When it comes to art, it’s easy to be a snob. I think we all feel to some degree, that our tastes are just slightly more refined than everyone else’s, hence it’s tempting to become lost in our own haughtiness and gaze upon the choices of others with a jaundiced, patronizing and even condescending eye. I admit that I am no exception, but I never thought it was possible for two art lovers to look sneeringly upon each other… simultaneously! It is indeed possible, and it happened to me.
When I first moved into my humble abode, I had lofty decorating goals; I wanted to create a living space that was worthy of Architectual Digest. However, like most neophyte decorators, I was faced with the perennial challenge of “champagne tastes on a beer budget”. After the painting was done, the carpeting was installed and the furniture was in place, it was time to complete the ambiance. I wanted to hang some Old Masters and Impressionist paintings in the living room and the den, but these paintings were fiendishly difficult to find. The Bay and Wal-Mart sold paintings, but they were decidedly more pedestrian than patrician – not quite as embarrassingly lowbrow as the kids with the big eyes or the dogs playing poker, but nothing that I would ever hang on my walls. After considerable searching, I decided to buy my prints from the AGO’s gift shop – they had a wonderful selection and the prices were surprisingly reasonable. Unfortunately, the frames were extra and were horrendously expensive. Even custom frames at Michaels were far more than I was planning to spend.
While I would never stoop to buy paintings at Wal-Mart or The Bay, I must admit that they did have nice frames. I decided that I would venture back and buy some of their proletarian art after all — but just for the frames. I would wear a hat and dark glasses to disguise my appearance, and afterwards, I would dispose of the prints immediately, and in a trash container far, far away from my home – so that these ignominious monstrosities that pass for art could never be traced back to me.
That very week, as luck would have it, The Bay had a sale on framed paintings, so I measured my prints and then drove there with a notepad and a tape measure. As I was examining the sturdiness and finish of the frames and then imagining how they would appear hanging in my den, I noticed that a middle-aged lady was also browsing the paintings. She decided to make a some small talk, and asked me what kind of paintings I was interested in. I replied quite honestly “Oh, I don’t care about the paintings – I just want these for the frames”.
Let me tell you – the look on her face was just priceless: a moment of utter disbelief and then condescension tinged with disgust. Personally, I thought this situation was absolutely hilarious, because at that moment we were both looking down at each other (although I was doing my best to remain expressionless and non-judgmental). While she thought that I was surely some uncultured bottom-feeder who had dragged myself out of my cultural quagmire and into this department store, I was simultaneously looking at her and thinking “What self-respecting middle-aged adult buys their art at The Bay? Look at this stuff – it’s not even fit for the waiting room in a doctor’s office. This detritus is one step up from the proverbial Scarface movie poster in a male teenager’s bedroom”.
Yes, buying art really does bring out the insufferable snob in us.