We say Banksy; they say Goya

While it is not unusual to refer to the art-historical canon

to explain the hidden depths of contemporary art, the auction houses exceeded themselves in their latest attempts to bestow legitimacy on the art on offer last month. In the catalogue for its evening sale on 14 May, Sotheby’s provided no text to explain Banksy’s 2006 Sale Ends Today but juxtaposed the work with Francisco de Goya’s etching They Will Not Arrive in Time. Unfortunately, this ambitious association did not seem to help and the work (est $600,000-$800,000) was bought in. Not

to be outdone in the hyperbole, Christie’s placed Elizabeth Peyton’s portrait, Kurt Cobain, 1995, (sold for $769,000) next

to Sandro Botticelli’s late 15th-century portrait, Ritratto di Giovane (also with no explanation for the link). However, the most explicit and lavishly

promoted comparison, also thanks to Sotheby’s, was Takashi Murakami’s My Lonesome Cowboy, 1998, printed as a centrefold between the

pages of an image of fellow Japanese artist Hokusai’s 1830 The Wave. Melanie Gerlis

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