“Art = technical competence times emotional honesty squared.”

– Michael Masterson

I’ve been looking seriously at art for nearly 60 years, collecting it for about 40 years, and selling it for about 30 years. And I’ve learned a few things about it.One of those things has to do with why people buy art – which is the same reason that they buy everything else they don’t need but think they do: to try to soothe their damaged psyches.

That’s not mean to be a criticism. Or if it is, it’s a criticism I accept as deserving, since I cannot claim that I’m an exception.

But there are degrees in everything, don’t you think? And when it comes to some modern and most contemporary art (as opposed to art made prior to the 20th century), the relationship between sense and sensibility has never been greater.

Which is to say that the market for abstract art is absolutely unhinged today. The price people are paying for trendy works has skyrocketed to lunatic levels.

Here’s an example – a little story about a work by Kenneth Noland that was recently purchased at Christie’s by Robert Buford for a multimillion-dollar, record-breaking price…

“I bought it at Christie’s” LINK

I used to sell Kenneth Noland paintings. He is of a school of abstraction called “color field.” And he was a prominent player.

If you look him up, you’ll read something like, “Instead of painting the canvas with a brush, Noland’s style was to stain the canvas with color. The idea was to make the piece about the art, not the artist, by removing the brushstrokes. He emphasized spatial relationships in his work by leaving unstained areas of bare canvas as a contrast against the colors.” Blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, blah, indeed. The real reason Noland is important in the history of modern art is because… well, because he was a prominent color field artist…

Back when I was selling his work, an ordinary piece of his would go for 10 or 20 grand. A really good piece might fetch six figures.

How prices have appreciated…

So check out Buford’s little story about how he almost missed his chance (horrors!) to set that crazy record for a Noland. And when you do, notice the trendy sneaker-shoes he is wearing. I wonder how much he paid for them.