Wednesday, March 24, 2021

“Large Typewriters" sets a record

The William Kentridge artwork that I posted about recently went for well over the estimate of £350,000 - £550,000. It sold for £682,750 ($935,000)—a record for Kentridge's work. Here's the story. The photo gives us a sense of the dimensions of the aptly titled Large Typewriters (misspelled as Large Typerwriters in the story). The story also says that the piece was created using charcoal and pastel. Sounds fragile!

Does this mean that I can get half that much for my real, functional Blick Ninety that Robert Messenger kindly gave me?

Friday, March 12, 2021

From my correspondents

I've been getting lots of wonderful typewritten letters. Gradually, between revising my novel, doing administrative work, and teaching, I am getting around to answering them. 

I have mailed my personal replies to the authors of the letters excerpted below. I think these snippets will be appreciated by a broader audience.

From southern Mexico:

Yes! And we have to take some chances to build genuine connections. I hope this typist will try something that may sow the seeds of a local typewriter community ...

... like this one in Southern California:

My co-editors and I were very glad to read the following kind praise from a reader in British Columbia for last year's volume in the Cold Hard Type series. (We are currently reviewing submissions for this year's volume, Dead Keys.)

Finally, I thank this correspondent (also from Southern California) for sharing a great quotation that I hadn't seen before.

 I welcome more correspondence (see the "Write me a letter" link at the top of this blog).

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

$500,000 for a picture of two typewriters?

I like South African artist William Kentridge's depictions of typewriters. I even got permission to reproduce his piece "Undo Unsay Unremember"in my book (p. 259). So I don't mean to run him down. Still, I can't help looking askance at an auction that's coming up in two weeks. 

Bonhams estimates the value of Kentridge's Large Typewriters at £350,000 - £550,000

I like the piece, it shows Kentridge's love of typewriters, but ... really?

Bonhams describes the artwork as 

a dual image combining both the banal and the absurd, the real and the imagined. ...

The double quasi-identical image – differentiated only by the level of detail – is discreet in its symbolism; on one hand speaking to wider themes in the artist's work, while on the other referencing its own physicality. The typewriter is an object that turns words into something tangible on paper, and so it is perhaps no small wonder that it's an object that has such a special significance to a multi-disciplinary artist like Kentridge, whose work is imbued with a real sense of history." 

First of all, what's absurd about it? And what is imagined? The typewriters may look fantastic and bizarre to the layman, but those who know typewriter history know that we are looking at pretty realistic depictions of a real (though not banal) Jewett no. 2 and Blick 90.

The auction house says the typewriters are "differentiated only by the level of detail." Well, no. One is a six-bank understroke, the other is a three-bank frontstroke. The Jewett is much larger and heavier than the Blick, although of course we can't see this in the artwork. But the basic design differences, captured well by Kentridge, should not have gone unnoticed by an attentive eye.

I like the phrase "discreet in its symbolism." Translation: we have no idea why the artist depicted these typewriters!

I wish Bonhams and Kentridge great success in this auction. But if you happen to have half a million dollars, or half a million pounds, lying around, I think it might be more prudent to invest in four or five Malling-Hansen Writing Balls and a decorated Sholes & Glidden.