These long days into Covid-19 when the life we’ve known has been so altered, we’re liable to stop expecting anything to stay the same. Yet, buying and selling art remains constant. More than that, all-time high sales are making the news. The Art Newspaper reports a personal best for Surrealist Giorgio de Chirico at Sotheby's this week.

Standing apart

The painting – Il Pomeriggio di Arianna - only one sale from an eight-part series and never auctioned before - reaped $15.9 million. What’s so special about it ? Sotheby’s head of Impressionist and Modern Art department, Julian Dawes, told Art Net that the painting stands apart from other artists’ work of the time and greatly influenced the Surrealist movement.

But his words don’t tell you anything about the work itself.

Pillar of strength

My turn. What you see is the mythical Greek goddess Ariadne asleep in the middle of an empty street. According to legend, she was abandoned by her lover Theseus. De Chirico, who suffered estrangement in his own life, painted her as if a monument made of stone and turned the jilting into a shrine of strength.

Wonder woman

Ariadne’s Afternoon is a tall 53 ¼ by 25 ½ inches. Monumentalizing a female complaint in stone in 1913, rendering her a pillar of power put De Chirico ahead of his time. I can’t think of another testament to female power until Rosie the Riveter slogan “We Can Do Anything” in 1941.

War is hell

Of course, Surrealism had nothing to do with reality.

Artists like De Chirico had their reasons for ignoring the real world. They were pushing back against the horrors of war. The destruction of World War I drove them from the known world into their own. Surrealism, then, was a declaration of war against estrangements - the fatal flaw of modern life.

Making sense

A good example of De Chirico’s war against the real world can be seen in his painting The Uncertainty of the Poet: a marble torso on a pedestal in a desolate street scattered with bananas.

Go figure.

But wait, Giorgio, given the horrors of war, your revolt against the real world is eminently logical.

Current events

Speaking of women and war, Hyperallergic reports news that relates both to De Chirico’s edification of a woman and the ruinations of war. This news is about the activism of women who call themselves the She Loves Collective protesting the ongoing Armenian war under the headline “We are the rifles our ancestors didn’t have.” The group cast rose petals into the Los Angeles River last week, each petal said to represent the more than 1,000 people of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh killed last month.

Ariadne gets the last word

Leader of the She Loves Collective, Ani Nina Oganyan, penned a letter to Hyperallergic, saying that the group - consisting of artists, musicians, healthcare workers, lawyers, businesswomen, inventors – are descendants of the survivors. Despite their efforts, there’s been little media attention to their cause. Which is not unlike that sense of alienation in Ariadne’s Afternoon.