To me, the sale makes a statement: Then is now, now is then. Let the good times roll. And the fact that “Rabbit” was bought by Bob Mnuchin, the New York art dealer whose son Steve was a high-rolling hedge-fund manager and film producer and is now President Trump’s secretary of the treasury, is the proverbial icing on the cake: This is a small club, and auctions for such objects are an elite game of one-upmanship within it. The rest of us press our faces up against the glass, agape.
That aside, the art market is governed more by the rules of free-market capitalism than most. Things are worth what someone will pay for them; absent any specific purpose, art is governed by supply and demand in its most unadulterated form. While demand can be cultivated — competition amid the billionaires’ club for certain must-have pieces is the auctioneer’s bread and butter — supply is more fixed. “Rabbit” — made as an edition of three plus one “artist’s proof,” with the others in museum collections — is a rare creature indeed. This was the one and only “Rabbit” out there for acquisition, and there’s a price for that.