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New York Painter Fights Rising Art Prices
Forgoes auction houses for eBay, starts bidding at $1
Thomas Johansmeyer (tomj)     Print Article 
Published 2008-05-30 14:43 (KST)   
Artist Nelson Diaz
©2008 Nelson Diaz
Nelson Diaz, an artist in New York's SoHo neighborhood, has announced that he will auction a series for paintings with starting bids of a $1 each. Beginning June 15, 2008, the prominent painter will put "Self Portrait with Pipe, 2008," rendered in his signature mathematical style, on eBay with the goal making art affordable and widely available.

Diaz made this decision shortly after seeing a painting by Francis Bacon fetch $86 million at an auction conducted by Christie's in New York on May 14, 2008. With art prices getting out of control, Diaz has decided to fight back.

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For Diaz, a single painting represents a considerable commitment of time. While many of his peers attack the canvas wildly, Diaz plots tens of thousands of points on a particular image and applies advanced calculus techniques to present the subject in four dimensions. This intricate process limits his ability to produce a large volume of work. While some artists will paint several pieces a week, it can take months for Diaz to create one or two.

This isn't a case of an unaccomplished "fringe" personality trying to attract attention. Diaz is an accomplished artist. He has been awarded the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation prize and The Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation grant for painting. His work has been exhibited at the Interstice Cameo Gallery on South Beach, the Barbara Gillman Gallery in Miami, The University of Miami-Louis Calder Memorial Center and The Koubeck Center, The Museum of Modern Art in Fort Lauderdale and the Anne Berthoud Gallery in London.

With both his background and the sheer effort required to create a single painting, the high prices typically commanded by Diaz are unsurprising. In selling his paintings for as little as $1, Diaz is making a profound statement about the art market and sacrificing a substantial amount of income. To the artist, it's worth it. He would like to see art hanging on the walls of more homes and hopes to help the process along.

"Fuck the money," Diaz says. Today's collectors -- investors, really -- are making art a commodity, he explains. "People are more interested in buying art just to have it than acquiring pieces that mean something to them."

Throughout 2007 and into 2008, sales records were set repeatedly. Prices have climbed aggressively, effectively forcing the merely wealthy out of the art market. Works by Francis Bacon, the artist who has had the most influence on Diaz, went for $245 million at auction in 2007, according to ArtPrice.com. This made Bacon the third-highest selling artist of the year.

According to Diaz, Bacon would not have been happy with the news. He spent 48 hours with the quirky, reclusive genius in 1985. Then a student of mathematics and budding artist, Diaz had long admired the bacon's work and wanted to share his non-Euclidean geometric interpretations of Bacon's paintings.

More than anything, Diaz learned that art should be appreciated for itself, rather than as a tool of commerce. In fact, he remembers Bacon saying, "It is amazing that people buy my work. It is stupid. They only buy it because the market tells them it's worth something. But, in reality, to me, they're totally worthless."

If Bacon were alive to see the $86 million price tag on his work, Nelson believes, he would be offended.

As a nod to his mentor -- and to protest the state of the art market -- Diaz will auction 10 versions of his painting "Self Portrait with Pipe, 2008," using eBay instead of the major auction houses. The purpose of starting the bidding $1 is to send a message to potential collectors, and Diaz hopes that the prices will not run to high.

"The point is to make art affordable," Diaz says, "not to find a new way to make it unattainable."

©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Thomas Johansmeyer

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