Time Essay: WHO NEEDS MASTERPIECES AT THOSE PRICES?

WHO NEEDS MASTERPIECES AT THOSE PRICES

THREE weeks ago, a table was sold at auction in London. It had been made in France somewhere around 1780, probably by a craftsman named Martin Carlin: a spindly, exquisite and useless object, all tulipwood and Sevres porcelain plaques, the very epitome of the court taste of Louis XVI. An Iranian oilman named Henri Sabet paid $415,800 for it and so became the owner of the most expensive piece of furniture in history.

One polite reaction to this news would be to smile at human folly and hope...

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