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The Price of Everything (A Movie Review)

The Price of Everything


Featuring Amy Cappellazzo, Stefan Edlis, Gael Neeson, Gerhard Richter, Jeff Koons, Larry Poons, George Condo, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Margaret Lee, Marylin Minter, Robert Rauschenberg, Jerry Saltz, Alexander Nemerov and Mary Boone.

Directed by Nathaniel Kahn.

Distributed by HBO Documentary Films. 98 minutes. Not Rated.

Screened at the 2018 Philadelphia Film Festival.

I’ve watched a number of different documentaries on the art industry over this past year – both touching on the lives and processes of artists – the costs on their personal and professional lives to fulfill their passions. A common theme through these many documentaries is how throughout their careers, particularly in the early years, the bulk of these artists remained financially unrecognized.

Yet today, it is no longer shocking to read headlines where art is sold for millions (and millions) of dollars. The Price of Everything grants access to the high dollar world of art: the auctions, artists, and collectors – a world where supply and demand rules, trades and purchases live in the millions, taxes are avoided, and artists compensated by reputation and hope of future sales.

The Price of Everything follows a timeline preparing for Sotheby’s Fall Art auction – six weeks, four weeks, down to the date of auction and a bit of post-auction conclusion. There are interviews / perspectives by curators, leading art collectors, and some of the artists themselves – including the more reclusive abstract artist Larry Poons, who had lost favor in the art world to the point where he himself joked that everyone assumed him dead.

The film spends a lot of time with Amy Cappellazzo, the Chairman of Fine Arts Division at Sotheby’s, as she prepares for the auction: How they build the catalogue, how she markets to her buyers/collectors, a glimpse into her representation on auction day. While the artists dream of their art making it to a museum to be shared with the masses, her focus is to sell art to private collections, where the majesty of the art is seen by only the few privileged to see it, where it is appreciated and not kept hidden in storage.

The film spends time with Stefan Edlis and wife, Gael Neeson. Edlis, a Holocaust survivor, made his money in the plastics industry and is now a leading art collector. He provides insight into how he chooses art, how he maintains his collection (200 art pieces at any given time by 40 artists in total – five pieces per artist is what he strives to maintain!). There is a brief tour of some of his more notable pieces, including “Him.” Edlis and Neeson notably donated 400 million dollars’ worth of art to the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015.

The Price of Everything is as fascinating and informative as it is jaw dropping and at times, horrifying, to watch. It is well-paced and feels like you are being let in on a little secret, like watching Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in its heyday. It is playing now in selected cinemas and makes its premiere on HBO starting November 12th.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: October 30, 2018.

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