I was at a wonderful museum in Virginia a few weeks ago with my uncle, a guy who has worked in and around the art industry for many years. This place was huge and wild and had everything from a Tiffany glass collection to Warhol to a Rothko that I took a few dorky photos in front of because I loved it. It was a very excellent swath of pretty much every type of art you can think of… and it was free, which is something that I believe museums should be.
This isn’t a crucial point but if you’re wealthy enough to own priceless works of art that are insured like major assets, you should be required to display it somewhere that everyone can enjoy it until you decide to sell it at Sotheby’s to some oligarch who cares about it even less than you do. With this take, I am essentially the Indiana Jones of mediocre art takes. It belongs in a museum.
After doing some reading about Cy Twombly, I kind of came to the conclusion that he wasn’t the kind of dude I would want to hang out with. That said, he was a guy that spent a lot of his life making art that nobody seemed to understand. Critics called his “scribbles” childish and silly, and some very respectable names in the US art scene ridiculed much of his work by saying that there was essentially nothing to it. A lot of his bigger splashes were critical disasters, but he kept doing it anyway. He didn’t seem to care a whole lot, and now his art lives in museums all over the world. Pretty neat, way to go, Cy. Sometimes you just have to keep making your scribbles until somebody pays $70 million for them at auction 4 years after you die. The irony of seeing all of the “so and so’s painting breaks auction records” every year is that 90% of these guys never made anywhere close to that kind of money when they were alive.
Remember when Banksy shredded his painting on the auction floor right after some rich guy committed to pay $1.4 million for it? Imagine being an artist who is starving and watching some guy pull a prank on someone who wanted to pay over a million bucks for something that they did. Banksy is kind of a dick, add that one to the hot takes. I care very little about anything he’s done because it’s bad and he thinks he’s some kind of renegade. Who cares.
Back to Twombly, he’s not alone in his popularity booming after his death.. That’s a pretty common trope for artists of all kinds. Think about how all anyone talked about was Prince after his death in 2016. It was like he was the only celebrity that had ever existed. Sub Prince for Michael Jackson, Tom Petty, Andy Warhol, etc and so on and the story is the same. That’s also a pretty common trope for normal people in your life. Try to imagine all of the people that you care even a little bit about and how you’d feel to wake up tomorrow to learn that they’re no longer here. You would probably feel compelled to say something to someone about it. Now think about the last time you made an effort of any kind of see or talk to them while they’re still here. To be clear, I am extremely bad at this, so I’m not preaching… just thinking out loud I guess.
If you’ve never lost anyone you care about, buckle up because you will at some point. If you have lost someone you care about, go look at the digital footprint they left behind and how people came out of the woodwork to give their condolences and recount funny memories and such when they died. Every person that I know that has passed away was all of a sudden the most popular person on earth. We live in a time now where people don’t really ever disappear unless they were a digital ghost to begin with, so you can go revisit your dead friends and family for as long as Facebook (or other social media) still exists. It’s weird but that’s life now and it’s probably only going to get more weird as generations like mine that were raised with the internet continue to get older and eventually die, as people do. I know you can set some kind of manager of your social accounts if something happens to you but I won’t do that because I want my bad takes to live forever. Hopefully the last thing I ever post on Twitter is something about how the Clash sucks or something so that it’s impossible to forget how petty most of my opinions actually were.
I don’t really ever want to get on the internet and write inspirational nonsense. As much as I would love to one day have a quote of mine poorly photoshopped over a picture of a sunrise and posted on Facebook by baby boomers, it feels a little disingenuous. My life is far enough from together for me to Tony Robbins you with my barely formed thoughts about how to live, so all I really have to offer is my perception of things as they are. My current perception is that I could be a lot better at telling the people that I care about what they mean to me before they’re gone and I can’t do it anymore. I will not get a chance to pay money to get more time with people, they’ll just be gone and I’ll be here looking at whatever form of social media they prefered most saying “shit”. Life will go on but they’ll stay the same age as they were when they died forever, fixed in whatever moments you remember most fondly. Wouldn’t it be cooler to be able to feel confident that you made an effort to tell them how you feel about them before you can’t anymore?