Only $23,000 for “Insider information”

By Josh Friedlander

Wed Jun 11, 2014

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Knowledge comes at a price.

It would be a small price to pay in fines or disgorgement related to illegal insider trading, but $23,000 is instead the more reasonable sticker price for "Insider Information," a compelling painting by French artist François Bard.

The 2014 work (above) was part of a recent show, entitled "Contre-Nuit" (meaning "against the dark") at the Bertrand Delacroix Gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan. It now hangs at the Axelle Fine Arts Galerie in SoHo (Delacroix owns both galleries).

The painting depicts a middle-aged heavyset man in a slightly-rumpled suit smoking a cigar. The dark and disjointed background, cinematic close-up framing, and realistic detail (hands and forehead, especially) are characteristic of Bard's work.

   President John F. Kennedy

I happened across the painting recently and thought to bring it to the attention of Absolute Return readers because it conveys, in a way hundreds of articles cannot, the moral choice faced by so many in an industry that offers very large temptations. It very simply and strikingly captures a piece of a particular era on Wall Street.

One interpretation is that we are seeing the subject of the painting captured between the action and the fallout, having committed to a course that may end very badly. He is hunched over, with the muscles of his forehead rigid with concentration, or perhaps stress.

Reached through the gallery, Bard responded via email that the inspiration for the picture "came from a picture of JFK, perhaps during a moment in Cuba. This represents to me the vanity/pride of men in power, with the cigar as a symbol of 'power.'"

The has been no shortage of vanity or pride evident in the insider trading cases of recent years. This is not the first time Bard has focused on a topic related to financial markets. Of several works in "Not Guilty," a 2012 Bard exhibit, were "Le trader" and "The crash" (below):

 "Le trader"   "The crash" 

"Bard often begins his artistic process by taking photographs of himself in poses inspired by images in the media," the gallery states on its website. The description notes that Bard's technique "dates back to the classical tradition of layering of oil paint with visible impasto marks and varnish. The resulting pieces are incredibly textured, atmospheric and emotionally charged."

If you are down in SoHo, the painting -- far more arresting on canvas and at its full size (51" x 63") -- is worth seeing.

"Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him," says Lou Mannheim in Wall Street. "At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss."

In this case, thankfully, we can observe without penalty. Certain types of knowledge are without sanction.

ISSN: 2151-1845 / CDC10004H

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