Monday, April 23, 2012

To Buy Art or To Buy a Chicken Foot?

A couple years ago I decided to ‘get into Australian art’.
In this case, 'getting into it' meant acquiring anything I 
could get my hands on for $2,000 or less.
Yes it was a mid-life crisis venture into world of art, 
perhaps you’ve have had one too?

Now, even if you are not into art, you would imagine 
that my budget was barely enough to buy a decent frame,
let alone a charcoal by Dickerson.
But as they say, the fun is in education, 
not in acquisition, so I had nothing to lose.

I did my research: If I was to invest in a piece of Australian art, 
I wanted it to be a Blackman.
The innocence and naivety of an Alice in Wonderland opus 
- all those vibrant colours, surreal characters and seriously comic scenes 
was exactly what I was looking for.

Finding a dealer willing to ‘talk Blackman’ was easy.
Despite clearly indicating my modest budget, 

I was greeted like a Russian tycoon.
"Three to four hundred thousand will buy you a really nice Rabbit",
said the enthusiastic dealer,
"Which is really just a short change of what a large Blackman would fetch on today's market". The level of enthusiasm dropped significantly after he learned that I also deal for a living:
"Watches? Hmm... Do people still buy watches?"

Fifteen minutes later, we finally started talking business 
- a sixth limited edition signed print for just $8,500 
was the bare minimum he would allow me to have. 
When he realized that I wouldn't budge a cent more than $2K 
the monologue turned into an outburst of theatrical energy:
"You cannot get a Blackman for $2K! There is no such thing as cheap art. 
You have unrealistic expectation and quite frankly you are just wasting my time!"

He then disappeared behind the pile of prints, unframed canvases and boxes full of something that even my untrained eye could recognize as art.
"Here you go, you stubborn man”, he puffed and fumed, 

“the best I can do for you is this,
and I won't take a cent less than $2,500 for it”.

This was a drawing of a foot, the size of large postage stamp.
A black ink drawing depicting a foot of a chicken or a duck.
There was no colour, no action, no composition, no Alice and no Wonderland -
just a wiggly line. 
But yes, this was a Blackman, and yes, even owning a drawing of
a chicken or duck foot would still make me a connoisseur of Australian Art.

Funnily enough, some watch manufacturers are just like famous artists.

They are more than happy to put their name onto anything that tells the time,
and charge accordingly, of course. An ‘entry level top end brand maker's watch’ could be in reality just an ordinarily time piece in a paper-thin case.
When you are buying a Blackman chicken's foot, 

you are told that this is the way to enter into brand 
and perhaps, if you work really hard and save even harder, 
then maybe one day you may be able to own the brands ‘master piece’ 
- a calendar and power reserve model which is reserved for 'clients' only. Impressive indeed.

And this is precisely why I love
A. Lange & Söhne.

With Lange there is no such thing as ‘entry level’ 

because each and every model manufactured is a real and complete masterpiece, regardless of mechanical complication.

Even a 'time only' Lange is as exciting as a 3m wide Alice in Wonderland 
- a firework of colours, action and intriguing beauty. 
Each Lange is an example of perfection in watchmaking artistry,
offering the highest level of unity between design, mechanical micro engineering and quality
you can see, touch, feel and hear.

Yes, life is too short for chicken foot.

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