Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

February 2009

Putin It All Out There

So ... Vladimir Putin is now an accomplished artist?

Recently, I picked up that bit of nonsense on Yahoo. It seems that a charity auction in St. Petersburg, Russia, was held featuring the donated art of non-artists but locally famous people. Putin dashed off a sketch of snowflakes as seen through a window. The sketch was then finished off by a professional artist. It reportedly brought 37 million roubles, an amount worth something north of a million U.S.

Because I thought rouble was spelled “r-u-b-l-e,” I googled “rouble” and discovered that Russia is devaluing its currency almost daily in response to the worldwide economic crisis, particularly the soft oil market. So, while the Yahoo piece had Putin’s picture priced at $1.15 million on Sunday, Jan. 18, Google headlined the rouble’s worth at 3.0818 cents by early Monday morning. That would mark down the art by about $10,000.

The Russians’ money peaked in value during the Chinese Olympics, where Putin won a gold medal for invading South Ossetia.

Since then the rouble’s had troubles.

And what does Putin do? Sketch snowflakes. Doesn’t even finish, but has to have a real painter finish the job.

Speaking of finishing the job, I wanted to make sure of my facts so I went back to Google and this time googled “ruble.”

Found out two things. First, Russian currency can be spelled either way — ruble or rouble. Second, the ruble was down to 3.0343 cents, dropping Putin’s piece another $17,000 before my coffee got cold.

Still sipping my coffee, I found a link to an article in the London newspaper the Guardian about the sale, with a picture of the woman who had bid for it. It turns out that $1.15 million roubles is the highest amount ever paid for a piece of art in Russia. I think I’d prefer something by Fabergé.