Solanum tuberosum, aka the potato, or “spud” is a very versatile plant which provides a significant number of people in the world with a great deal of nourishment through consumption of its tubers. It is something that we, at least in the Western World, take for granted as a cheap, staple food source.
One nation whose history is inexorably linked to the cultivation of the potato is Ireland, where the potato famine (or Great Famine) caused a 20-25% drop in population due to death of a million people and immigration of another million individuals, largely to the US, when the crop failed for successive years during the mid 19th century. It can quite justifiably be said that this root crop literally changed the fate of a nation (or two).
It is therefore perhaps a tad ironic that, with Irish farm prices for the spud at about €5 per 10kg ($5 per 22lb) at the time of writing, Irish photographer, Kevin Abosch should sell a single photograph of the humble potato for €1,000,000 ($1,090,000) recently. To put this into perspective, for the same money the buyer could have bought around 2,000 tonnes of the real tubers instead. Quite a discrepancy.
Now, there has been quite a bit hullabaloo about this, much like the previous Peter Lik sale of Phantom and the Andreas Gursky sale of Rhein II (to which I paid my own homage here). But to be honest, I say good luck to him, and his ilk! I think it’s a good photograph. I don’t particularly see anything wonderful about it and it’s not something that I would have hanging on my wall but then that’s the whole point of art – it’s subjective.
We don’t know who the “unnamed businessman” who shelled out for this artwork is, but perhaps he is the descendant of an Irish immigrant who is paying homage to his heritage through buying the image of something very meaningful to him, from another successful Irishman. One million euros is a tremendous amount of money to the majority of us but perhaps not so to the businessman who could be as rich as Croesus, as far as we know. Perhaps to him, it’s no big deal.
Either way, the sale made the news, boosting the exposure of Kevin Abosch (of whom, I admit I was totally unaware) and stirring up the usual rants and hand-wringing from the intelligentsia and blog writers alike. It also almost certainly increased the value of the photo – making it a shrewd investment perhaps, or am I being too cynical?
Either way, I propose that pictures of the potato are passé, and I offer up instead my own, much brighter image of peppers and beans, fit to grace any kitchen/dining area. Oh, and this image is considerably cheaper, too! 😉