Monday, May 17, 2010

On Art, And The Rise of the East

Everywhere, unfortunately, evidence mounts regarding the rise of the East and, parallel to that, the decline of the West. The stink surrounding the Vatican is the purest, most poignant fragrance of that sense of biological breakdown. The continuing and changing influence of globalization around the world is, of course, raising the fortunes of the so-called second world -- and that's a magnificent thing -- but it also accompanies the decline of the influence of the West, the United States in particular.

Considering the idealistic nature of the United States' foreign policy objectives (Bush, 43, notwithstanding) -- enforcing, for example, human rights and democratic elections around the globe -- our decline, during the administration of this particular President (with his heightened consciousness as to the plight of the so-called Third World), should fill the hearts of civil libertarians the world over with a growing melancholy. If the world in the future has to depend upon the amoral mandarins of Beijing to protect Africans from genocidal regimes, then god help us all.

The most recent evidence of a sea-change in the global arrangement of power is the fact that Brazil and Turkey bypassed the West and brokered a nuclear deal with Iran. This is an event of no small significance. Turkey, ostensibly a European-ish nation, engages more and more with the Middle East, underscoring the diminishing prestige of that now-embattled economic zone. Germany, not a fan of the Greek bailout and (imho) Euro-decline in general, veers, dtramatically, into the dark embrace of Russia, not unlike an attractive wife re-examining her social options in the wake of her profligate husband's impending ruin.

President Barack Obama, summoned up from the Midwest in this hour of exigency to serve by the wisdom of the American voter, has tried, through multilateral engagement, to face this new global reality. As a result the President faces, from neocons, charges of "weakness." From naive Progressives he faces cries of "sellout." Can't this President, anywhere, catch a foriegn policy break?

Nowhere more than in the world of Art -- which oftentimes, eerily anticipates social reality -- is the rise of the East more evident. From Bloomberg:

A collection of jades more than doubled its estimate as demand from Asian buyers in the salesroom helped raise 20.7 million pounds ($30.1 million) at London’s May auctions of Chinese ceramics and artworks.

The group of 35 carvings, from a total of 66 offered at Bonhams on May 13, were entered from the estate of an unidentified English collector of white jade. All the lots in the collection sold, totaling 2.3 million pounds against a presale valuation of 1 million pounds. The top price was 580,000 pounds, paid for an 18th-century vase and cover carved with a relief of bats, that had a low estimate of 30,000 pounds.

“These are pieces which are comparable or identical to pieces that are housed in the Palace Museum, Beijing,” Colin Sheaf, Bonhams’s director of Asian art, said after the sale. “Hence the excitement and enthusiasm in the auction room.”

Bonhams’s London salesroom, like Christie’s International’s and Sotheby’s during in the week, was crowded with Asian traders. Newly rich Chinese are keen to acquire high quality objects of their heritage, especially when they are imperial items from established Western collections, dealers say.

Also, last week four of the top ten lots last night at the Sotheby's Impressionist sale in New York went to Asian buyers. "The price point for a great work of Art is probably 60, 70 million dollars because that's the price of the greatest Park Avenue apartment -- say a duplex at 740 Park Avenue," Tobias Meyer, the head of contemporary art and auctioneer at Sotheby's, predicted a couple of years ago. "The new buyers," he noted, "are not restricted by any association with any other wealth. They think in their own parameters, which are not the parameters of The West any more."

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