The Maezawa Moment

For an artist living the dream is putting his creativity to work and, of course, getting paid. Many do art for the pure joy of it. But somewhere deep down almost everyone expects a Yusaka Maezawa moment.

The Maezawa Moment

For an artist living the dream is putting his creativity to work and, of course, getting paid. Many do art for the pure joy of it. But somewhere deep down almost everyone expects a Yusaka Maezawa moment.

Just imagine Jean-Michel Basquiat was alive today and his reaction to the epic auction record that shattered world-records, sailing past its high-estimate of $60 million to sell for $110.5 million. That’s a mind-blowing $22,486.40 per square inch, which is more than the best houses money can buy. Joining the rarefied $100 million-plus club in a salesroom punctuated by periodic gasps from the crowd, Basquiat’s powerful 1982 painting of a skull became the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. Only 10 other works have broken the $100 million mark. “He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso,” said the dealer Jeffrey Deitch, an expert on Basquiat. The vibrant painting set several records: for a work by any American artist, for a work by an African-American artist and as the first work created since 1980 to make over $100 million. The price even exceeded the auction high of Basquiat’s friend and mentor, Andy Warhol, whose “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (in 2 Parts)” sold for an artist high of $105.4 million in 2013. Not all art observers, however, were equally excited about the sale. “I’m sick and tired of so-called famous artists getting all the attention,” said a Delhi-based artist. “Either they are dead or the same famous living artists who have been doing the same thing over and over again for years or decades get it.” Without naming anyone, he said there are artists who get press for big sales almost more than for their art. He wanted to know how do we educate the public about all the artists who are young, talented and dedicated to producing all kinds of wonderful art? “How do we get the media to start paying attention to us instead of those same few names over and over again? How do we get art buyers to stop thinking about what they collect only in terms of money, investment, and boring brand-name artists? Most importantly, how do we convince more people to buy more contemporary art by younger artists like us?” he asked. Well! With media attention and financial considerations among collectors being what they are in the art world, young and struggling artists must take comfort in the fact that making art is not only about making money; it’s about making art. If you got into this art game primarily to make a lot of money and are now upset because you’re not making enough of it as fast as you thought you would, then you’re in the wrong profession and you’d better get out now. If, however, you became an artist in order to express yourself, create the art you’ve always wanted to create, and have the commitment, will and determination to continue doing so until someone takes notice, regardless of obstacles or adversity, then keep up the great work. Perhaps one day your dreams will come true and resentful young artists will complain about your fame, fortune and excessive appearances in the mass media as well.

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