Is the world’s most expensive photo overrated?

Look at this photograph closely. It’s called Rhein II byAndreas Gursky. Now, guess how much it’s worth or rather, what someone paid forit in an auction?
Rhein II
The actual number is $4.3 million, or €3.2 million. Now payingthat amount FOR A F**KING PHOTOGRAPH is crass enough. But to add insult toinjury, it’s not exactly eye-catching or heartbreaking or executed withextraordinary skill. It is big—80×140 inches, but they say size doesn’t matter. My first impression wasthat it has very strong lines but it’s still only a picture of a river on adull day. It is, allegedly, the photographer’s favourite photo and “an allegorical pictureabout the meaning of life and how things are”. I think it shouldhave been called The emperor’s new clothes.
Untitled #69
Florence Waters in The Daily Telegraph said “his image is a vibrant,beautiful and memorable – I should say unforgettable – contemporary twist on Germany’s famed genre andfavourite theme: the romantic landscape, and man’s relationship with nature”. Really?!Maeve Kennedy in The Guardian said it was a “sludgy image of desolate, featureless landscape”.Guess which one I agree with?
It has ousted the previous record holder, Cindy Sherman’s Untitled#96, which sold for $3.89 million price point last May. I think this photograph is 10 timesmore appealing…still not €2.3 million good, but slightly better.
White Center
It reminded me of when I saw the painting, White Center, by Mark Rothko. It was besidea news item explaining how the painting had been sold for $73 million (€55million). Granted, it’s contemporary, simple and colourful. I like Rothko’swork but is it €55 million good?!

No. 5
Incidentally, the world’s most expensive painting at the minute is called No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock and it set some crazy art lover back $140 million, or a cool €105 million smackers. Any painting by Pollock is sought after and he has some fine work. I like his frenetic and vibrant style BUT on the other hand, if I didn’t know the artist and you told me a five year old had painted this, I’d have believed you. You’re essentially paying over €100 million for an autograph. 

It’s hard to put a monetary value on art and hard to quantify an individual emotional reaction to a piece of art. But there’s a global recession on, for everyone except art dealers ha ha. I can’t help thinking €3.2 million would go a long way toward oh, around 3.2 million things A LOT more meaningful than a photograph. It’s like Nero fiddling while (a photograph of) Rome burns.
PS: If you like photographs, Time Magazine released its Top 10 Photos of the Year here


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