest of the world figures out you can pretty much paint your own solid color (or have the maid do it for you).

But what about collectors who buy these pieces for pleasure and not resale?  What is going on in their minds?   Do they see it as a masterpiece?  If you change the signature on the piece how much would they pay then?  I imagine an experiment whereby you take an actual Picasso painting and change the signature to Sever Tisthammer, a Minnesota grain farmer.  At the same time have a five year old draw something and have Picasso sign it.  I would love to be at that auction.

I’m just another of the billions of idiots without the funds to flaunt my lack of common sense.  I’m forced to promote my idiocy through everyday conversations with random passers by.  I must say I’m having considerable success.  At least locally, practically everyone calls me an idiot.

I still feel $34 Million for a signature on some red paint is a less than optimum use of money.  Maybe it is just the jealousy talking here.  I can’t get diddly squat for my signature unless it is on a check.

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8 Responses to Masterpieces and Idiots

  1. Lois Mathews says:

    As the saying goes, there’s a “buyer” for anything.” It’s amazing..

  2. wrjones says:

    As the teacher said, “for every rule there is an exception”. I can’t seem to find my buyer. Mark my words, if a buyer doesn’t show up soon I will dump painting and become a professional bull rider. How tough can that be?

  3. rebecca says:

    I have often wondered as you do. It actually makes me mad, or jealous. no, just irritated. People are told something is valuable, so they believe it’s valuable, and meanwhile the artist is just laughing all the way to the bank. (or, the seller, since postmortem is a simpler way for an artist to become a success in the art world) Add dead to no talent to stupid rich and you get millions! Nice painting, by the way! If you paint over the whole thing with a solid cobalt blue, it might be a masterpiece.

  4. wrjones says:

    Hi Becca,
    The whole issue is a mystery. I think you are on to something with the cobalt. I’ve got a sort of sinking feeling that it would improve a lot of my pieces. Hope you are having fabulous holiday sales while still alive.

    • rebecca says:

      Thanks, Bill. Indeed I am having a good year for sales, but it has saddened me this year to have to turn away a nearly 50% of my total number of customers because they wanted to order after my painting deadline. :( sniff.

  5. beautiful work Bill. i’m curious, what is that writing behind the teacher?

  6. wrjones says:

    Hi Holly, thanks.
    The writing on the wall is Teacher in Hebrew. The model, Amelia, teaches Hebrew. The background in the studio was some neutral gray drapery. When Amelia mentioned an interest in the Israeli army I imagined bullet pocked stone walls.

    Wishing you a successful career in painting. Don’t forget to contribute some of those sales dollars to your 401K. Someday you will be old like me and be glad you did.

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