Peter Lik-The Age Dec 13 2014
There was great hue & cry in 1904 when Edward Steichen's photograph The Pond Moonlight sold for $2.298 million at Sothebys. Many have followed in these huge money-laden footsteps. Cindy Sherman, untitled #96 in 1981 for $3.8905 million, Andreas Gursky, Rhein 11 1999, for $4.3885 million & now Peter Lik, Phantom apparently for $6.5 million, a new record. Each of these is accompanied by sharp in-drawing of breath from the community at large, & a big sigh of communal longing from the art photography fraternity.
Steichen, Sherman & Gursky were sold through reputable auction houses therefore lending a sense of authenticity to the value, even though worth in this context is really only about what someone is willing to pay. Because Lik's work was sold privately & there is little evidence provided for the sale amount, the art mafia rails against his work & calls it's value into question. Even the credibility of the buyer is denigrated. The fact that he does the Bear Grylls thing, & is a consummate marketer probably doesn't help! He is painted as an upstart. And then he is Australian, & we do cut down our tall poppies!
It is noteworthy that the origins of the saying "hue & cry" are to be found in English law; pursuit of a criminal immediately after he had committed a felony. Whoever witnessed or discovered the crime was required to raise the hue and cry against the perpetrator (e.g., call out "Stop, thief !") and to begin pursuit; all persons within hearing were under the same obligation, and it was a punishable offense not to join in the chase and capture. (The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved) So, even the popular vernacular implies that acts for which there was hue & cry were somehow rip-offs. The logical conclusion to be drawn is that artists should somehow have to starve in a garret in order to produce meaningful worthwhile art - & further it should be given away, preferably to a person or institution with an impeccable art pedigree!
For me, Sotheby's or Las Vegas, is not really the point. The point, I think, is that photographs are increasingly recognised as legitimate & collectable, to rival traditional art forms. For those of us with aspirations, even Peter Lik is doing his bit to raise awareness of the craft - in his case, the notoriety afforded by the bad press is probably as powerful a marketing tool as the quality of his work. The fact that he is laughing all the way to the bank, & is readily able to fund his passion, is enviable & no doubt the green monster contributes a little, or a lot to the outpouring of invective.
Since I married for love, (& that avenue of wealth building is closed!) & look dreadful in the great outdoors, (a la Grylls), I am left to the tawdry existence of working at the day job (it's not actually tawdry at all!) & hoping that occasionally someone will take a look at my work & find it worthy..........but wouldn't it be nice!