Jonathan Chait

The Greenspan Kitsch Bubble

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Before the financial crisis, Alan Greenspan accumulated a degree of cultural prestige that some of us saw at the time as absurd and in hindsight is obviously comical. The Wall Street Journal has a fantastically entertaining story about one little corner of this ridiculous episode: the market for oil paintings of Greenspan. Yes, these were very popular for a while:

In the years before the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street and Mr. Greenspan's reputation boomed in tandem, and an obscure young artist, Ms. Crowe, gained notice for her distinctive oil portraits of the Fed chairman, now 83 years old. Working from photographs she found online and in newspapers and magazines, Ms. Crowe produced colorful, whimsical canvasses that highlighted Mr. Greenspan's wrinkled forehead, pursed lips, droopy ears, hand gestures and oversize glasses.

A gallery in the Hamptons that exhibited her paintings in the summer of 2005 sold every one within a couple of days, recalls Sally Breen, who organized the show with Rebecca Cooper. She had a second Greenspan show in downtown Manhattan. Ms. Crowe says she produced upwards of 50 canvasses of Mr. Greenspan. All were snapped up, some for as much as $5,000 to $10,000, she says. ...

She painted one of the portraits on live television when Mr. Greenspan retired. It fetched $150,400 for charity in an online auction.

Now, the man who bought that painting, Tampa Bay-area businessman Matthew Schirmer, says he keeps it under his bed.

Naturally, the market for the paintings themselves turns out to have been a bubble. The whole story is worth a read.

 

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