The octogenarian painter stars in The Price of Everything, a new film about the machinations of the market airing on HBO
An artist walks through a snowbound landscape in upstate New York, on his way to toil in his woodshed studio. He spoons paint onto his palette with his hands before applying bright colours to a vast canvas. This is Larry Poons, the unlikely star of The Price of Everything, a new documentary film by Nathaniel Kahn exploring the grittiness of the contemporary art market. We see Poons preparing for a show of new paintings organised by the dealer Dennis Yares last year, but he is presented as the antithesis of art market superstars. On camera, Poons decries the market for preferring his “old stuff” and rails against the notion that the “best artist is the most expensive artist”.
Poons has reason to be suspicious. After studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from 1959, he moved to New York, where he gained immediate acclaim for his grid-based “dot paintings”. In 1963, he had his first solo exhibition at the Green Gallery and he was the youngest artist in The Responsive Eye, a survey of post-war American art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1965. But his art became more radical and although he continued to show his work in New York and it was still admired by critics, it proved less palatable for the market.