There's something that troubles me terribly about how contemporary art and especially art collectors are often portrayed in the media.
Okay, let me set this up a bit by first admitting that art really is a luxury good. I mean, compared to most material things, it's not on the top of everyone's "buy now" lists. Contemporary art is not a necessity and it certainly isn't practical in the way that the iPad that I'm using to chat with you is practical.
By default, this means that art is regretfully cast into the realm of indulgence; it's "high end" to the max and way beyond the reach of most people ... or so they think. And so, what's the art world to do?
They go with what works.
Consequently, contemporary art is often partnered up with high interior design, classical music, champagne and caviar brunches and well, you get my point. By the way, I've been among this crowd from time to time, but here's the thing ...
This environment often gives birth to what I call, "Haughty Art Connoisseurs." What's funny is that the people aren't necessarily true connoisseurs, but they're often presented as such.
It's easy to spot these people sometimes because they're usually profiled in the media in the same old clichéd way. You know the scenario:
It's usually a well-scrubbed, if not surgically-enhanced, very well-dressed, conservative looking, WASPY couple, probably in their 60s. The husband is likely wearing a navy blue, double-breasted blazer with gold buttons and a pocket square while the wife is likely donning a pink, cashmere sweater that's elegantly sitting on her shoulders with the arms loosely tied around her Audrey Hepburn-like neck. Her hair is probably coiffed and sprayed to within an inch of its very existence. They're standing and staring at us - with their arms folded and chins held high - on either side of their fireplace mantel which holds one of their treasured paintings from their esteemed collection. They're probably photographed from a low angle to make them appear all the more haughty, discriminating and authoritative about art.
These are your "Haughty Art Connoisseurs." Thank you. I thought you might like that. We have seen this scene over and over and over and over again. Have we not?
Needless to say, this portrayal of art collectors works like a charm in the art world. In fact, that's exactly what it is. It's a charm ... a bewitching spell that's always cast. People eat it up. Especially artists. They flock to it like flies to cow dung because everyone assumes that based on mere appearances, "this couple" (or others like them) is loaded and therefore, in addition to disposable cash, they have instant credibility. In the hood, they call this, "Street Cred."
To further back this up, I've had numerous artists say to me, "I just wish I could find a rich art collector!" I rest my case.
Let me just say this. If you actually fit the bill of the art collecting couple that I've playfully just described, there's nothing wrong with that. I'm just saying that ... well ... aren't we beyond tired of seeing art and art collectors presented this way?
You know, clichés and stereotypes exist in part because they are easy and convenient. They don't require any real thought or dare I say, creativity. Why wouldn't Robert and Betsy want to be seen as art world nobility while wearing what many of us would consider our Sunday best? It's literally a no brainer. Stereotypes are very dangerous no brainers.
Again, my issue is not with the WASPY couple, but rather the uptight portrayal. Why would any thinking and reasonable person in the 21st Century want to be presented this way? It's such a terrible cliché. It's a parody of itself. Sadly and yet comically, it makes for fantastic fodder for a "Saturday Night Live" skit.
Now, having said all that, does this mean that we want to see so-called art collectors letting it all hang out while eating franks and beans with their hands in front of their beloved art in trailer park homes? No. We don't have to veer THAT far left. Not that there's anything wrong with trailer park homes, mind you.
All's I'm sayin' is ... oops, sorry ... I mean, "ALL I'm saying is ... can we just drop the attitude? Do we always have to present art lovers as these haughty art connoisseurs? How about we just relax and be natural?
As I say all the time, presenting art this way is not helping art. It's silly. Art deserves better. Art is both high-brow and low-brow and at the same time, it's neither. Art is transcendent. Shouldn't we also try to be transcendent? Isn't that the whole point of art? To help us transcend? Art is like love; when we bring our authentic selves to it, it expands. Bring your true self to art and you will become the authority in your own life.
Okay, okay. I'll admit it. As I'm writing this, I'm wearing my silk, Jim Dine-like robe with an ascot, satin pajamas and Versace slippers and I'm smoking a pipe and sitting here in my high-backed, leather wing chair. As always, I'm in my den with some of my lovely paintings hanging on the wall behind me. It's divine.
Shall I take a selfie and post it for you? Okay, I will. I mean ... not for nothin', I DO have an image to uphold.