Define “Have-Not”

6 March, 2009

This morning, I was the lucky “+1” of a dear friend who had a VIP invitation to the viewing of a private collection of artwork in a stately townhouse in the residential no-mans-land between Gramercy and Murray Hill.  The artwork overwhelmed the walls; no surface was left unadorned.  The house felt like a miniature MOMA.  I envisioned the couple who owned the collection musing over their afternoon cappuccino: “Darling, do you want to go that new modern-artist’s name here exhibit at the Whitney/MOMA/fancy gallery?”  “No, I am le tired.  Let’s  go upstairs and have a look at the modern-artist’s name here we just had hung in the cats’ room.”

My friend and I oohed and ahhed at the massive collection of “Works on Paper,” tried to sound knowledgeable and artsy when other people were near by (although we mostly just nodded and agreed with their banal comments to the room: “I’m so used to seeing his work in color,” “The composition is so powerful, yet humble,”) and giggled at the exaggerated genitalia prominently displayed in a handful of pieces.

We took in four levels of artwork, including the 4th floor  conservatory, where a friendly German? Dutch? Danish? woman told us about the procedure for conserving paper artwork.  She seemed so humble, so down-to-earth, so kindly troll-like: I presumed she must be locked up in that old 4th-floor attic space, alone with her erasers and paintbrushes and magnifying goggles, a grandmotherly Rapunzel, who upon donning a conservative bob, resigned herself to never being rescued.

Completing the exhaustive tour, we retrieved our coats and munched on some mini-muffins homemade by the cook who was creepily reminiscent of Hattie McDaniel’s Mammy.  The blueberry-walnut treat stuck in my throat as I thought about the fact that the price of one measly piece of artwork in this house was probably the equivalent of 6 to 12 months worth of my rent.  I was hard pressed to  imagine the way a family like this could affected by the recession.  I considered asking them to sponsor me the way they might a child in Africa.

Just when I was starting to get down about the extreme wealth that I willingly allowed to be shoved in my face, I realized something that made me pity the  couple who lived in such opulence on East 30th Street:

They had probably never been to IKEA.

Weålth, schmeålth. The pøør saps.

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