It seems like every time you turn around prices have gone up. Just try buying a pair of shoes your teenager will actually WEAR for less than fifty bucks! And BLUE JEANS! How about seven bucks for a movie ticket and that much more for POPCORN and a soft drink. And don't even THINK about a dinner for two at a fine restaurant for less than thirty or forty bucks plus tip. Okay, so EVERYTHING hasn't gone up. Gas prices have held steady or even gone down a little, and maybe the price of what you put it in will hold the proverbial line this year too, but that's small consolation when you see the price they're getting for Picasso's nowadays--ELEVEN MILLION, for a portrait of his girlfriend, Femande Oliver, and that's WITHOUT her clothes. And if you think that's bad, just try laying your hands on a Van Gogh for less than seventy-million BIG ONES! Okay, so it's a little short of the record $82.5 million paid for Portrait of Dr. Gachet back in 1990, but still, it's getting harder and harder now days to afford good art work.

The Van Gogh is his Portrait of the Artist Without Beard and it was actually $71 million plus a hefty commission for Christie's. It was painted in 1889 and may well have been his last self-portrait, maybe even one of his last paintings ever. He sent it to his mother on the occasion of her 70th birthday, along with a note telling her how upset he was that he couldn't be with her. The bidding began at $14 million and there were cheers and gasps when the gavel finally fell 57 million dollars later. And it's not just the big stars of the art world that are bringing astounding prices. The relatively unknown Jean-Michel Basquiat, who started out as a graffiti artist, recently had a portrait of himself holding a spear, which was expected to bring about $500,000, go for $3.5 million. His previous record was a mere $596,000.

It's gotten so bad that whole art collections are going on the auction block. Lila Acheson Wallace would be rolling over in her grave if she knew what her Readers' Digest Corporation was doing with HER collection, which she tenderly fawned over during much of her lifetime. They let go of Claude Monet's Water Lily Pond for $9.9 million, and Cezanne's L'Estaque View Through the Pine Trees for $11 million, although Renoir's Head of a Young Girl went for a mere $5.3 million and his Portrait of Cezanne" got them only $2.7 million. (Apparently paintings BY Cezanne are worth more than paintings OF Cezanne.) Add to that a 1919 Modigiliani ("Portrait of Jeanne Hebuteme) which sold for $15.1 million plus a few other minor pieces, and the "Digest" walked off with a cool $86 million to take back to Pleasantville to pay for their next sweepstakes. Who knows, maybe I might "already be a winner." I might just win enough to bid on at least a DRAWING by Van Gogh. They only cost $4.4 million.