Jasper Johns (1930- ), born in Augusta, Georgia, and raised in South Carolina, moved in 1949 to New York City, where he enrolled in a commercial art school for two semesters. Back in New York, following his service in the army (ca. 1950–51), Johns became acquainted with artist Robert Rauschenberg, composer John Cage, and dancer Merce Cunningham.
By the mid- to late 1950s Johns had already achieved fame with his paintings of targets, numerals, and American flags, and his work was exhibited in prominent museums and galleries in New York. "White Flag" of 1955, recently acquired by the Metropolitan from the artist's own collection, exemplifies Johns's early style, which engendered a wide range of subsequent art movements, among them Pop Art, Minimal Art, and Conceptual Art.
From the MOMA site :"Beginning with a flag (198 cm x 306 cm) that has no space around it, that has the same size as the painting, we see that it is not a painting of a flag. The roles are reversed: beginning with the flag, a painting was made. Beginning, that is, with structure, the division of the whole into parts corresponding to the parts of a flag, a painting was made which both obscures and clarifies the underlying structure."
If you can understand anything to this gibberish you are more sophisticated than me. Having said that Jasper Johns is a very successful artist and in 1988 this banal White Flag was sold for the crazy amount of 7 million dollars. The buyer was the Swedish real estate speculator and vintage car collector Hans Thulin.
The night before, Thulin had bid up to 16.8 million dollars for False Start (1959) by Jasper Johns too but was overbid by Samuel Irving Newhouse, Jr. , publisher of Advance Publications who knocked down the painting for $17 million. In 2007, it was privately sold again by David Geffen to hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin for $ 80 million. The canvas had been bought in 1960 by art collector Robert Scull from Jasper's agent Leo Castelli for $3,150.
Some critics think interesting to say that the White Flag is "an incredible picture", being the ghost of the American flag consisting of encausting and newprint and blown up to just over four feet by six feet.
The late 80s were really the beginning of an inflation in Art prices that continues to this day with the coming on the scene of China, India, Russia and the Middle East. Furthermore, as long as the interest rates are low and the dollar weak, works of art on the international market will find buyers.