Fine Art Follies

by Victoria Landis on September 20, 2010

In our world of modern art, sometimes things are taken to the level of ridiculous.  I’ve been to exhibitions where I was sure it was a put-on and kept looking for the hidden cameras – a lá Ashton Kutcher’s ‘punked’ stunts.   

I love abstract art, but not all of it.  At a gathering a few years ago (won’t name the city or state to protect . . . me!), an artist debuted his first collection of abstract paintings.  The people who’d backed him knew all the movers and shakers (the ‘in’ crowd) of the city.  The evening’s festivities were held at a private gallery.

If you didn’t know there were such places as private galleries, neither did I.  I’ll digress for a moment.  It was all very hush-hush.  The person who brought me almost whispered the invite.  This place called itself an art salon.  Located on the second floor of a strip mall, there was no sign or any other indication of what this place was.  It’s proprietors allowed prospective buyers an appointment only if recommended by the right people.  How I got into that place is a convoluted tale for another time, but I managed to behave and not stick my foot in my mouth.

Boy, if you ever want people to clamor to get into an establishment and then feel giddy with privilege after admission, tell them they can’t come in.  Unless they are of the proper calibre.  And they know the right mucky-mucks.  Then swear them to secrecy, and the word about your place will travel at light speed.

Back to the exhibition.  The crowd wore their avant garde best.  Some women in gowns and heels, others in leather pants with fur jackets, men in suits, men in Hawaiian shirts.  The artist waited until an hour into the reception to make his debut entrance.  And wow, he made an entrance that would have Lady Gaga burning with envy.

The proprietors arranged the crowd into two sections, leaving a six-foot wide walkway through the gallery.  The classical music playing in the background changed to harsh tribal drums.  From a curtained doorway, a tall, skinny, and marshmallow-white man burst forward, raised his waving arms, and did a couple of twirls, beaming with pride like he was the one who saved the Earth from certain annihilation.  He had dark hair arranged in three ponytails that reached to his waist.  He wore no shirt, I guess to show off his gold nipple rings.  Ouch.  Covering his bottom half was a pseudo-Hawaiian ti-leaf skirt (real so-called ‘grass’ skirts are actually made from leaves of the ti plant), that revealed a red Speedo underneath.  He was barefoot and his toenails painted metallic gold.  I kid you not.

He sashayed his way up and back along the cleared path, then disappeared behind the curtain.  That was it.  He never came back out.  No one quite knew what to make of it, until someone (to fill the awkward silence, no doubt) began clapping.  Then everyone clapped and resumed milling about.

A woman near me whispered, “They say he is one of the most innovative artists to arise in the last ten years.  His work is a great investment.”  I subtly turned to see who was speaking and to whom.  It was the proprietor’s wife, talking to an older woman wearing thousand dollar shoes, carrying an Hermes bag, and sporting a gajillion dollar diamond ring.

I suppose it worked because they sold 3 of his pieces that night.  But I still don’t understand the whole performance thing.  Oh well, it wasn’t boring.

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