27 Dec


This advert was– somewhat oddly– in a Taschen books catalogue. The multi-million dollar art auction industry and its customers are closely intertwined with the more general  (but usually quite closed, exclusive and secretive) market for rare or unique prestige items for the super rich. So I guess that’s why it’s in the company of other ads for high-end brands. The name of the company itself, “Heritage Auctions”, seems somewhat revolting. You’re auctioning off our heritage? I don’t think that’s something to brag about. Their ad claims that their “Annual Sales Exceed $600 Million” [sic, their illiterate and unnecessary capitalisation, not mine].

My point, though, is that for the richest and keenest collectors it’s all about their belief in a unique and unreproducible object as the apex of prestige and aspiration. I suppose these unique valuable objects also in some way reflect back the way that rich people like to see themselves, i.e. unique, valuable and irreplaceable. Of course, recent so-called “scandals” over bootleg Giacometti sculptures and paintings by Frida Kahlo that weren’t actually by Frida Kahlo have proved how incredibly and avidly gullible many curators, gallerists and collectors are and that in most cases they can’t tell a fake from the genuine article anyway… which obviously calls the whole edifice of assumptions and business models into serious question. I’m not casting aspersions on this company specifically, but I’ve no doubt that there are also countless hitherto undetected fake dinosaur skeletons and meteorites in museums and private collections all over the world, items whose monetary value would drop even if they were found to be authentic but lacking the provenance previously claimed for them. The usual fate of these masterpieces turned worthless fakes is punitive destruction.

Text of the ad: “This unique auction, the largest of its kind ever, will include a comprehensive collection of museum-quality gems, minerals, meteorites, fossils and Dinosauria. Featured lots include a mounted Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Duck-billed Dinosaur, Giant Ground Sloth, the largest prehistoric Megalodon shark jaws ever assembled, and pieces of the Moon and the planet Mars!”

Yes, they’re selling pieces of other planets. Come on people, you know that you definitely don’t own Mars.


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