It’s hard to make sense of the story published on Saturday night by The New York Times detailing actor Alex Baldwin’s quest to own one of Ross Bleckner’s paintings, the image of which he claims to have carried with him for years.
Clearly published with Baldwin’s cooperation and at his behest—the actor went to New York’s district attorney but got no relief—reveals that Bleckner and his dealer, Mary Boone, satisfied Baldwin’s desire to own the painting Sea and Mirror (1996), which had sold at Sotheby’s in 2007, by having Bleckner finish another version of the work and pass it off as the one Baldwin fell in love with during the Sotheby’s auction.
The story never tells us why Baldwin did not bid on or win the work in 2007. Nor does it clear up the fact that although the two works (above, side by side—can you tell which is the true version?) are similar but definitely not alike it remains unclear how Bleckner & Boone, on one side, or Baldwin, on the other, either thought no one would notice the differences or failed to notice the differences.
The Times tries to briefly dress up this fun tale for the silly season in the depths of August by solemnly declaiming the story illustrates the “opaque, largely unregulated art market.” But, let’s be honest here, the august newspaper isn’t above trying to harvest a few clicks while everyone is away from their computers and should be doing something other than staring at their phones.
You can focus on the machinations of the artist and his dealer or you can marvel at the self-seriousness of the star. Or you could look at the two pictures and argue about who got the better end of the deal, the collector who bought Sotheby’s Bleckner, Baldwin who bought a reworked version or the rest of us who simply went back to our gin and tonics.
(For the record, the image on the left is Baldwin’s and the work on the right sold at Sotheby’s.)
Paint and Switch? Did Alec Baldwin Pay $190,000 for the Wrong Picture? (The New York Times)