THE HOUSE SALE
Since nothing interesting has occurred in my life in several months, my trusty editor asked me if I would like to report on the next "House Sale" at Christie’s in Rockefeller Center. Having never visited an auction house, I thought it would be an adventure. Though I was warned that attending an auction is akin to sitting on the F train while it’s stuck in a tunnel, I was excited. From an art star’s perspective, auctions are glamorous events that rich people hang out at. Maybe I would meet a wealthy family who would adopt me.
I was also told that the House Sale is affordable -- a mishmash of furniture, rugs and art, much of it for less than $1,000. Sadly, it is also held on the first Wednesday of every month, which is around the time I’m forced to turn over most of my income to my landlord for the privilege of living in squalor.
Once my rent was paid, I checked my nest egg. It totaled exactly $32.15. Coupled with a newly received, mysterious 4-cent check from the "Tenant Lease Security Department," my savings equaled $32.19 -- unlikely to cover even the cost of a catalogue.
Undeterred, I headed to Christie’s where I hoped to acquire the priceless commodity of life experience. The auction started at the ungodly hour of 10 am, which I’m guessing ensures no one will show up after hitting the bars and bid drunk.
I bypassed bidder’s registration since I didn’t want to end up an indentured servant to Christie’s because of an impulse buy. Also, I don’t have a bank account, which is required to register.
Paddle-less, I entered the Wood’s Room, where Georgina Wilsenach, a sophisticated British auctioneer, was busy describing Mother and Child, a watercolor by Louis Valtat. Christie’s salespeople took bids via old-fashioned corded phones while others took bids online, which could explain the light attendance. Why would anyone bathe, put clothes on and leave home when "pajama bidding" is an option? Mother and Child went for $3,200 ($3,840 with the premium added in), well above the high estimate of $2,500. Since I was sitting in the back of the room, I could only see the backs of heads so I don’t know who bought the painting. . . or who bought anything, for that matter.
I do know that after a few lots I started to zone out. My notes are sparse: Entre Bronze, a violin sculpture by Arman, produced a minor bidding war, which ended when the lot sold for $36,000. Abstract paintings were all the rage. A John Hoyland painting fetched $26,400, as did a Ross Bleckner watercolor, while a Karel Appel painting, Dreaming Head, brought in $66,000.
James Weeks’ painting of a sad-looking baby in a white dress fetched $6,600 and a Marisol bottle with a blue yarn hairdo (and matching pudenda) -- it reminded me of a troll doll! -- got $3,120. The only work I could almost afford was a set of two Richard Smith multiples for $60, which I noted looked like "hairy squares."
By lot 148, I became concerned for Ms. Wilsenach. Did she need a lozenge? My worries were assuaged when Richard Nelson, who’d been previously answering phones on the sidelines, replaced her.
Though he was a lively auctioneer, by 12:30 pm, the cool modern art had begun to give way to soiled Audubon prints of vermin. So I hit the road, determined to return the following day.
Day two began in a haze. The night before I’d hosted my weekly open mike, the Anti-Slam at Mug Lounge, a beauty salon/bar at 488 East 13th Street, and gotten home at 5 am, only to be awakened at 9 am by a construction crew tearing down the building directly behind mine. My nose ran from rubble-inhalation and my eyes were the color of an early 20th-century Chinese-style painted red lacquer chest. In my search for coffee I got lost in the Rockefeller Center catacombs, the underground concourse of tunnels beneath Christie’s. Barely averting a panic attack, I grabbed a mocha and made my way back to aboveground civilization.
Once again I entered the Wood’s Room, feeling like an old-timer, a little more at home. Taking a seat in the back row, I sipped my coffee. Something about the aerodynamics of the cup against my lips made it sound as though I slurped in a heinous manner. The dude in front of me sighed with disgust and I suddenly felt acutely aware of the sounds I was making and the fact that my presence was deemed an irritant to an actual paddle-holder.
I tried not to breathe or move as I watched Richard Nelson auction off furniture that looked like it had been lifted from my grandmother’s house in Maryland. Since I live in a sixth-floor walk up, I own only furniture that is folding and under ten pounds so I wasn’t tempted by any of the goods -- not even a rococo revival writing desk, which I could use and which went for only $960.
The desk was followed by a Louis Philippe mahogany inlaid sofa. The bidding started at $750. I thought of my friend, Tom, whose girlfriend recently dumped him, moved out and took the couch, which he had paid for, and which she was reselling on Craig’s List for $750. This was a much fancier couch! I imagined us watching 24 from the comfort of it while we rested our tall boys atop an Italian walnut marquetry and parquetry inlaid center table ($2,880) and our feet upon an incredibly practical white mid-19th century footstool ($360).
I stepped outside and called him. When he didn’t pick up I left a message. "Dude, you have got to get over here. They have tons of couches and it’s cheaper than Craig’s List!"
Back inside, a 19th-century green leather and mahogany "cock-fighting chair" was on the auction block. What is a cock-fighting chair? Its armrests are unusually high, but its purpose eluded me. (Google later revealed that these chairs were designed for straddling in a bad-ass fashion and that people often watched cock-fighting while straddling them, back when cock-fighting wasn’t frowned upon. I also learned that Hunter S. Thompson once got one as a Father’s Day gift.)
After the cock-fighting chair, nothing quite held my interest -- though there was a Gothic Revival bed that would have been perfect for light bondage, but was well beyond my means at $1,320. I was tired of watching others shop and I needed sustenance. So I threw on my coat and bid adieu to Christie’s, contented with the thought that if I save my money, there’s another House Sale next month.
REVEREND JEN is an art star, urban elf, troll museum founder and up-and-coming celebrity personality. She is the author of Reverend Jen’s Really Cool Neighborhood and Sex Symbol for the Insane.