David Bruce: The Coolest People in Art: Money


• A skip-rat is a person who rummages through refuse looking for still usable items. One skip-rat in New York, Elizabeth Gibson, found something better than just usable: a painting worth $1 million. The painting, created in 1970, is Tres Personajes(Three People), by Rufino Tamayo, and she found it by some rubbish bags in November of 2003. Although the painting is large (51 inches by 38 inches), she was struck by it and carried it home only 20 minutes before a garbage truck arrived to carry away the rubbish. The painting had been missing for 20 years. In 1977, it had been purchased at Sotheby’s for $55,000, but it turned up stolen after having been placed in storage while the owner was moving. Ms. Gibson kept the painting for several months in her apartment, then she started to investigate it, helped by the signature “Tamayo 0-70” on the painting. Eventually, she discovered a reproduction of the painting in a monograph at a library. Knowing that the painting was most likely very valuable, she built a false wall in her apartment, behind which she kept the painting. She then contacted a Sotheby’s art expert, who came to her apartment and saw the painting. The expert, August Uribe, said, “This has been nothing short of a miracle. That such an important painting, missing for a generation, was rescued in this way — and in such pristine condition — continues to astound me.” The painting has been returned to its rightful owner, who placed it for sale at Sothebe’s, and Ms. Gibson received both a $15,000 reward for returning the painting to its rightful owner as well as a finder’s fee from Sothebe’s.

• John Varley, a painter who was an acquaintance of William Blake, was generous — too generous. He gave much of his money to the needy, with the result that he sometimes found himself in debtors’ prison. He would simply take his painting supplies with him to prison, and then he would paint and sell paintings until he had paid his debts and could get out of prison. He was also an astrologer, and one day he believed that the planet Uranus was having an evil influence on him and he would suffer something bad before noon that day. A little before noon, he said that he was feeling well and that therefore the threat must not be to his person but to his property. Just then, the cry of “Fire!” was heard, and he rushed into the street and saw that his house was on fire. As it burned to the ground, he wrote a paper about the astrological influences of the planet Uranus.

• According to legend, when Rembrandt first sold a painting in The Hague, he received a large sum of money. He took a coach back home to Leiden, but because he was carrying so much money he did not leave the coach when it stopped at an inn. Somehow, the horses pulling the coach ran away when the driver and other passengers were inside the inn. They pulled Rembrandt and the coach all the way to Leiden. Rembrandt was very happy, both because he had sold a painting for a large sum of money and because he had received a free coach ride home. According to another legend, Rembrandt won a bet when he created the etching Six’s Bridgein 1645. He had bet that he could create the etching before a servant could go to a nearby village and return with a pot of mustard.

• In 2010, graffiti artist Banksy paid a visit to Detroit, where he created works of art (without permission) in four places. HisKid Draws his Garden on Cass Avenueappeared on a wall of a vacant building on Cass Avenue, near the Curl Up and Dye salon, which specializes in punk-chic styles. The hairdressers there loved the Banksy, but they didn’t own or manage the building that the Banksy was painted on, and the powers-that-be had the Banksy power-washed off, despite the pleas of the hairdressers. Too bad. Travis R. Wright, author of the article “Banksy bombs Detroit,” writes, “That wall with Banksy was worth at least twice as much as the whole property’s asking price.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



Buy the Paperback


Buy in Other Formats, Including PDF


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: