Saturday, November 18, 2017

New York on a Budget? Visit Christie's Auction House for Great Art

Our dual-tour included a visit to the Top of the Rock and Rockefeller Center Art and Architecture Tour.  Frankly we had difficulty getting to the right group as there were no signs, and personnel seemed not to know what was going on. We were not alone; every other tourist had to ask people as they meandered about trying to get to the right place. Even though we insisted we had a dual-tour, we were sent up the top of the building (Top of the Rock). The lines were long and personnel spent a lot of energy taking our pictures, then selling our pictures --- we had to work hard to finally get someone to understand we had a walking tour scheduled.

When we finally did the walking tour, it was fine.  Our tour guide pointed out the 14 buildings that make up the Rockefeller Center Complex (including NBC and nearby Fox). He talked about the art on the buildings, works by Paul Manship, Isamu Noguchi, Michi Ihara, Jose Maria Sert, Frank Brangwyn, and others. We heard about the quarrel between Diego Rivera and a Rockefeller over the image of Lenin in Rivera's work, and how Rivera's work was ultimately destroyed.

We also saw men setting up the platform for the gigantic Christmas Tree. People were skating on the nearby skating rink -- I could imagine just how festive the place will get in a few days. 

When we walked by Christie's Auction House (20 Rockefeller Plaza, West Entrance is located at 49th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues), our guide talked about the "Last Da Vinci" the Salvator Mundi that was currently in the house, and he went on to say Christie's was chock-full of fine art, that you could waltz in for free, even have free coffee, and be up close to the works of Picasso, or Monet, or El Greco.  "If you want to impress your date, take her to Christie's," he said.

The next day we took the subway back to Rockefeller Center, and walked the short distance to Christie's to see Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi. (Since then, this was auctioned off recently for a record-breaking 400 million dollars plus 50 million in fees.) This, an El Greco, and some other items were in a separate room, dimly lit, and we had to be screened, checked, and counted to get in.

The Salvator Mundi was painted in around 1500 by Leonardo Da Vinci possibly for King Louis XII of France and his consort. The painting was brought to England by French Princess Henrietta Maria who married King Charles of England. It passed hands until it was auctioned off in 1958, selling for 45 pounds.  In 2005, it surfaced in the US, as a reproduction, but has been authenticated and restored.

Frankly, I did not find the Salvator Mundi impressive. The work lacked detail and seemed sketchy.  I am not an artist, however, and speak from a lay person's point of view.  In any case, someone spent an awful lot of money to acquire it. 

After leaving the secure room housing the Salvator Mundi, we visited the Auction House proper, which was free indeed, and with a coffee station as mentioned by our guide. 

The art in the place was overwhelming!

I only visited the first floor. My companions managed to visit the second floor. The Auction House was crammed with works by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Norman Rockwell, Picasso, Rene Magritte, Mary Cassatt, Louise Bourgeois, and many more. (After a while, I got the impression that this was a garage sale for the rich who were decluttering.)

There was also a small section with fabulous jewelry, enormous diamond solitaires that made me wonder where on earth one would wear such rocks. Seriously - there were solitaires as huge as 15 carats, perhaps more, almost as big as your knuckles.

Well, the rich live differently from the rest of us.  I read recently that 1% in the US owns more than 50% of the country's wealth.  Clearly members of this 1% shop at Christie's. 

However, the 99% are allowed to visit Christie's, for free, at least for now, and we can look up close at these beautiful things that wealthy people hang in their living rooms and perhaps even bathrooms.

Enjoy my pictures!

 Tags: #NewYork #travel #auction #art Christies, Salvator Mundi, Da Vinci

Read also:

Explorers Club and David L. Brainard 

#video Cecilia Brainard Talks on Challenges of Writing

Loving Vincent, Movie Review and Reflections by Cecilia Brainard

Finding God Through Mary, by Cecilia Brainard

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