By Jim Berlin
Accompanying this article is a painting by the late Barnett Newman entitled “Onement VI” – an icon of Abstract Expressionism which just sold at a Sotheby’s auction in New York for a record-breaking $43.8 million. Not 43.8 million pesos, not 43.8 million glass beads, but 43.8 million dollars.
To those of you who don’t know your artistic butts from a stick of bamboo, the painting probably looks like a lot of blue paint with a line down the middle. You are probably saying silly things like, “I could paint that myself. Hell, if my dog had thumbs and a brush, he could paint it!”
The art experts at Sotheby’s would disagree. They advertised Onement VI as “a portal to the sublime” that captures “the ineffable essence of existence.”
Barnett Newman is one of the fathers of Abstract Expressionism and his energetic children have filled art galleries with thousands of similar works: Lots of paint on canvas interrupted by a simple geometric shape, a line, or even two lines if the artist wants to enlarge his “portal to the sublime.”
People who purport to know their butts from a stick of bamboo pay huge amounts of money for this stuff, because who would not want a portal to the sublime hanging in their living room?
I think Abstract Expressionism just hasn’t caught on with the masses because the phrase is a mouthful. I propose a new name for the art form, one which borrows heavily from the Bulgarian language.
The word is “buhlshid,” which roughly translates to “the ineffable essence of existence.” Those who paint in this form would be known, of course, as “buhlshid artists.” And the rich folks who are blown away by their paintings would be described as “full of buhlshid.”
I hope whoever spent that $43 million also throws a few bucks at stuff like the Wounded Warrior Project and the local food bank. They’re not portals to the sublime, but they do capture the essence of existence.