#156 – The Eye of the Beholder

My wife and I argued about art today. The topic arose thanks to a garage sale in our neighborhood.  After Sophia observed someone purchasing a framed print of what appeared to be random paint spatters, she wondered aloud: “How could anyone consider such garbage art?”

The Mrs. believes proper art means easily discernible subjects. Therefore, she isn’t a big fan of abstract painting. In contrast, I hold a more relaxed view. I like what I like, even if I have no idea what the artist intended. When my wife dismissed the legitimacy of the garage sale item, I reminded her: “One man’s crap is another man’s masterpiece, as the ‘Guggenheim incident’ proved.”

Sophia seemed less than impressed. In her opinion, the “Guggenheim incident” didn’t prove a thing, except perhaps that some people have a hard time distinguishing art from non-art. I beg to differ, but I’ll let my readers judge. 

The Guggenheim incident occurred years ago, long before I met my wife. For those who don’t know, the Guggenheim is a famous New York City museum featuring modern and contemporary art among other works. Cylindrical in shape, the building contains an open center surrounded by a continuous sloping walkway spiraling up the interior walls, with works of art displayed along the walkway.  Most importantly, back then the museum contained single user bathrooms within certain columns along the walkway. The bathroom doors had locks and opened outward, but one of those locks must’ve malfunctioned the day I visited.

As I recall, I’d purchased a hot dog and pretzel from a street vendor earlier that afternoon. Either the frankfurter itself or the fixings I’d loaded it with disagreed with me. The food shot through my system faster than Hitler’s blitzkrieg through Poland, and while strolling through the museum I found myself in desperate need of a lavatory. After locating an unoccupied one, I locked the door (so I thought) and sat down to do my business.

I had no chance to reach the doorknob when someone suddenly turned it and flung the door open. Nor could I close the door again from within, after the intruder hastily departed without shutting the door behind him. Perched on the bowl with my pants and underwear at my ankles, I could only cringe helplessly as a stream of passersby viewed what some took to be the museum’s “newest exhibit.” Indeed, after one little boy stopped to stare at me, he actually asked his father: “Daddy. Is that art?”

His father considered carefully before responding: “Son. In this place, you never know.”

The Guggenheim’s interior – Bathrooms not shown

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