The Preakness: Good horse race yesterday. Shackleford [picture and info], who came in fourth at the Derby and is a grandson of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, was right on the rabbit's neck at the outset, then took the lead at the top of the stretch and never gave it up.
I was rooting for him, because of all the prancing and dancing and sweating he was doing on the way into the gate—he looked like he had energy to burn and you just knew he would come out fast. And did they ever, he and Flashpoint, the sprinter—the opening quarter was one of the fastest ever. Of course I had no idea if Shackleford would or could go the distance.
If you didn't see the race, well, I know better than to link to a YouTube video, but I can't tell you not to go to YouTube and search.
Derby winner Animal Kingdom got way back in the field—I mean he was practically off in a different zip code at one point—and charged all the way to second, but didn't have the speed in the final furlongs to catch and pass Shackleford. (All the pundits were saying he would have if he'd had more room, but I don't think so. He wasn't gaining any more in the last few strides.) Fun run to watch anyway.
Kimmyville had the number on this one, way back in April. Favorite quote, under the header "Why I like this horse": "He's a big chestnut colt. Yeah, I bet on horses for reasons like that...and as every expert knows, the folks who wager on colors and names are the same who cash the most tickets...." My favorite horse was a big chestnut too.
The race brings up the now-nearly-eternal question: will there ever be another Triple Crown winner? I wish I knew the significance of what I was living through in the era of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed. It was more special than I realized at the time.
After the race, I got to catch the last 40 minutes or so of Ctein's ReTouch Pro live webinar, and even the portion I saw was fascinating. I like the format. Did anybody see the whole thing? Any comments?
World's Fattest Car: In the comments to my "Fat Mustang" post last week, I noted that high gas prices do not necessarily lead to more efficient cars, because it makes conspicuous consumption of gasoline (a.k.a. petrol) into a status symbol. As the need for efficient cars ratchets up globally, the rich are buying cars that are fatter, more musclebound, and less efficient that ever. But I still got lots of chuckles from this passage in Motor Trend, in an article called "Three Loko: We Sample a Trio of the World's Weirdest Cars," by Jonny Lieberman:
If the four-door Porker [the Porsche Panamera —Ed.] is the fall of Rome, the BMW X6 M is Incitatus, the horse Caligula appointed senator. This beast makes no sense. Consider that the X6 M weighs nearly 5200 pounds, yet comes with a 555-horsepower twin-turbo V-8. That's 55 horses more than the Porsche. All that grunt combined with such a chiseled and aggressive exterior makes the most controversial M badge ever a true highway menace. It's a real middle finger of a monster blowing up your rearview mirror....
But you have to wonder, did BMW go far enough? The X6 M weighs 2.5 tons and seats only four while returning very poor fuel economy (14.6 mpg on our watch). If that's not anti-social, I don't know what is. But why stop there? If you're going to be the bane of the environmental movement, if everyone who sees you driving your own personal attack truck is instantly, automatically going to hate your guts, best to keep your right foot down, right? Why not make the X6 M a single seater? Better yet, why not a single seater with center steering? And instead of doors, how about a roof hatch? There's way too much useable storage space (25.6 cubic feet, almost 10 cubic feet more than in the spacious Panamera). BMW ought to—I think—fill the rear of this gnarly puppy with lead. Seriously, why not?
I think the appropriate infantile internet initialism is "roflmao." The BMW X6 M gets the laurel wreath as the world's fattest bastard of a car, putting the more modest Mustang to shame in that regard.
Riddle: By the bye, the answer to yesterday's moral dilemma is no, you can't. Although I appreciate the lively discussion. Two of our readers who are arguably closest to the art world had their thumbs on the pulse of this one. JSL said:
Easy answer: no.
Even leaving aside the ethical issues, it's too risky. These things always get out, especially since any collector untrustworthy enough to propose such a thing is too untrustworthy to keep it a secret. Moreover, it would be easy to date the latter picture (for one thing, the colors won't have faded yet...). If you get caught doing something like that, your reputation will take a considerable hit—and when you're an artist working in a medium as contingent as photography, in a market based entirely on perception, your reputation is really all you have to sell.
And Ken Tanaka wrote:
'The dilemma: would you do it?' Absolutely not. Aside from the glaring ethical issues the top of the art world is actually a very small worldwide community and collectors tend to be social and loose-lipped. News of your cheat would certainly reach your gallery very soon, at which time you'd be certainly tossed onto the street and probably also sued, depending on your contractual agreement with your reps...whose reputations would now also be at stake. Getting another rep at the top end would probably be very tough, too. You'd become a pariah.
The buyer would be a dope, too. Increasingly, the provenance of highly-prized photographic prints is becoming a big factor in resales. (I have been involved in just such provenance work myself recently.) You can bet that the other ten prints are accounted for.
You can do as I recommend and not limit your editions in the first place, but if you do you have to abide by your decision. (It's still a true dilemma for me, but I think the moral of the post is, don't put yourself in that position.) My problem with it, as I've explained before, is that limiting hardly ever benefits the artist, and it seriously disadvantages the artist only in the statistically unlikely event that you get really lucky and do really well with some of your work. Not worth it, in my view. My position also derives from the fact that limits on editions with photography are not integral to the medium, but that's an aesthetic position, not an ethical one.
Lee Friedlander's my hero on this issue. (Friedlander refuses to limit his prints because he feels it's undemocratic.)
In any event, I appreciate many readers' sentiments when they advocate giving the various PTB in the art world the middle finger, but the time to give the art world the raised middle finger is when someone's hectoring you to limit your editions, not when your own bad decision comes home to kick you in the wallet years later. That's my take.
...Although, I am in the process of hatching a Big Scheme, capital B capital S, and it does involve limiting editions, so there's a good chance I'm going to go directly against my own advice. I'll fill you in in due course, of course.
Have a nice day! Hope it's as beautiful where you are as it is here.
"Open Mike" is a series of not-necessarily-on-topic posts that appears, if it appears at all, on Sundays.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by John Camp: "I have a modest collection of photographs that includes a number of famous names, and some not-so-famous, and three things I would not do are:
- Buy a photo on which I would have to remit part of a later sales price to the artist. It's not that I'm cheap, it's just that I refuse to get myself tangled up in some kind of contractual deal that could go on for decades and in the end, screw up my estate and my heirs—what happens when both the original owner and the photographer are dead? The two estates sue each other?
- Buy any kind of artwork that has a copyright notice on the front of it. They do nothing but defile the artwork. If the photographer wants to put a copyright notice on the back of the photo, that's fine with me. I nearly returned a famous photo by Cartier-Bresson because he signed his name too large. By the time I got around to buying one of the uneditioned prints, apparently having his name big was part of the deal. I wound up keeping the photo, but the signature still messes it up.
- Pay a lot extra for vintage or editioned prints. I'm interested in the image, and having the image made by the original artist, but I don't care how many he's made or whether he made them later.
"I think if I really desperately wanted an image (a feeling I haven't yet experienced, as opposed to liking an image very much) and if I were forced to pay extra because it was editioned, I'd be very very unhappy with the gallery if I found out additional prints were made. I wouldn't like the image less, but I'd be unhappy with the fact that to get it, I was forced to pay for what amounts to a 'guarantee' of scarcity. Like any other guarantee, I'd want to have it observed, and if enough money was involved, I'd try to recover the money if the guarantee wasn't observed. I think other people would too, and would suggest that this might have a dire effect on the photographer's overall ability to sell prints."
An Additional Comment by John Camp: "On further reflection: The critical mistake we're making in this discussion is to assume that a rational human being would pay $3 million for a photograph.
"In fact, that is not what is being done at all. No image is worth that much, to anyone. In fact, many images, including famous ones, are essentially as well-seen in good books as in original prints. Is that $3 million 'original vintage print' worth approximately 20 times the cost of that gorgeous Panamera Turbo, possibly the best production car in the world, mentioned in the same blog article? Well, the print is, for now, but not the image—a critical distinction.
"What actually is being sold for $3 million is a physical object, which is also a reliable store of value, an investment vehicle. This vehicle makes it possible to transfer a sum of money downstream in time, to be cashed at a later date, when needed. The key, as it is with gold, is scarcity; an investor in a Cindy Sherman print is relying on the guarantee of scarcity to provide a hedge against inflation, business reversals, or market conflicts. As long as the print is valued and remains scarce, the investment may safely be transferred down through the years; and if the art vehicle is carefully chosen, may increase in value, even after inflation. In this way, it behaves more or less like gold.
"There is some risk involved, as there is with gold: if more standard investments become to be perceived as safer, or more lucrative, the value of Shermans could tumble, as the value of gold did after 1980.
"There is another risk, however. If Cindy Sherman were to make more prints of the same image, the prints would stop behaving like gold, and would start behaving like fiat currency (paper money).
"As investors began to catch on that the scarcity guarantee was weakening, they would find that the Sherman investment value was declining—they'd be suffering from an onset of Sherman inflation. That is, against a set store of value—say, Porsche Panamera Turbos—they might only get ten cars for a print. As the guarantee weakened further, with Sherman running the old wet line as fast as she could, soon you'd reach Porsche / photo parity, and then, go off the edge. People would be demanding 10, 100, 1,000, 100,000 Shermans for a Porsche. You'd have hyper-inflation, and we'd all be standing on the street corners selling apples.
"So, that's why you can't violate limited edition pledge: you could bring down the economy.
"What's needed is a Central Photo Bank, which would guarantee the scarcity of certain printed images, and would have the legal right to move against counterfeiters, or people who would break the editioning pledge. You could even issue secondary investment vehicles based on the store of guaranteed images (we could call them 'bonds').
"Finally, I would like to say—with all due modesty, I believe—that I would make a pretty damn good Ben Bernanke."