Bill Gross, of Janus Capital, is not a huge fan of contemporary art.
As he says in his latest investment letter, he “settled for framing some All American Rockwells neatly clipped from old Saturday Evening Post covers.”
But that doesn’t stop him from weighing in on — and poking fun at — certain art historical giants as a way of segueing into his discussion of German bunds.
He is particularly critical of the nouveau realist French painter Yves Klein, known best for his monochromes and the invention of a particular hue, International Klein Blue.
Gross claims to have spoken to the spirit of Klein (who died in 1962) in a “séance-like half dream” and gotten some advice.
Here’s Gross discussing what he saw:
My own artistic skills are severely limited — I even suspect I am missing the entire right half of my brain which drives fine motor skills and the ability to draw. Because of the auction catalogues we get in the mail though, I have determined that I am not unique in this regard — even famous artists it seems are lacking the right side of their brains. One of those is Yves Klein to which (1928-1962) follows his title on two spectacular pieces listed in a Christie’s twentieth century art sales catalogue. The “1962” points out I guess that he’s dead which is too bad, because it makes it harder to compare “right brain” notes with him. Still, the similarity is obvious because this guy painted like I draw self-portraits, and he got paid for it too. I present to you the first of his two images for your perusal and careful discrimination:
This “tour de farce” was titled “IKB” and consisted of “pigment and synthetic resin laid down on panel”, as Christie’s described it. All blue. It was 8×7 inches, which is important in the art world but which in this case might otherwise be described as a tad “puny”. Nevertheless, it sold for $US35,000 because I assume Mr. Klein’s blues were the bluest of all possible blues — creativity and right side brain nevertheless lacking.
As further proof of his brain’s black hole, I present for you another of Mr. Klein’s creations; the better known (17×14) piece entitled “IKB 121”, priced at $US150,000 no less:
Well, if that’s not the clincher. This guy was truly a painter extraordinaire. Mr. Klein as it turns out, called himself “Yves le monochrome”, and I can surely see why. When you’ve got a niche, exploit it, Yves must have figured. I can’t speak French very well, but I recently tried to reach my kindred half brain spirit in a séance-like half dream. I addressed him as Mr. Blue out of respect. “Mr. Bleu, Mon Ami”, I said “where, oh where in the art world is my niche?” The following was his suggestion that I now lay before you for critical acclaim:
What I should have expected, I suppose. But as his ghostly voice faded out of my brain’s right side, I heard him say — “I got a monopoly on the blue, kid. Why don’t you try red.” Half brain. Some kindred spirit he was.
Art historians may disagree.