Americaâ€™s Pop Collector at Contemporary Istanbul
Contemporary Istanbul, November 22â€“25, 2012, Booth LK703
collectorspace is pleased to screen the 1974 documentaryÂ Americaâ€™s Pop Collector: Robert C. Scullâ€“Contemporary Art At Auction at Contemporary Istanbul. The 72 minute-long film, directed by John Schott and E. J. Vaughn, chronicles the first contemporary art auction of a single private collection.Â This 1973 sale in New York City resulted in unprecedented prices for works by living artists, and assured the value of contemporary art as a financial asset. The documentary records the pre-sale activities, the auction, as well as the protests that followed this historical sale.
Robert C. Scull, a New York-based taxi tycoon, started building a postwar American art collection in the mid-1950s, buying works from living artists such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg at an early stage, when a market for such work was not yet established. In 1973, Scull auctioned off fifty works from his collection at Sotheby Parke Bernet, as Sothebyâ€™s was then called, and walked away with $2.2 millionÂ (about $11.46 million in 2012 dollars).
Rauschenbergâ€™sÂ Thaw, bought by Scull for $900 in the late 50s, sold at the auction for $85,000; Warholâ€™sÂ Flowers, bought for $3,500, went for $135,000; and Johnsâ€™Â Double White Map, bought for $10,000, brought $240,000â€”the highest price of the evening. While some argued that the sales raised the artistsâ€™ prices for their future work, the auction brought street protests against the collectorâ€™s large profits; andÂ New York MagazineÂ art critic Barbara Rose expressed her outrage in her text titled â€śProfit Without Honor.â€ť At the night of the auction, Rauschenberg, as recorded in the film, said: â€śThe Sculls helped artists at a time when there wasnâ€™t enough activity to support them.â€ť Yet the artist changed his opinion after the auction, proclaiming: â€śIâ€™ve been working my ass off just for you to make that profit!â€ť
Americaâ€™s Pop Collector: Robert C. Scullâ€“Contemporary Art At AuctionÂ premiered in 1974 at Whitney Museum of American Artâ€”two blocks south of Sotheby Parke Bernet.Â It is a rarely shown 16 mm film that is fading, and is in need of remastering.Â The screenings at Contemporary Istanbul take place in collectorspaceâ€™s booth at LK 703 in the Art Initiatives section of the fair with the following schedule:Â Thursday, November 22nd at 6pm;Â Friday, November 23rd at 4pm;Â Saturday, November 24th at 2pm; andÂ Sunday, November 25th at 12pm.
Special thanks to Sylvia Kouvali, Stuart Comer, John Schott, Mari Spirito, Kitty Cleary, AslÄ± Altay, and Stephane Ackermann for their contributions to this project.