Friday, November 11, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Demonstrators Pick Wrong Artist

  If abstract painting wonder Clyfford Still was still alive he might well have been among the Occupy Wall Street activists protesting the sale of more than $300 million in his paintings and those of compatriots in Manhattan's Sothebys. His 1949-A-No. 1, he usually didn't title paintings, led going for $61.7 million.
   For many years Still refused to allow any of his paintings to be displayed in New York because he felt it was too corrupt.
   When he finally did permit the Metrpolitan Museum of Art to show some in 1980 it was only after it agreed, in an unprecedented fashion, to allow him to post the paintings himself and curate the he exhibition, according to retired Denver Art Museum Director Lewis Sharp. He was working at the Metropolitan at the time.
   Money was less important to many famous painters than Still, even though he got his art education during the the Great Depression. He rarely sold any of his more than 2,000 works. And a buyer had to take the work Still chose for him. His difficult attitude resulted in some calling him the Unabomber of painting.
   Still abhorred the idea of his works being scattered around the nation or world. He wanted them together as much as possible.
   The paintings, when first seen could be mistaken for a horror movie. Works from the 1940s average 4 feet by 6 feet, and paintings from the 1950s average 9 1/2 feet by 12 feet. He splashed thick impasto in what some called a color-field approach.
   The pastels are much smaller and are on paper.
   Still died in 1980, and it was 24 years later before his late widow, Patricia Still, agreed to an offer from the city of Denver to build a museum for his paintings if she would donate many of them. It was under the condition that none would be sold and none would be sent on tours.
   Denver had to get a court to approve its decision to sell four of the several hundred it received. The money is needed to help pay for the construction of the museum, which opens next week, and its operation.
   There can be no doubt that Still's appeal was enhanced by the few sales of his works throughout his lifetime and even after his death.
   Wealthy investors may be viewing paintings as a refuge from the volatile markets. And with gold at $1,800 an ounce Thursday it may not be seen as a viable alternative.

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