It can be difficult to pinpoint those moments that define a generation. I speak not for Gen X, Y, or Z; I either technically am or am not a Millennial. I barely grasp the meaning of such distinctions, for in truth I belong to an elite micro-generation: people who had their minds completely blown by the first Jurassic Park movie.
Clearly my generation was out in force this week, as the Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale auction that featured the skeletal remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex nicknamed Stan massively eclipsed its projected value of $8 million. Instead, after a feverish 20-minute bidding war, it sold to an unidentified buyer for $31,847,500 at hammer drop, making it the most expensive dinosaur fossil ever sold. We are now officially replacing the air horn noise with the T.rex roar.
Discovered in 1987 by paleontologist Stan Sacrison for whom it is nicknamed, dino-Stan was formerly a native of the “Laramidia” area (now known as Badlands region of North/South Dakota and Wyoming). The skeleton is touted as “one of the best specimens discovered,” by James Hyslop, head of Christie’s Science & Natural History department, and is one of the most complete examples of a T. rex in existence. Replicated many times over for museums and entertainment venues worldwide, the original skeleton stands 13 ft. tall and almost 40 ft. long with his massive tail at full extension.
“Stan rapidly became the ‘Stan-dard’ for T. rex […] If you have looked at a T. rex in a museum, the chances are it was a cast of Stan,” Phil Manning, professor of natural history at the University of Manchester, told the BBC. “The skull is possibly the best preserved, given it was found as isolated elements, carefully prepped and beautifully reconstructed.”
The Christie’s auction live-streamed on October 6 from Rockefeller Center in New York, and sales totaled $340,851,500 on the evening. Some 280,000 people tuned into the highly anticipated spectacle through the Christie’s website and social media channels — which is impressive, but pales in comparison to the approximately $1.033 billion dollars racked up from the original Jurassic Park (1993), to say nothing of the additional billions grossed by the entire franchise. Anyone among my proud niche generation could have told the art glitterati at Christie’s that if they’re going to auction a T. rex, they should hold onto their butts.
While Stan is arguably not a piece of 20th-century culture — seeing as the last of its kind faced extinction roughly 65 million years ago — it’s important to remember: who cares, it’s a freaking T. rex. And honestly, can we find a more contemporary symbol than a tyrant king who stomps on all other living things with no regard for propriety, before witnessing the extinction of his species based on natural science beyond his control?
In truth, Christie’s is not even the first to associate the mighty T. rex with contemporary identity politics. Rock scientists and glam rockers, everyone is ready to proclaim T. Rex as the 20th-century boy! Hail to the king!
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Author: Sarah Rose Sharp