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Celebrity art
Oct 13, 2005 04:32 PM 1659 Views
(Updated Oct 13, 2005 04:32 PM)

Celebrity art A few days ago I decided to stop by a Carmel gallery to see the artwork of a show business celebrity who was currently performing on the peninsula. I had heard that he loved to paint and I was curious. Surprisingly, the stuff wasn’t too bad. I use the word “surprisingly” since other art shows of celebrities I’ve attended have been disgustingly awful. The exhibition consisted mostly of small watercolors and a few oils.


The work was certainly on a par with the type of art one would see at any community art fair. Pretty scenes that if priced at$200 or$300 and if properly framed, would enhance the walls of any home. None of the work showed the slightest sign of ‘professionalism’ [a hazy term I use only to rhetorically separate artwork of true beauty from amateur effort]. I was in for a stunning shock when I saw the prices that ranged from the mid teens [that’s$15, 000!] to as high as$50, 000. I realize that there’s an element in our society preoccupied with celebrity status.


Autograph seekers, “groupies” that hound rock stars and those that mill around when there’s a rumor that someone famous might appear. Years ago I had my own gallery in Carmel located adjacent to a restaurant owned by a movie star celebrity [who was also my gallery landlord]. Every day, dozens of tourists and many locals would stop by asking if there was any sign of the ‘Celebrity’ that day. Apparently there’s a vicarious thrill for some to just stand in the same room and breath the same air as a famous person.


But there’s a deeper mystery when we examine reasons why sophisticated people capable of paying$30, 000 for a$200 painting do so simply because a celebrity signed the work. The purchase wasn’t made for the value of the artwork, it was made for the signature . . . a exorbitantly high price to pay for an autograph. In the world of commerce, you take what you can get and if there are fools willing to pay outrageous prices simply to show friends and family that a famous name is hanging on their wall, more power to the artist and the gallery but what these usurious price tags do is to contaminate the value of high quality artwork created by dedicated talent.


When you’re out shopping for artwork to enhance the ambience of your environment pay no attention to the signature. Artwork is a commodity, just like clothing. Some people pay$75 for a pair of jeans simply because a label has the name of a famous designer when exactly the same pair of jeans sold at a discount store can be bought for under$20. When you shop for art . . . dismiss the artist’s name; it’s meaningless.


The only measure of value is if you think it’s beautiful.


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