How Does the Critic Measure the Value of His Fake Richter?

Let’s admit it upfront. We’re beating a dead horse here. But Jerry Saltz’s post today at about his quest for someone to make him a “fake” Richter wraps a bow around this whole issue of blaming the art market for ruining art.

Saltz wants a Richter but doesn’t have the money to buy one. Spending a lot of money to buy art is “about a collector trying to make art history by spending money. Or big-dick-waving. Ugh.” (How Saltz knows the intentions of the hundreds of anonymous buyers of Richters isn’t explained.)

As an alternative, Saltz puts it about that he would pay $155 plus materials to anyone who can make a work in the style of Richter’s abstracts for him. (It’s a shame hasn’t progressed enough to allow Saltz to find a viable substitute.)

Eventually, one artist, Stanley Casselman, rose to the challenge and was able to provide Saltz with a work that beguiled the art critic using methods similar to the German master’s. All of that’s fine and good. Saltz got what he wanted without paying the market price for a Richter. Indeed, Saltz seemed to validate his own idea that art should be sold for a fixed price so as to neutralize the negative effects of the art market.

Except that Saltz, the anti-market advocate, can’t help but measure the quality of his Casselmans without making a completely unnecessary reference to what he thinks they might be worth on the open market:

We had a deal: Stanley signed his name prominently on the back of each, and I paid him, put them in my car, and drove home.

I don’t think Stanley understands that he could get pretty rich making these things. I suspect he could get $8,000 a pop.

A charitable reading of this little Freudian slip is that market ideas so pervade our culture that even those who wish to exempt themselves from the market are drawn into it. Another reading is that Saltz, like many sincere collectors likes having his taste and foresight validated by seeing others willingly pay a greater price for the work.

To be fair, Saltz calls his new-found taste for commissioning and collecting “fakes” a case of “little-dick’ waving but that doesn’t make it any less being a dick.

Saltz Challenges: Produce a Perfect Faux Gerhard Richter Painting, and I’ll Buy It (