Is The World Of Art Auctions Changing, Or Is The Unusual Not Unusual?

December 30, 2022
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Alex Sadlo Figures in Bas Relief featured

Anyone familiar with the work of a contemporary artist like Alex Sadlo may delight in such a style, as well as other expressions of the unusual and the idiosyncratic. But, as ever, there will be debate about what constitutes ‘good art’, with some seeming to push the boundaries further and further.

The issue has been raised by The Guardian, which noted that rather than treating something drawn, painted or sculpted as a great artwork, art auctions are now featuring actual paleontological specimens, not models of them.

It reflected that the latest case, a compete T-Rex skull named Maximus that recently sold at Sotheby’s in New York for just over $6 million was not even the priciest dino purchase of the year. That went to the $25 million sale of a compete T-Rex skeleton named Shen at Christie’s in November.

Dinosaur expert Paul Barratt of the Natural History Museum told the paper the same kind of people who used to collect fine art are now among the main buyers of such specimens. “Dinosaurs are rare and have aesthetic value. They can also reflect their owner’s personality in a way that a Rembrandt can’t,” he remarked.

The collection of something real rather than the product of human imagination may offer a rival alternative to art, but artists themselves have been getting in on the act. Tracy Emin went as far as to auction a sculpture of her own brain in a Christie’s auction in mid-December designed to raise funds for Parkinson’s UK.

Then again, as Emin is a Parkinson’s sufferer and this represents as much the thoughts inside her head as the grey matter, who is to say this is not true art?

Given that it is almost 30 years since Damian Hirst introduced us to the art of sliced up cows in formaldehyde, it is clear that definitions of art have been pushing the boundaries. By its very nature, art has the capacity to embody post-modernism, so this is nothing new.

All that means there is still a place for the abstract picture as much now as in Picasso’s time, whatever other variations in taste and ideals may exist – even ones 65 million years in the making.

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