From the BSNYC Culture Desk: "It's About the Bike" Auction

While I usually commute by bicycle, once in awhile I will use New York City's public transit system instead. Generally, it takes a pretty severe confluence of circumstances to get me to do this, since when it comes to transportation I'm a bit of a control freak and get very, very impatient when subject to delays which are beyond my control. While rain or foul weather by itself is usually insufficient to force me into the time-sucking grip of the MTA, it does occasionally play a role in my decision-making, and if other factors are involved as well then the addition of water can sometimes drive me underground. Today was one of those days.

While riding the subway does provide me with the opportunity to catch up on my subway advertisements, it also deprives me of seeing New York City's street life unfold before my eyes. However, today's ride did at least provide one photo opportunity in the form of this decidedly non-Mot├Ârheady looking person engrossed in a "Rolling Stone" article about Lemmy Kilmister:


As an unabashed Lemmy fan, the article caught my eye halfway across the train car. Unfortunately, the reader did not seem pleased to encounter a kindred spirit. Instead, he seemed rather nonplussed:

Anyway, since it was raining and I was depressed from the surprisingly potent combination of being underground and being scowled at, I decided to buoy my spirits by taking in some art. Ordinarily to see art I'd go to a museum, but the problem with museums is that if you see something you like you can't buy it; instead, you have to go to a gift shop and buy a facsimile of it, or else download it from the Internet and use it as wallpaper. No, now that I'm flush with cash thanks to Heywood Jablome's cousin, I figured I'd go to Sotheby's, the august auction house, since they're currently exhibiting all those arty Lance Armstrong bikes from this past season, which are going to be sold off at private auction this coming Sunday to benefit LiveStrong. This is highly tempting to me, since not only was I interested in seeing and possibly buying some art, but I've got a gaping pop art-adorned time trial bike hole in my "stable" of bicycles that can only be filled by a Lance Armstrong theme bike. So in I went.

The first bike I saw was the one which was stolen and subsequently recovered during the Tour of California, on display in the lobby:

While it's got an intriguing backstory, it's also lacking in artistic pedigree, since it was designed by Trek. As any connoisseur knows, in the art world a Trek original ranks somewhere between a velvet painting and a doorstop shaped like a dog. This could be why Sotheby's put it this one by the front door instead of safely upstairs with the rest of the bikes. (Incidentally, there are no doormen at Sotheby's. Instead, they use dog-shaped doorstops.)

Things were different upstairs though, where upon exiting the elevator I was greeted with a dazzling assembly of bikes rendered by a "who's who" of artists as well as a friendly and helpful publicist who, foolishly, let me in. (By the way, when I say "who's who" of artists I meant that literally, since I don't know anything about contemporary artists.) There was the bike by KAWS which Armstrong was riding when he broke his collarbone in the Vuelta Castilla y Le├│n:


The Yoshitomo Nara Rolling Death Machine, complete with morbid gothic imagery:

(As well as this top tube-mounted quote, which I believe is from Machiavelli:)


This yellow-on-black time trial bike, which is similar to the Tour of California bike, only by someone more "collectible:"


The "Scharfenator," by Kenny Scharf:


This bike by Shepard Fairey (creator of that controversial "Hope" poster) which I believe is called, "Hope I don't get in trouble for this one too:"


And of course the Damien Hirst Dead Butterfly Freakout, complete with real dead butterflies:

After giving the room the once-over, I headed over to the breakfast table, where there were, among other offerings, bagels. Just as people in California spin "epic" yarns about burritos, people in New York from the five boroughs to the Five Towns rhapsodize about bagels. Sadly, the bagels at Sotheby's were far from "epic" (unless by "epic" you mean "rubbery") though I did attempt to express myself artistically through my cream cheese application:


I also tried to feed it to one of Lance Armstrong's time trial bikes:

The bike, however, must have known from good bagels, since it refused to so much as taste this one. As such, I was forced to consume it myself. Once I was finished, though, I started feeling acutely aware of the fact that I was basically just a schnorrer taking advantage of both Sotheby's and LiveStrong for free food and shelter from the rain. So I figured I'd better pretend to work--at least until the rain stopped. And I figured a good way to pretend I was working was to take pictures of the bikes. Here's one of the bone-breaker's seatpost:


Here's another one of the Rolling Death Machine:


At this point, I started contemplating just how poor a photographer I am. I also started to notice that every time I took a picture there was also a "real" photographer directly opposite me. It was then that I had a revelation. Like George Constanza, I realized the fact that I was always opposite an actual photographer clearly meant that every single photographic impulse I have is wrong. Therefore, if I followed the photographer around instead and photographed exactly what he did, my photos would be good. So that's what I did:

(The oversized bottom bracket...is artsy.)

Unfortunately it didn't seem to help.

Since I wasn't getting anywhere with my poor photography skills, I realized I was going to have to rely on my people skills (which, if you can believe it, are even worse) as well as my journalistic skills (which don't exist, because I'm not a journalist). And since this was an actual "Press Preview," some of the key people were there to talk to the "press." Here's curator (in the more traditional sense of the word) Jamie O'Shea on the right, and artist Kenny Scharf on the left:

My journalistic nose told me that beneath all the art bikes and the bagels and the charity fundraising and the ponytails there was a sordid story somewhere, and I was determined to ferret it out by getting somebody to say something bad about somebody else. I asked Kenny Scharf if he had dealt with Lance Armstrong at all in producing his bike, and if so whether Armstrong had behaved deplorably in any way. Scharf insisted he hadn't--which of course was tremendously disappointing to me as a fake journalist. Scharf then explained to me how Trek had applied the graphics to the bike, so I figured maybe Trek had screwed up somehow and that there was a story in that. As it happened, there was one thing Scharf was displeased with, which was the decals on the wheels:

Specifically, the edge was visible and did not blend into the black background:

Scharf then said he could fix the wheel with a Sharpie. At last, a project! However, I didn't have my trusty Super Staunion, and nobody else seemed to have a Sharpie either. In fact, I was halfway out the door to Duane-Reade when Scharf finally found one and got to work:

It did make the wheel look much better:

(The wheel regains its artistic integrity.)

In fact, I would go so far as to say that I am directly responsible for increasing the value of this art bike since not only does it look better but it's also hand-drawn (albeit only partially, and with a Sharpie). I like to think I'm also responsible for sending an artist into a compulsive fit, because he continued to work for quite some time:


I'm glad I didn't say anything about the frayed rear derailleur cable on the Hirst bike:

If you do end up bidding on that one, you might want to factor a new rear derailleur cable into your costs.

At any rate, having caused enough trouble, I decided it was time to head back into the rain--though I did stop long enough to copy another shot from the "real" photographer:

I stopped short of attempting to steal the bike, though. That door stop looked dangerous.

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