On Tuesday night, some
sucker well-educated art lover scored Andreas Gursky's Rhein II for $4,338,500 at Christie's, making the image the priciest photo ever to sell from the highbrow New York auction house. The sale price trumped the previous $3.89 million record, set by Cindy Sherman's Untitled #96 (1981) in May 2011.
Rhein II is not a ho-hum, Rhine River snapshot from Gursky's Flickr page (we checked; he doesn't have an account), but rather a 1999 C-print that measures 73-by-143 inches and is mounted to Plexiglas. The back of the work, which isn't even one of a kind -- it's number one in an edition of six -- is emblazoned with the German artist's signature.
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This isn't the first time that Gursky has backed up the truck to a fine-arts auction house and loaded millions into the vehicle. In 2006, his 99 Cent II Diptychon fetched $3.35 million at Sotheby's London. A few years ago, Art Attack saw that image in person at the Tate Modern in London. Fantastic indeed.
Maybe a similar approach -- seeing Rhein II on a gallery wall -- needs to happen so that we'll "get it." Or maybe we should have more sympathy for the blind dude/dudette who dropped all of that cash for, as one art critic has said, the "stunning panorama of Germany's most famous river." After all, it probably sucks serious ass not being able to see.
One question remains: What's going to overtake Gursky's record-setting art piece? Let us scroll through some of the smartphone photos we took from the moving car during our most recent road trip and we'll get back to you.