€8m tag on Andy Warhol selfie: Excess or art?

It seems far easier to define excess than it is to define art — one is obvious enough, the other may not always be. 

It is easy enough though to recognise when those two ideas flow together, when something, for whatever reason, becomes something it is not, when it assumes a property far beyond anything intrinsic or intended.

Later this month, an Andy Warhol selfie, taken in 1963, and based on a photo-booth image of the pop artist, goes to auction in London. It is suggested that the image will realise around €8m. Though we are very much at the hype-is-everything (a fair enough description of the artist too) stage of the process this seems an absolute affront.

Those who question the commercial value of a piece of art work are invariably dismissed with the “p” word but this auction hope is so very farcical, so very out of kilter with the real needs of our world, that it demeans art as well as any sense of real social values. Art may be a bank-cum-bookies’-docket for some of today’s super rich but if this price is realised it will indicate that a tax system somewhere needs a radical overhaul.


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