I've discovered something awful about myself.
I am not a deep person.
There are puddles deeper than I am.
I had this epiphany by way of a trip of the Museum of Modern Art's annual show-and-sale in New York (MOMA [pronounced "MOE-Ma"] to those "in the know"). I was accompanied by an excruciatingly bohemian friend of mine, and was anticipating my first foray into modern art with all the excitement of a five-year-old about to meet Mickey Mouse.
Now, I have always favored Renaissance and Flemish art, and I must say that, despite my eagerness for exposure to new things, the trip was less an outing than a rude awakening.
The first room we ventured into contained a huge pink faux marble Formica slab, just leaning against the wall.
"Come on," I said to my companion. "We'd better go to another room. They're renovating in here."
"Oh, just look at that!"
"That incredible statement about isolation. Doesn't it just speak to you?"
She pointed at the pink monolith. It was incredible all right. I sure didn't believe it.
"That? The only thing that says to me is that someone is getting ready to install a counter!"
My comment was met with an indignant huff.
After she had spent the requisite amount of time drinking in the beauty and profundity of this "creation," we proceeded to our left where, in a trail on the floor, were a dozen or so large, pieces of slate. I, of course, walked on them.
"Please, Madam!" a distressed museum guard shouted, running up and grabbing me by the back of the coat. "Don't touch the exhibit!"
"Yes! The exhibit!" He pointed to the floor. "This piece is worth $250,000!"
I gingerly stepped off the stones and made a mental note to go home and cash in my sidewalk. My friend and tour guide was nowhere to be seen, obviously fearing for her bohemian status in SoHo, should she be caught undead, with a pleb like me.
Bemused, I wandered on alone. The next exhibit was a glass ball on a pedestal in the center of the room. That was it…for the whole room! It looked like the scene of a séance suddenly abandoned. The descriptive card read, "Universal Teardrop," an apt name considering that the price tag on this baby would have brought not one, but many teardrops to the eyes of any self-respecting universe. Shaking my head, I moved on.
The next exhibit was called, "Black Lemons." Certain that I would find my former Camaro on display, you can imagine my surprise upon discovering hundreds of lemons--the fruit, that is--painted black and suspended from nylon filaments attached to the ceiling. There were screens with black lemons painted on them. There was a giant one in the shape of a chair. There was even one that had a television set inside it.
It was beyond my comprehension that people would pay good money to see something that I could easily duplicate in my refrigerator after three or four weeks.
But the final exhibit…the piece de resistance, if you will, was the creation called, simply, "Cans." The room was so littered with empty soda pop cans of every description that it reminded me of the trash compactor scene in "Star Wars."
After I recovered from the assault on my aesthetics, I noticed that this display was a favorite of the homeless people in the area; most of whom were clustered around the barred windows, undoubtedly toting up what they could get for it at their local redemption center.
According to the card, this pile of litter was purported to be an artistic representation of the creation of the world.
The other people in the room--the arty-fartsy Greenwich Village crowd, loved this stuff. Some of the comments I overheard were:
"It was a good idea…a really good idea…but it isn't conclusive, is it?"
"Not conclusive? How can you say that? Look at it! Have you ever seen a more succinct explanation of the origin of the species? It's all right there in that arrogant arrangement of the Pepsi and Mountain Dew cans!"
"Oh, don't you just adore Steinputz? I think this is the most meaningful thing he's ever done!"
God, I felt sorry for Steinputz.
While I was standing there, a MOMA official whisked in and announced that this exhibit had just been sold for $45 million! There was respectful, subdued applause.
I wondered if they'd deliver it in a garbage truck.
Fed up, I decided to try a little experiment. I stood in front of a steel door with an EXIT sign above it, and just stared at it. After a while, someone walked up to me, looked at the EXIT sign, then at me, then at the EXIT sign again.
"What are you looking at?" he asked.
"Only the clearest explanation of death I've ever seen!" I replied, never taking my eyes off the sign.
He looked again. "Why, yes, you're right! I can't understand how I could have missed something this fabulous! Oh, Enid, come over here and look at this. It's magnificent!"
In less time than it takes Andy Warhol to sneer at Andrew Wyeth, I had been joined by an army of creative cognoscenti, all babbling about this "masterpiece" before us.
I thought I had seen everything until people started bidding on it.
I heard later that the door and the EXIT sign sold for $1.5 million.
There is no doubt in my mind that somewhere P.T. Barnum is rolling on the floor, laughing himself sick.