It was perfectly warm, but the woman was wearing blue velvet gloves. Another lady was wearing high heeled boots made out of a snake, and a young man sported a necktie made out of dozens of miniature neckties. Oh how I love contemporary art openings!
For those who have never been, there are few things in life more enjoyable than spending an evening wandering around a contemporary art show. It can be at a museum, it can be at a school, it can be gallery, it can be at a contemporary art fair – it can be in Germany or America. It’s all the same. And it’s fantastic. The contemporary art viewing crowd is out in all their glory, each trying to outdo one another with a new level of tasteful weird. You gaze too long at a middle-aged woman, and she shoots you a look that says, “What do you mean? I am wearing a simple black dress.” Sure, lady, but that simple black dress is made of compostable garbage bags sewn together with Red Vines.
The key to looking like you fit in at a contemporary art exhibition is not to overdo it. If you have neon purple hair, wear neon purple stockings to match. If you must wear your bracelet made out of pieces of the Berlin wall, you might want to leave your hat made out of an ashtray and your handbag made out of a small garbage can at home. Once, at a contemporary jewelry show, my husband came across a necklace made out of broken pieces of glass coke bottles held together with wire. He pointed it out to me and said, “You know, this should be titled Stabby Necklace.” Where would a lady wear Stabby Necklace? Would she need to wear it over something thick, or would she just get a tetanus shot and hope for the best?
If you can pry your eyes away from your fellow art viewers and their broaches made out of ear wax, you can actually see some art. Last Thursday, I talked a friend into joining me for a show and sale at a contemporary art space. She and I have both taken several art history courses and feel right at home in any modern art museum, but we were stumped. Half way through the show, we came across a row of four large rectangular tubes. Made of wood, they were painted black on the inside. After speaking into them to hear the echo, we decided they were probably there because the freshly cut wood smelled so nice. Art for smell.
We moved onto the “For Sale” section of the show and came across a rock covered in a crumpled up newspaper. It was priced at 1,500 Euros. It sounds a little pricy, but to be fair, it came in its own glass display case. My friend told me she was worried that she had thrown away similar newspaper crumbles, and she should probably head home now to fetch them out of the trash. She was hilarious, but I was distracted by the photograph of a jar of jam being crucified. Another item was a photo collage of women’s body parts surrounded by red streaks. A bargain at 900 Euros, I nevertheless think you would call the police if you found it in your roommate’s closet.
When all is said and done, you’ll forget about 85% of the art you see. About 10% of the art you’ll find so incredibly boring that you’ll remember it forever so that it can bore you long into the future. And about 5% will absolutely amaze you. Once I saw an incredible glass table. It was oval and the size of a small kitchen table, but it was made of completely clear glass and was outstandingly beautiful. It was covered in dirty dishes, oysters, a wine bottle, oranges half way though being peeled, turkey legs, and tipped over glasses, all made out of the same clear glass. All melded together, all one object. For sale at $28,000, it was just the sort of thing I would purchase if my art budget was $28,000 at a large art fair and not $10 at Goodwill. It was amazing. I hope some rich donor purchased it for a museum. I hope that a century from now art history students will look at a photograph of it and think, wow – those people in 2012 lived in a magical time.
Last Thursday night, after my friend and I watched a ten minute video of a flower opening, we decided we’d had enough high culture and left the contemporary art show to go to McDonald's for cheeseburgers. I asked her, “Why didn’t your husband want to come? Didn’t you tell him that it would be art, and so there would definitely be lots of naked breasts?”
She replied, “Yes, but he said it would probably just be two breasts stuck to a coffee machine.” Now that is a man who should have been an artist.