Those, like myself, who marvel at the record prices for the last available classic (if secondary) works by Andy Warhol, must consider that the time between their creation and now is the equivalent of the time span between the Civil War and World War I, a length in which two full generations have come and gone. The pressure of what we continue to call contemporary art collapses this period in our minds into a kind of eternal present: a big part of the market and esthetic appeal of Pop.
Add to this that such popsters as Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist, Marisol, John Chamberlain and Robert Indiana remain among the living and one can almost ignore the fact that Jeff Koons is pushing 60. The one element of life that remains hyperly cognizant of time, because it is a function of time, is (sigh) money, big money. Everyone oohs and ahs over tens of millions that fly down with the auction hammer, without reflecting that, if we were all immortal, there would be no need for money.
Big money is a function of big anxiety: the debt culture of Wall Street is designed to capitalize on the anxieties of the lower classes and the poor to reap riches for the wealthy. And the big money bid at auction, accompanied by the backstage machinations of credit, third-party guarantees and often imaginary bidding is designed to separate the rest of us from art as a transcendental experience to art as a function of surplus value.
What gets lost in this branded cattle call is an inclusive perspective on recent art history. For some reason, this just concluded round of evening sales made me think of Elizabeth Murray, a painter whose work I disliked a lot (not that it matters), but nevertheless a recently deceased artist of celebrated dignity and accomplishment. I mean, where is she in the land of the auction-house death mask shaped like Warhol's dollar sign lying on its side? Nowhere, and that's what's wrong and that's the point.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).