With each blossoming spring, the city opens its cultural consciousness to an extended feast of exhibitions and installations. It’s the time of year when even bankers and socialites rise above their superficial lives of money and fashion to ponder thought-provoking questions. Art Basel’s annual flowering of creative works provokes and delights, challenging our perceptions, and moving us to re-think the metaphysics of …
Oh, who are we kidding? It’s basically a glamorous show-off for big money sponsors such as banks to suck up to the One Per Cent. Circling the shallows are speculative philistines trying to ingratiate themselves with real experts, less to learn about the artistic value of any art, than whether the price might rise.
Everybody who is anybody wants to be invited to the opening night Vernissage – even if few can pronounce it properly. I’ve heard it mangled many ways, mostly as a macabre stitching of “vermicelli” and “Versace” into a human centipede word.
To the uncouth pretender, the worst thing would be to have your cover blown, like admiring an object you think is organic, personal art only to realise later that someone just left an old beret covered with indie band buttons on a counter. A sure way to reveal you are a low-grade fool is to take a selfie with any artwork that depicts semi-realistic human anatomy.
Nothing suggests you belong back in high school than making a goofy pose next to a papier mâché female nude. Unless you’re a 14 year-old, such a juvenile act shows you are as much of an ass as the derrière study in oil on canvas.
It is one way to make sure gallery reps won’t make an effort to talk to you. Real buyers don’t snap pictures of art on their phone. They will buy it to hang on their wall.
Of course, it’s no crime to not be an art expert, nor be rich enough to be a collecting connoisseur. Lots of genuine people simply like to view something different and contemporary that they may otherwise not get a chance to experience. However, there are always Trumpian blowhards who can’t help but spew obnoxious word salads to bluff their way through any crowd. Chances are if some posh jerk is expounding passive-aggressively to you about “Neo-shamanism”, it’s because they have just browsed a recent Artnet.com page on the subject.
To ward off such know-it-all types, I like going to art openings with my interior decorator friend. If someone is trying too hard to impress us with boring jargon and theoretical bragging, we’ll redirect the conversation into something they know nothing about. This year, we’ll start debating whether any particular purple-ish tone is more Millennial Pink or Ultra Violet. We’ve always been able to geek away the creeps.
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