Avant-Garde and Kitsch

The Epicurean Dealmaker reckons that modern art is rubbish


art is kitsch. "A major function of kitsch in the present century is

to reassure its consumers of their status and position," he says, and reckons

that precisely such motivations lie behind the $80 million purchase by Ken

Griffin of a Jasper Johns painting:

Clearly, a leather-bound set of Franklin Library classics or a Thomas Kinkade

print "hand-highlighted under the supervision of the artist" is

not going to cut the mustard in the 10021 zip code, but what about a Jasper

Johns painting, or a Damien Hirst sculpture? Just the ticket "to confirm

the [cultural] literacy and wealth of its owner," no?

Even better if you and everyone you invite to your Park Avenue coop knows

that you paid $80 million for the thing. For no-one can remain unaffected

by such knowledge when they attempt to appreciate or understand a work of


I don’t buy it. Who’s going to cut more mustard in the 10021 zip code –

the man who bought his Jasper Johns for $80 million, or the man who bought his

Jasper Johns for $80,000?

Also, note to TED: the Hirst shark at the Met is not bisected, not even if

you say it is twice. And if you set the background color of your blog to #e8ffbf

(a kind of lemon-lime), people are unlikely to take your verdict that a given

Johns is "half-baked" particularly seriously.

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