Art, Money, Drugs, Death


Its incredible how art is at the heart of most things. I must say, after Duchamp, everywhere one looks,  there is art! More precisely, there is no art, outside of our nomination or designation. The irony of this situation is that, far from the emancipation of art from critique, judgment and market that should have flowed from the Duchampian epiphany,  the  production and consumption of art and its circulation as investment have grown exponentially. Now, it seems that in the last year or so, the allegedly 1MDB embroiled Malaysian financier Jho Low has been off-loading his art collection – a Richter ( record 30.4 million pounds). A Rothko ( $46.5 million) a Fontana (record 15.9 million), a Picasso (at a loss for 18.9 million pounds), a Basquiat (at loss for 6.2 million pounds) and a  Monet (below estimate for 11.6 million pounds). Some of these sales by this beleaguered financier are said to be taking place in the context of the fulfillment of a Sotheby’s Financial Services agreement in which art works are pledged as collateral for major loans. The latest installment is the sale at a loss, for $33 million, of Basquiat’s tragic dustheads acquired in 2013 for $48.8 million. Among the ironies of this painting is its particular investment logic. While it is a representation of two Angel Dust users or`dustheads`, Basquiat himself died tragically of a heroin overdose at the young age of 27. A further irony is that Jho Low seems to be from the inner circle of money and power in Malaysia – a country that imposes a mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking. Ironies aside, according to  the Art Market Monitor the initial purchase by Jho Low has made a lasting impact on the Basquiat market. Indeed, it seems that art has become the ultimate commodity fetish, an investment fetish even! This is the Failure of Marcel Duchamp, and also the failure of much more besides!