David Bruce: The Coolest People in Art — Money

Money

• Garry Trudeau became an adult in the 1960s. He says, “It was the cauldron, the late 60s, when I began to think as an adult. All hell was taking place, the Black Panthers were on trial, students were shot in the Kent State protests, war was waging on the other side of the globe, it was very hard not to be swept up in all of that.” He made his comic strip, Doonesbury, topical. In order to write about very current events, he kept pushing his deadlines back, thus making many printers, who were paid overtime for their work on his comic strip, happy. Supposedly, one printer made so much money by working overtime because of Trudeau that he bought a yacht and named it Doonesbury.

• Louis Caldor, an engineer, discovered Grandma Moses in 1938 when he saw four of her paintings displayed in a drugstore window in Hoosick Falls, New York. He brought her to the attention of art dealer Otto Kallir, who began to display and sell her paintings. Once, after some of the paintings Mr. Caldor had bought were sold for much more money than he had paid, a check for the extra money was sent to Grandma Moses. She returned the check, saying that she had been paid once for the paintings and once was enough.

• In the 1980s,Waldemar Januszczak asked German painter Georg Baselitz, who often painted figures upside down, about the very high — actually, “astronomical” — sums of money that people were paying for his paintings. In particular, he asked Mr. Baselitz if he felt guilty about those sums of money. Mr. Baselitz, who was smoking, blew smoke in Mr. Januszczak’s face and replied, “What is better than a painting? Nothing.” Mr. Januszczak says, “Conversation over.”

• In the 1920s and 1930s, Albert Strunsky was a dream landlord in Greenwich Village for musicians and artists because he was very forgiving when a tenant was late with the rent. Sometimes he would make the tenant move, but it was always into another of Mr. Strunsky’s studio apartments. Eventually, Mr. Strunsky was owed so much money that his daughter sent out bills in an attempt to collect. This made Mr. Strunsky angry, and he made his daughter apologize to his tenants.

• Harry Hammond was a photographer of early British rock-and-rollers, including the Beatles. He knew many celebrities throughout his very long career — he started his apprenticeship in fashion, advertising, and press photography in 1934. He says that he was never star-struck by celebrities; instead, he says that he looked at them as “guineas on legs.” And for good reason. He says, “I was usually paid five guineas a shot, which saw me living high on the hog.”

• Often, we read about works of art being sold for millions of dollars, but of course artists often start by selling their works of art for much less. In 1957, art dealer Irving Blum bought a painting by Ellsworth Kelly, paying $75 for it — by making payments of $5 monthly. In an article about Mr. Kelly titled “Ellsworth Kelly is the king of colour,” arts reporter Mark Rappolt wrote, “These days $75 wouldn’t even get you his signature.”

• Nathan Rothschild knew money, but he did not know art. Many art dealers tried to get him interested in starting an art collection, but he rebuffed their attempts. Finally, one art dealer brought Mr. Rothschild a letter of introduction from an important rabbi. Mr. Rothschild decided that he ought to buy a painting, so he told the art dealer, “Give me a £30 picture. I don’t care which one. Goodbye.”

• Photographer Andreas Johnsen knows how to find wonderful places to live that don’t cost much money. He found out why one place was so inexpensive when his landlord climbed up the fire escape to show him this sign through the window: “Do not leave the apartment. There’s a city inspector in the hallway.” No one was supposed to be living in the building.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN ART

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