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When opulence becomes decadence

I've been crazy busy, as is usual of late, so I suppose that by now everyone has seen last week's spate of  articles regarding protests over the so-called 'Orgy of the Rich' (i.e. art sales) at Sotheby's?

I wasn't there, but as I understand it, a bunch of artists who believe we should be giving more to...oh, I don't know...school lunches, art programs and medicines to underdeveloped countries...protested both outside and on the selling floor of Sotheby's recent contemporary art auction.  By all accounts they shocked and embarrassed patrons and staff, Tobias Meyer, the auctioneer, handled it with aplomb, (shall we start again? quoth he), and things went on pretty much as if nothing had happened, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the disruption.  Evidently everybody appreciated the performance art.  Sales totalled 44.4 million, and included the Ai Weiwei sunflowers I've already written about. And from the there's-no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity department, Sotheby's, I daresay, are laughing all the way to the bank.

What people do with their money in a world with so much injustice is an interesting subject for a person for whom a large part of her living depends on the trade in antiques and art.

I contrast this with an article about a luxury yacht which was being rigged with showers that would spray champagne.  The comments were caustic in the extreme; all except one, which said, basically, that the self-righteous should consider the 'trickle down' effect of such spending, and keep in mind that there are people who make nice livings from the Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous.

Is it largely a question of degree?  How much is too much?  When is enough enough?  When does opulence become inexcusable decadence?

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