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130 YEAR PERSPECTIVE


In a day when absolutely astronomic prices are being paid for art by a few living artists, many of us are trying to make sense of the phenomenon. Remember, my take is that the word CONTEMPORARY  is 75% “temporary” and 25% “con”. It’s all about branding and perception.

Now I have received a very interesting e-mail from Bill Cole of Cole & Contreras Books/Sylvan Cole Gallery. The nephew of legendary NY print dealer Sylvan Cole lives in Sitges, Spain, a lovely town on the Costa Brava of Catalonia. Next time I’m in Spain we’ll hopefully get together for calamari and proseco.

Bill writes that he has on his shelf a biographical dictionary of the 150 best painters in the world who were alive at the time–1883. 125 were French and the rest were from elsewhere. Manet died that year (so was alive during the writing); all of the major impressionists were alive and the post-impressionists were active. They included Toulouse-Lautrec, Cézanne, Bresdin, Redon, Van Gogh, Gauguin et al.

Cole points out that none of the above artists are mentioned in the book. “In fact,” he notes, “almost all of the world’s 150 most important artists have been pretty much forgotten.”

He then asks, rhetorically, “What makes anyone think that the superstars of contemporary art will fare any better in the eye of history?”

I develop this theme further, of course, in Artful Dodgers: Fraud and Foolishness in the Art Market which is moving toward publication, I promise.