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In New York last month, Christie's sold $745 million worth of postwar and contemporary art, the highest total that it has ever reached in a single auction. Among the higher-priced works sold were paintings by Barnett Newman, Francis Bacon, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol, each of which sold for more than $60 million. Do an image search for "Barnett Newman" and you will see many paintings with vertical color bars, usually divided by a thin line. Once Newman had an idea, it seems, he liked to work out all of the variations. Duccio is a major figure who worked during a key transitional moment in the history of Western art, and few of his paintings have survived. None of that applies to Newman or Warhol.Perhaps, though, the importance of postwar art lies in its ability to challenge our ideas. That view was firmly expressed by Jeff Koons, one of the artists whose work was on sale at Christie's. Nothing I have said here counts against the importance of creating art.
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