« Book Alert | Main | Can't Think of One »

Thursday, 28 January 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

It's what happens when the inmates are in charge of the asylum.

Yeah, good possibility we will be trading one fatheaded bag of hot ego for another. It's all a TV game show any more.

I sincerely wish for you that someone would buy YOUR famous Apple Photograph for USD 1.08 Million :-)

As my fellow RFF colleague said yesterday: "No worry, your first 10.000 potatos will be your worst"...
Cheer up Mike

The artist Alex Minewski supposedly (I have this second hand from people who knew him) gave up painting "society portraits" and began painting portraits of fish heads "because you don't have to talk with them."

I'm just disappointed the potato photo wasn't an autochrome.

It all makes sense if you know the "artist" sees the "potato as a proxy for the ontological study of the human experience."

Some rich people are idiots (at minimum Trump and the guy who bought the potato and its "philosophy").

Relative to the Fine Art market, if you are inclined to "pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep", my question would be, "what's taken you so long?" - the art market has been operating at borderline insanity levels, price-wise, for decades.

In any event, what's not to like about a picture, as the photographer states, in which a potato is used (start rolling your eyes here) "as a proxy for the ontological study of human experience ... I see commonalities between humans and potatoes that speak to our relationship as individuals within a collective species ... Generally, the life of the harvested potato is violent and taken for granted."

Whatever. The whole deal just goes to prove 2 time proven maxims ....

A fool and his money are soon parted ~ early pre-15the century proverb, and

No one in this world, so far as I know - and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me - has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of plain people ~ H.L. Mencken

[I don't actually think the art world is to blame for this one...to appearances, this is just a very savvy marketer doing his thing among the supporters he's generated for himself. Although the art market still has to answer for Richard Prince. --Mike]

Mike, that's just pretty much all of current art in a nutshell. Visit any museum of contemporary art (e.g., MOCA or the Broad in L.A.). By and large, there no "there" there. There is, however, a lot of curator delusion that the emperor is wearing clothes.

It sounds like ninja-level marketing move, but I also wouldn't be surprised if he was able to convince some poor (wealthy) soul out of their money.

And it had to be a potato?

I think the "artist's statement" is as barfable as they come:

"I see commonalities between humans and potatoes that speak to our relationship as individuals within a collective species. Generally, the life of a harvested potato is violent and taken for granted. I use the potato as a proxy for the ontological study of the human experience."

Puh-leez. It's just a freakin' potato.

I've got some organic blue ones in my basement. Maybe this is a trend to jump on, get rich while the getting is good?

Your first paragraph rings true, loudly. As I watched SNL's take on Trump / Palin, my overriding thought was certain situations are parody proof.

What bothers me about the potato photo is that there is no mystery in the presentation. Perhaps if it was in black and white.... or in an unusual shadow. Or perhaps if it symbolized something beyond the waste of perception and money.

Yes, I agree, it is much like the presidential race.

Hard to take such things seriously, and yet it does influence countless people in perceiving art and understanding our democratic process, and perhaps one's own self. Who knows? Certainly not me.

My own potato photo on Flickr has only received one "fave" so far...

Potato on Velvet

Mike, you are so good at this writing game. Lines like the one below have me coming back every day. Thanks for making the insane funny; we need all the help we can get!

Quoting the article:
It's like trying to make fun of the parlous state of American politics by pretending that some fatheaded bag of hot ego is in the running for President because he played a billionaire on TV. It's readymade self-parody. Nothing to add needed.

I think you're doing the guy a disservice by comparing him to Weston.

First, Weston was only a photographer, while this person is a Visual Artist.

Second, Pepper #30 is very obvious; it's significance is made plain by simply *looking* at it. The meaning behind the potato portrait is more subtle, requiring context to be explained by the artist:

"Generally, the life of a harvested potato is violent and taken for granted. I use the potato as a proxy for the ontological study of the human experience."

Finally, it only took Weston 30 tries to get his famous photo. Potato #345 is the result of an order of magnitude more effort.

as this conversation is sure to come with each selling photograph in the $1M+, and how these days the cases l'internets fame causes even more confusion in a sensible discussion, I found the discourse in this blog entry a good reference to the usual questions of unfairness/wtf that typically come up (elsewhere): [ http://davidduchemin.com/2016/01/whats-your-potato/ ]

To quote Ansel Adams...

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”

Maybe he got lost in a potato chip factory.
Mi dos pesos

That picture made quite a furore on the internet, but I just shrugged. When I saw it, the only thing that occurred to me was: "Wow, that's sharp! And how the hell did he get that inky black background?" I don't know what that says about me, but I really didn't care about anything else. I've seen it all: people paying fortunes for all sorts of absurd things is quite commonplace. It doesn't shock me anymore.
As you point out, Edward Weston made a picture of a pepper. Actually, he made several pictures of peppers, as well as of a cabbage leaf, an egg slicer, an eggplant, a bedpan and a toilet. Except that he was exploring pure forms with artistic purposes. Our potato photographer was just seeking more attention (kudos for not mentioning his name and [or] showing the picture). He was following the old motto: what's important is to be talked about, badly or otherwise. Anything goes when it comes to drawing attention.

...On the other hand, legumography might just be where it's at. Just watch me as I rise to fame and become a millionaire by taking a picture of a cucumber. All I need is a buyer.

Imagine the collection of photographs you could put together for $1.08 Million?

Worth noting that, as far as I know, there's been no confirmation of this sale. All we have is the photographer's story.

If I were to argue for existence of a Creator*, I would point out that the other dominant explanations of the Universe fail to explain the pervasive existence of humor.

Oddly enough, it seems that those who argue most vehemently for the existence of a Creator neither recognize the humor that surrounds them, nor seem to have any in themselves.

Perhaps that's a joke, too?

Do wits take advantage of time to create and enhance humor, or does time exist so they can use it?

Philosophically opposed to Absolutes,

* I do not argue either side here.

For another $1M, he could have gotten butter and sour cream.

I looked up the photographer in question, and found out he is "acclaimed". OK. I did an image search on his name; he seems to specialize in full front facial portraits against a black background, lit slightly from the side and above, just like the potato portrait. So, he's consistent in his style. Also Irish; perhaps he had an opening in his schedule and grabbed the nearest spud?

Perhaps the value is because it's an Irish potato? All that history, ...

It was certainly too subtle for ME. Just wondering: can one distill vodka from autochrome prints?

Proves once again that P.T. Barnum was right.

Someone has a good eye.

Are you familiar with the work of Ben Vautier?

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. H.L. Mencken

With best regards,


That "fatheaded bag of hot ego" is doing exactly what you suspect the potato photographer of doing. He's well aware of the "media's knee-jerk weakness and insatiable appetite for fake-outrageous stories to put up as click-bait," so he insults every ethic group, every foreign country, just about every demographic, and then he reaps billions of dollars worth of advertising, without having to resort to his own billions (cough) to pay for it.

I call dibs on carrots..........

My potato flower photo on Flickr has only one fave too


I looked at the CNN story about this. It included a number of The Photographer's other photos, almost all celebrity portraits. In comparison, the potato photo is a masterpiece.

As an astronomer, I can see the beauty in Paul's metaphorical Universe in an apple.

As an asteroid astronomer, I can see an interesting asteroid analog in the potato.

As a photographer, I can't see paying more than $100 for a print of either.

"Parlous"--great word, perfectly placed. *tips hat*

I have mentioned a couple of times to my co-art-market-stand-holder Richard that we should try displaying just a single, small, framed print on our market stand some time with a price tag of £1,000 (about fifty times our usual) and see what happens.

In Ireland potatoes are hot. They have a traumatic history with them. It was the main reason why so many of them fled to the United States in the nineteenth century.


To be honest the photograph by the Irishman Kevin Abosch is not all that bad. It’s an overpriced, but not tasteless potato .
That can’t be said about the work of Peter Lik, the number 1 bestseller of all times. Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman are the top of the serious art world. But how about runner up at number 11, Dmitry Medvedev “Tobolsk Kremlin” that he shot from the plane?


I kinda like the potato photo. I don't $1,000,000 like it, but it's nice. The artist's statement is a real letdown though. There is so much history and human experience that has been reliant on the simple potato. Crop failures have driven mass migrations and changed societies; you could write volumes on the history and significance of the potato. But no, the potato's "violent and taken for granted" life is simply a vague proxy for "the ontological study of human experience." Which human experiences? It reads like it was randomly generated to make grammatical sense without actually saying anything. I'm disappointed.

Mike, this is Peter Lik redux. Let's wait 'til the buyer is verified. Long may we wait.

1)Funny Mr. Potato Head--a cherished childhood memory; 2) Dan Quayle and the "potatoe" incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wdqbi66oNuI

Yes, but it was an organic potato.

Now we know how NASA fakes all those asteroid pictures.

Yes . . .. But, look again, and notice the subtle use of a single light source, and the abrupt shadowing of the lower half of the potato into that exquisite black. After all, what is the price of perfection?

And he's done an interview with Mashable!

I fail to see the resemblence to Jesus.

One who believes that a potato suffers violence might also believe that it needs voting rights and a driver's license.

Since these sorts of posts generate wonderful off-topic (OT) comment threads ... is there an Autochrome plug-in for PS or other digital processing software?

I actually love Autochromes. (When is the next GEM exhibit with autochromes on display?) Or will GEM have a large format autochrome workshop? They already have a workshop for dry plate emulsion, coating and shooting. Mark Osterman, can you help? :)

A true artist would have sliced that photo into strips and deep fried them. The resultant masterpiece would have been titled "French Fries" (or "Freedom Fries," depending on your political viewpoint) and probably sold for two or three times the price.

An emerging "photato" meme?

Jeez ... what a waste.

Dennis' comment above is in the running for 'comment of the year' and it's still only January.

I believe Mike alluded to this example: https://news.artnet.com/market/new-york-times-exposes-peter-lik-photography-scheme-264858

I also recommend reading the David duChemin article mentioned above.

Fries with that? (I'm sorry)

I know what you mean. It's not easy taking the news seriously, is it? I don't watch daily news. I subscribe to a weekly newsmagazine (Macleans) in the hopes that a one-week delay will filter out the worst of the nonsense.

But I read an article in Macleans this week about that guy with the hair who claims to be a billionaire deal-maker, and they quoted a supporter of his saying that the man with the hair understands what life is like for guys like him. What?

Pepper #30 is worth it because it is a good photograph. The potato is not, because, well, "there is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept." And it is rather fuzzy.

Sorry, but as an Australian I'm a bit confused confused. Has someone sold a portrait of a presidential candidate for a million dollars?

I knew that autochromes were made from potatoes.
Is there a prize?

Also, you probably know about this already, but maybe not. If you have some art but are stumped by the Artist's Statement, there's an app for that:


The amount of money proported to have been paid for this photograph rivals IMO the amount of taxpayers money paid by the National Gallery in Ottawa Ontario Canada some years ago for a painting consisting of three different coloured stripes, on a huge canvas.

Outrage then, now no longer an issue.

As with so many events we the reader shall soon move on to greater and lesser things to occupy our time.

Sadly, nobody has yet offered me 7 figures for my "One Bad Apple". Perhaps I should switch to veggies?

Jealous much, people?

Photographer photographs potato and puts print on wall. Rich person he knows sees print and offers a million for the print. Photographer decides to not look gift potato in the mouth. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, isn't it. Personally I'd love to have a potato shot I could sell for seven figures. I wonder if I can get $500K for that carrot shot I have.


p.s. People would vote for Christopher Reeve because he was a decent and honest human being who brought joy to millions without having to be a deuche. He would have won in a landslide. And my 11 yr old who didn't even know him while he was alive knows he is the real superman.

"I had no respect whatsoever for the creative works of either the painter or the novelist. I thought Karabekian with his meaningless pictures had entered into a conspiracy with millionaires to make poor people feel stupid." Kurt Vonnegut in "The Breakfast of Champions"

But on the other hand - why not? There are people in the world for whom $1m is not a sum of money of any relevance. Perhaps the purchaser would have spent that money as I spend £10, on a whim with no real thought of value, or perhaps he simply wished to show patronage to a favoured artist. He may even have meant it ironically; a surprising percentage of billionaires are quite intelligent.

And yet, as I'm sure many here feel, it seems like such a waste. It would have been nice to see that money spent on photography - an endowment perhaps - rather than a photograph.

If the photograph is a million dollars one can only wonder how much the potato itself is worth.

Haven't tried shooting vegs yet, may before the end comes. In the last ten years I finally started showing my work, got into a number of National Juried shows, and have come to the rather obvious conclusion that: People from an art school background have a different idea of a good image; and some people have to have something that nobody else has done, especially if it is bizarre.

I guess you have to pay taxes and it is not free advertisement.

Oh, it's a potato? I thought it was a head shot of some celeb I'd never heard of.

The thing is, no one says po-TAH-to - that pronunciation was invented by Ira Gershwin to get himself out of a hole!

To-MAH-to, yes. All the best people say that. :)

Hmmm, Back in around 1972 or so I shot a B&W image of a eggplant that strangely grew a nose that looked like then President Nixon. The eggplant looked a lot like Nixon, the nose was right where it should be, it had his cheeks and on. Seems like I should find that negative given today's market, who knows, maybe that's retirement money?

I would need proof that these photographers really were paid these prices.
They are not in the art world. Particularly the one with the ridiculous HDR postcard pictures may be good for photo competitions, but never for the art market. I think it's publicity stands. You can buy Herb Ritts prints for a few thousand Euros. The more expensive ones cost 23000.

I actually like the million dollar potato more than the $4 million German river.

(And on the subject of fruits and vegetables, don't forget Wynn Bullock's "Half an Apple".)

I was hoping that this would confirm all this, but it is a hoax:

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007