This week I’m rejoining my weekly painting group after hiding out from COVID for over a year and half. It feels weird (and a bit scary) to be in a group again; although we’re all fully vaccinated and we’ll wear masks and stay distanced in the studio.
But, scarier still… do I even remember how to hold a paintbrush? More to the point, should I be allowed anywhere near an innocent canvas? I’ve committed a few crimes against art in the past, so art has good reason to be wary of me. But then again, I’ve never really understood what constitutes Good Art, either.
I’m embarrassed to admit I took Art History (among other things) for four long years in university. Apparently those courses were worthless, because I can’t see any artistic value in a canvas that looks as though a house-painter cleaned a used roller on it. But the National Gallery of Canada snaps those puppies up for a cool 1.8 million apiece, and their most convincing argument that it’s Good Art is a snooty, “Well, obviously you can’t grasp the concept.” Very true. I can’t. But there must be something to it, because those two $1.8 million investments are now valued at over $100 million combined.
So how do I know whether I’m creating Good Art or birthing an art-monster that shouldn’t be allowed to live? After in-depth study (and perhaps a teeny bit of hyperbole) based on the National Gallery’s purchases, I’ve come up with a foolproof formula for determining the Value of Art:
Value Of Art = (Bullshit + Snootiness2) × Wealth of Investor × Ego of Investor
It’s important to note that bullshit comes first in the formula, and it has to be linked very early with the all-important snootiness or the whole endeavor fails. That’s why there are millions of brilliant artists, but only a few who make seven-figure sales to the National Gallery.
If they want to hit that million-dollar price point, artists should throw around words like ‘luminous’, ‘weighty’, and ‘atmospheric’, add arcane phrases like ‘perceptualizing the human condition’, and then lay on the all-important snootiness: “Of course, most people won’t grasp the nuanced complexity of this work.” And they need to keep repeating that stuff, loud and proud. Then all it takes is some rich investor eager to prove they’re more cultured than ‘most people’, and an art sensation is born.
Or maybe I’m just boorish and cynical. (Okay, that’s not a ‘maybe’.)
But I am one hell of a bullshitter. So… do you know any rich art investors with fragile egos? If so, send them my way; ’cause every Friday afternoon I’ll be creating paintings that have a whole shitload of nuanced complexity. Positively weighty, in fact. I dunno about ‘luminous’, but with all my bullshit flying around, it’s sure to be ‘atmospheric’. Just don’t inhale too deeply…
Writing update: You may have noticed that I haven’t posted any progress on Book 17 yet. Here’s why: I’m concentrating on the screenplay for Book 1: Never Say Spy. And it’s almost finished, woohoo! So if you know anybody in, or even loosely connected to, a movie production company, I hope you’ll put in a good word for me! (Or better yet, introduce me with an enthusiastic pitch for the screenplay. Hey, I can dream, right?)