The Art Scene

In the Posh Gallery, New York City, a man in his mid-thirties studied a piece on the wall. One of the Wall Street nouveau-riche, he looked to diversify his portfolio into art. The gallery owner approached and stood beside him.

“A very good piece, don’t you think?” the owner commented. “A. Non-Y-Mous is one of our most popular artists.”

“Just what is it?” Nouveau-riche shared a confused look with Mr. Gallery.

“Oh, it is his latest.”

“But what is that thing. I mean, do you call it a thingamajig.”

“Actually it’s called ‘A Whatchamacallit’.” Gallery was proud to represent one of the up-and-comers of the current art scene. “It’s only one million dollars.”

“You mean you actually expect someone to pay a million bucks for that?”

“Oh, it was one hundred grand three days ago. The artist’s name is rising that fast. Much faster than Andy Warhol in his prime.”

The tailored suit was impressed but not impressed enough to bite the offer handed him. “Well, it looks like a piece of shit to me.”

“No, sir. ‘Piece of Shit’ was A.Non-Y-Mous’ previous work. It sold for two million at auction.”

Nouveau shook his head. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “And I thought Wall Street was one big scam.”

Gallery ignored the scam comment.”I can almost guarantee it will be up to four million by the end of the year.”

The Wall Streeter frowned. “This-this whatchamacallit looks like something I saw down the street.”

“That is why it is such an important work. It captures the essence of contemporary society. It has such panache. Yet it doesn’t force itself upon you with its dash of élan. Don’t you think?”

“I’m not so sure. When I think of art, I think Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso.”

The owner waved away the thought. “Oh, sir, they are so passé. So démodé. So vieux jeu. No, this artist is so, how shall we say it. So current. One of the advanced cohort of a coming revolution in art.”

“You say one million?” The man was beginning to bite the bait.

“Yes, sir. And I can assure you the piece will impress your colleagues. They will see that you are an up-and-coming collector. You are participating in something unique.”

“I am not so sure my wife will like it. Her snooty Ivy League friends are hard to impress.”

Gallery patiently instructed, “Oh, they will be very impressed. They will see you for the man of taste you are. And the benefit of this piece? It will fit in with any décor. Just look at the colors.”

“You think so?” Mr. Potential Customer took a deep breath. “I would like to get in with that Fifth Avenue crowd she travels with.”

“Then this is just the thing. It is small enough to fit into the elevator of your apartment building but large enough to impress.”

The Wall Streeter decided. “Well, I suppose if one must, one must. I will take it. Can you have it delivered?”

“Yes, sir. Would tomorrow afternoon be good?”

“It will.” The buyer paid for the piece. “It’s for my wife’s birthday, you know.”

“She is indeed a fortunate woman to have such a discriminating husband.”

“Well, I don’t know about that.”

“Believe me, she will love the piece. The wives always do.”

“I hope you are right.”

The Wall Streeter walked out of the gallery, shaking his head and muttering, “Still looks like a piece of shit to me.”

The owner uncrossed his fingers and said under his breath, “P. T. was right. There is one born every minute.” Then he started to hum, “Another one bites the dust.”

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Norman Mailer

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is Norman Mailer:

Here he is interviewed by the conservative icon, William F. Buckley. It’s too bad we can’t have such a respectful discussion between liberals and conservatives these days.

In the 1950s, many proclaimed Norman Mailer as the great American novelist, the successor of Ernest Hemingway. His career began with The Naked and the Dead (1948). During the 1950s, he struggled to write a successor that would live up to that first novel’s potential. But still the critics hoped. Unfortunately he was not Hemingway. He was Norman Mailer.

Then he took on the establishment and his persona grew and grew until he seemed to be everywhere. It made some wonder when he had time to write. It got to the point where it seemed that when Norman Mailer farted, the world stood up and applauded. Then he turned to non-fiction and journalism.

His Armies of the Night (1968) won the Pulitzer Prize. Between that book and his masterpiece, The Executioner’s Song (1979), for which he won his second Pulitzer, he wrote several journalistic works like Of A Fire on the Moon (1971) and The Fight (1975). He seemed to have found his subject, American society in the last half of the twentieth century as seen by Norman Mailer.

Norman Mailer was accused of being a misogynist. He found it easy to get into a fight. His personality was that of a brawler. Of all the writers who came out of the World War II generation, Norman Mailer seems to have the potential to become that which he dreamed of most, the great American novelist. With only a few exceptions, he fell short. It seemed like much of his life he was in search of a subject. And such a struggle it was. But always there was his ego.

For writers and artists, Mailer can be a warning. Never let your ego get in the way of your art. But one thing that Mailer reminds all of us about. Words matter, and writers matter. We forget that at our own risk. They tell us things we don’t want to hear. They tell us the truth. If for no other reason, that’s why Norman Mailer matters.

And here is Mailer’s legacy to his fellow writers: