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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Two Peeks Last Week

Last week I got to see a couple interesting things that aren’t accessible (yet) to the general public.

On Thursday, while on duty for the day job, I was part of a team that made a pitch to a new client. This company is a leader in an old-economy industry and has its headquarters in a small Southern city—two attributes that say to me that poster art, if anything, will be hanging on the walls.

When we arrived, we were let into the elevator by a pistol-toting guard. Once on our floor midway up the tower we were ushered into a conference room/holding pen to wait our turn to present. When I wandered down the hallway to find a men’s room, I was shocked when I noticed a signed Richard Diebenkorn woodcut hanging on the wall. It was from an edition of 200, but I know that these works are going for more than the price of a decent car today. I then saw that a card identifying the piece was hanging on the wall next to it—a sure sign of a well curated corporate collection. Surprise!

We were eventually ushered up to the executive floor to do our thing. Coming out of the elevator, I saw that, as I had expected, the floor was decorated in the old boys network style—lots of dark wood, carpets, and leather furniture. What I didn’t expect, though, was the collection of really good ab ex paintings hanging on the walls.

After our pitch was over, I was waiting in the reception area for one of my colleagues to join me. I mentioned to the receptionist that I was impressed with the art hanging around her. Here’s how the conversation went.
Her: “You should take a second look at that little one over there.”
Me: “I don’t need to. I know what it is.”
Her: “So you know Mark Rothko, then?”
Me: “Sure. Let me ask you a question. Do you have any idea what that's worth?”
Her: “About a million dollars.”
I was actually going to tell her that it would fetch around $750,000, but in this market why not ask for an even million?

When I returned home, I did a little Internet research. It’s possible to find mention that this company has a corporate art collection. They have even loaned some of their prints for a show at a small regional museum. Nowhere, though, do they make it known exactly how deep the collection is and how good it is. Here’s to hoping that we win the work so that I have an excuse to wander their halls this summer.

The next day, I was home in New York and managed to slip onto the third floor at the Whitney where the summer show Remote Viewing is being installed. The show contains a wall drawing by Julie Mehretu that is in the process of being completed. It was interesting to see the work in progress next to several of her finished paintings propped against the walls waiting to be hung.

I’ll be curious to see how the piece is completed. It looks like a lot of work remains to be done on it before the June 2 opening. And I also wonder who is going to end up suing the museum for ownership of this wall when the show closes and the floor is de-installed.

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