Friday, November 25, 2016

ART BIZ | Art as an Investment

Juan Gris, "Harlequin with
One of the satisfying things about blogging for as long as I have been – ten years now! – is that I am able to answer questions that I asked in posts of a previous decade.

For example, I ran across a manuscript by my mother Hilda van Stockum in which she discusses art as an investment. I posted a comment, remembering that an article had been published in The Canadian Banker with the same title. I now have the date – Winter 1960 – and page numbers, 129-132.

HvS starts her article with the basic question - "What is important to us?" If one's only interest is in selling at a higher price, then art may not be the best investment. But if the art gives joy, then there is a dual return on the investment. Ownership of art provides a daily pleasure dividend, in addition to appreciating in market value if one selects wisely.

She notes that in the Middle Ages, art was a necessity because it preserved pictures of one's family. The guild system ensured quality. When photography came on the scene, artists were traumatized, says HvS (p. 130).  Paul Gaugin led soul-searching among artists: "Where are we going?" This question has been answered in different ways and the ultimate determination of the value of art will be made by buyers.

A true investment in art is one where buyers follow their own taste. A friend of HvS liked abstract paintings being sold on the banks of the Seine for $100 each. When she died, the owner's art was appraised at $10,000 each. The artist was Juan Gris.

On the other hand, there are speculators who have no interest in the art itself. A voice came on to a Paris dealer's phone: "Have you a [Bernard] Buffet?" The dealer said: "Yes, several." Voice: "I'll take one." Dealer: "Here's the price: $XXXX." Voice: "I'll take it." Dealer: "Where do I send it?" Voice: "Hold on to it." After the painting had quintupled in price, the voice called: "Sell it."

Questions: Email the author at

ART BIZ | Auctions

Christie's and Sotheby's are highly
competitive, but not in a typical
reactive duopoly mode.
The art market in the United States and globally is well worth study.

Sotheby's and Christie's share a duopoly at the top of the art auction marketplace. (In third place is London's Phillips Auction House.)

Artsy has recently posted an editorial arguing that Sotheby's and Christie's do not behave like a normal duopoly.

Pepsi and Coke tend to follow each other's moves as defensive reactions in an uncertain world. But Sotheby's has not been following Christie's moves to modernize its terms to customers.

So long as Sotheby's doesn't follow suit, Christie's is limited in its ability to change the rules of the game.

I find all this fascinating. I don't know enough about this high-level marketplace to comment on the article, but I will get up to speed if I live long enough. Yes, I will.

Comment below or email the author at

Saturday, November 19, 2016

BUFFETT RULE | Proposed Amendment

Warren Buffett
Emails have been circulating about a proposed Amendment to the Constitution that originated mostly from a comment by Warren Buffett, in an interview with CNBC:
I could end the deficit in five minutes. You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.
The other Buffett-originated rule is that there should be a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for people who earn more than $1 million. 

This proposal was put forward by Obama in 2011 and 2016, with a graduated phase-in up to $2 million (it would affect an estimate one-third of the top 1 percent of U.S. earners). In her campaign for the presidency, Hillary Clinton supported this idea  (

Here are the first five points of the proposal that is circulating. It expands on the quotes from Buffett.

Congressional Reform Act of 2017
1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office. 
2. Congress ( past, present, & future ) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose. 
3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do. 
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3 percent.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

BLOG VIEWS | 290K–Most Viewed

This blog has passed 290,000 page views.

Thank you for reading.

The most-viewed posts in the last month are as follows:

TRUMP | Why Did He Run as a Republican?
Jul 25, 2016, 1 comment
DODD-FRANK | Maloney Asks Five Agencies for Data
Aug 30, 2016, 1 comment
ED BIZ | Manager-Sharing, Long Island, N.Y.
Jul 31, 2016, 1 comment
GUTENBERG | Aug. 24–Bible First Published
Aug 24, 2016
FOOD BIZ | Rhinebeck, Gigi Trattoria (Update June ...
Jun 16, 2016, 1 comment
SENIORS | Most Livable Cities
Aug 8, 2016, 1 comment
BLOG VIEWS | 260K – Top Posts
Jun 10, 2016, 1 comment
FOOD BIZ | Rhinebeck, The Local Restaurant (Update...
Jun 15, 2016,1 comment
SCAMS | Th IRS Is NOT Calling You!
Aug 25, 2016, 1 comment
TRUMP | Mr. T Goes to Washington (Updated Nov. 11,...
Nov 10, 2016,
1 comment

Sunday, November 13, 2016

DEMS RECOVER | Stages of Grief (Updated Nov. 17, 2016)

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Democrats are getting over their shock at losing the presidency little by little... in stages.

The five traditional stages of grief were outlined by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1967), although she did not like the idea that  these feelings would always occur 1 through 5 in that order.

In her book, On Death and Dying (1969), she said she was inspired to work on the subject by the time she spent with terminally ill patients. At the University of Chicago medical school, she conducted seminars that became her book. The stages have been widely accepted by social workers and the public but at the same time some aspects of it are critiqued by researchers.

1. Denial. Shock is replaced with the feeling of “this can’t be happening to me.”
2. Anger. The emotion confusion that results from this lose may lead to anger and finding someone or something to blame. (Schadenfreude may be lurking here, as the person or persons at whom one is angry may have disregarded one's advice. The anger is mixed with "I told you so".)
3. Bargaining. The next stage may result in trying to negotiate with one’s self (or a higher power) to attempt to change what has occurred.
4. Depression. A period of sadness and loneliness then will occur in which a person reflects on their grief and loss. (There may be guilt at feelings of anger in #2.)
5. Acceptance. After time feeling depressed about their loss, a person will eventually be at peace with what happened.

In 2011, J. Wright, a registered critical care nurse, offered her own interpretation of Kübler-Ross and arrived at seven stages that may take days or weeks (and, again, may not occur in exactly this neat order):

1. Shock & Denial. Numbed disbelief occurs after the devastation of loss. A person may deny the reality or gravity of their loss to avoid pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once.
2. Pain & Guilt. Shock wears off. Replaced with pain. Social workers say it’s important to experience the pain fully.
3. Anger and Bargaining. Frustration leads to anger that if not controlled may permanently damage relationships.
4. Depression, Reflection, & Loneliness. Long period of sad reflection as the magnitude of the loss sets in.
5. Upward Turn. Life becomes calmer, more organized as one starts to adjust to life with the loss that occurred.
6. Reconstruction & Working Through. As a person starts to become more functional, realistic solutions seem possible for life after the loss.
7. Acceptance & Hope. The last stage – a person learns to accept and deal with the reality of their situation. A person is more future-oriented and learns to cope.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

TRUMP | Mr. T Goes to Washington (Updated Feb. 12, 2017)

Trump and Obama Discuss Transition Today.
Nov. 10, 2016 –Doubtless  with today's visit of President-elect Trump to Washington, many people will be revisiting Frank Capra's 1939 movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

(Update 2-12-2017: This might be the high concept of the Trump campaign.)

Young Jefferson Smith played by Jimmy Stewart is elected President with the mission of cleaning up corruption in Washington, what Trump has called "draining the swamp".

While Mr. Trump's theme harmonizes with Mr. Smith's, the reality is starting off a little differently from the movie.

At his meeting today with President Barack Obama, the President-elect called him a "very good man" during their meeting in the Oval Office to discuss the transition. Obama told Trump: 
Mr. Smith (1939) Struck 
Chords Similar to Mr. Trump's.
If you succeed, the country succeeds.
Trump thanked Obama for the extending the meeting, which was scheduled for 10-15 minutes but ran an hour and a half:
Mr. President, it was a great honor being with you, and I look forward to being with you many, many more times.
Obama said they talked about both domestic and foreign policy  and that he was encouraged by Trump's interest in working together during the transition:
My No. 1 priority in the next two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our President-elect is successful.
The President-elect said he would seek counsel from Obama.

Related LinksWhy is the President-elect being so nice to the Democrats who were his opponents? . Why did he run as a Republican? . The Wisdom of Mark Cuban

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

ART BIZ | Some Forgers Are Good

"Portrait of a Man,"
misattributed to
Frans Hals. A fake.
Nov. 1, 2016–The NY Times yesterday has a story on a forgery, titled "Portrait of a Man" that originally fooled Sotheby's and other experts.

It was sold as a discovered portrait by Frans Hals. Sotheby's has now declared the painting to be a fake.

My mother, Hilda van Stockum, was impressed with successful forgers. She used to tell us with relish how some great forgeries were accepted for years as genuine by the art experts, the nomenklatura of the art world.

She asked out loud why their obvious talents weren't directed toward the traditional route of artists, which is to make their name by painting in their own style.

And then she answered her own question by noting that a good forgery can command immediate money in the art marketplace, whereas even one of the greatest painters who ever lived, Vincent van Gogh, took years to win consensus on his greatness, although as I have noted before, his younger brother Theo clearly knew all along that Vincent's work was valuable.

Hitler and Göring
I think that her concern about imperfectness of the art marketplace is what inspired HvS to include her story about the theft of a Rembrandt from the van Arkels' home in The Borrowed House (pp. 170-185).

She based it on news stories about the competition between Hitler and Göring over acquisition of art treasures.

When Janna "realized that you could like and dislike someone at the same time," referring to Erich Stolz getting rich stealing art from Hitler and selling it to Göring, that was my mother's voice I heard.

It's good to hear her voice today, All Saints' Day, on the tenth anniversary of her death.

Related Posts: Vincent van Gogh P&L . The Borrowed House