I like the general idea of art galleries. I like the fact one can browse unimpeded, sure in the knowledge that even if one is a cultural cretin, nobody else in the room knows that. All that is necessary is to stand reasonably well back from a painting, scratch one’s chin pensively, nod, utter a “Hmm,” and even the most stalwart fine arts maven will not have a clue that you had formerly thought Escher was the name of a contemporary singer.
It is also beyond refute (at least in myth) that galleries are great places to meet members of the opposite sex.
“So, do you like Turner, or what?”
“Ike or Tina? Oh – right – that Turner. The painter. Yes, I’ve always admired his – uh – intensity. And maybe, dare I say, his passion?”
“Ooh, you flirtatious devil, you.”
See. It was ever so easy. And now that acquaintanceship has been established, you can then – this works especially well if you’re in a European gallery – ask your new ‘acquaintance’ if she would like to saunter down to the bar and discuss Turner some more and maybe, if you are feeling especially brave and worldly, Modigliani.
If you are on a genuine quest to establish an aura of culture (not to mention some more new friendships) you can hang out at the gallery on a regular basis, and also convince yourself and your loved ones you are not wasting time. How can you waste time surrounded by works of art. You will actually impress others by the intensity of your cultural acumen, and they will never suspect you of being the deadbeat you actually are.
All you need to do to pull off this ruse is to master a few stock phrases like: post-impressionist, neo-cubist, proto-classicist (this calls for a certain mastery of the well-tuned adjective), and then throw around statements like: “Well, Cezanne is Cezanne, but Matisse always expressed it better, in my humble esteem.” Now, who can argue with a guy who says things like that? At best, your enthralled public will merely be able to nod their heads.
Now, I don’t mean to convey the seemingly cynical idea that there might be some pretentiousness afoot in the world of the finer things, but perhaps you might want to check out the gallery scene in Woody Allen’s Manhattan, where he says much the same thing – only much better than I do, no doubt. Of course, if you happen to think that Woody is a tad pretentious in his scathing indictments of pretentiousness, then we aren’t getting anywhere, are we?
There are rules to be followed whilst in galleries. Laughing out loud is frowned up, and automatically categorizes you as hopelessly philistinic. Laughter is in especially bad taste (as is pointing and exclaiming loudly “Will you get a load of the tits on her!”) when the artist is present. And, no matter how much you might like to believe it, your eight-year-old simply cannot paint better than David Hockney.
Other rules include eschewing any thought of stating: “But, I know what I like.” No you don’t. Certainly not in pretentious artsy circles, you don’t. You may know what you think you like, but you would be wrong. They ‘know’ because they are authorities on art. They may even be, critics. Many critics innately sense that they (the critics) know much more about the work of, say Jackson Pollock, than Pollock himself did, when he drew the odd sober breath.
Something else to consider when looking at any work of art. Master widespread use of the word ‘interesting.” It works for almost all contingencies. It’s non-committal, and it suggests knowledge when absolutely none, in fact, is present.
In gallery protocols, there are other rules to be observed. Do not attempt to take surreptitious photos of paintings and other works of art. Galleries are businesses. And part of their business is selling prints, books and postcards of the works within. They will, of course, hand you some sort of BS about the light from the flash having negative impact on paintings, but its mainly about separating you from a bit of your money if you are seeking a souvenir.
But, as galleries need money to keep operating, so do artists to keep painting or sculpting, or doing whatever it is they do. I mean, it’s kind of romantic to be a consumptive artist in a garret somewhere, but you can never be sure when the TB is going to take you out, and meanwhile you have to eat and pay the rent. Actually, garrets are pricey real estate these days.
In that regard a conversation with a friend (yes, I do have them) over coffee yesterday led him to reveal to me that a significant local gallery’s board has decided it will not take commercial artwork. You want to sell, to be commercial? Then you can’t be in our gallery. Ah, purists. Eschewing the marketplace. Now, there’s a plan. I have a couple of blogger friends who are truly fine artists and I think I should maybe suggest to them that they should stop selling their work and, you know, just ‘give’ me items of my choosing. I mean, I’d like some of their works, so isn’t that the counterculture way. Sort of a free-store for your creative sweat and tears.
Now, as you know, I paint a bit. I not only paint, I paint just for me and the person who has chosen to live with me, so I am not commercial. But, you know, I’m not going to ‘give’ you one of my paintings. If you really, really wanted one (which would be doubtful) then I would ask you to cough up some sort of compensatory sum. Actually, somebody I know did suggest she’d like a particular painting of mine and asked me to suggest a price. I thought, I dunno. Maybe $10,000. That’d help keep me going. Then you wouldn’t feel guilty like those heartless bastards who wouldn’t stake Van Gogh to even the price of a shot of absinthe. Think about how they felt afterwards. Of course, the creeps who already had their hands on Sunflowers or Starry Night were probably too crass to care.