Let me begin this post by saying that my family is a supporter of the arts. Not that we’re going to have any museums named after us anytime soon, but our support is somewhat greater than standing on the sidelines with pompoms yelling "YEA, ART!"
We purchase pieces occasionally, and, through Pledgemusic.com, I send money to help fund the making of recordings by some musicians I like, and we frequently walk around outdoor art festivals saying "Oh, that’s nice," thus bolstering the self-esteem of the artists.
Let’s see, what else? Oh, yeah, we spent $160,000 to send our daughter to art college.
Thus I feel qualified to publish art criticism every once in awhile, although I realize this is somewhat akin to applying to be ambassador to Great Britain because I once went to London.
But I’m confident enough in my credentials to make this statement: some art is just plain silly.
That includes paintings that are canvasses painted over in one color, or with a single stripe going through it, that people stand around staring at trying to decipher the meaning of. "It’s a statement about the bleakness of the world," says the cute girl about the entirely black painting which matches her entirely black outfit. "There is an inherent depth to it," the boy in the turtleneck replies. "Can I buy you a drink?"
Other art is weird for weird’s sake. A lot of performance art falls into this category. One of my daughter’s friends in art college stood naked behind a curtain which he was holding up. He did this until his arms got tired. Then he lowered the curtain. He presumably also paid $160,000 for his education.
Then there’s art that I don’t know what to think about. I guess that’s a good thing; provoking thought is often what artists are striving for. Into this column falls the latest work by Tatzu Nishi, whose previous pieces have including a refrigerated Buddha made of tofu and drenched with soy sauce, entitled "The Aureole of Tofu Buddha and Soy Sauce - The Land of Perfect Bliss."
Well, how do you follow up something like that? Here’s how: Mr. Nishi has given Christopher Columbus a place to live.
Not the actual Christopher Columbus, of course. That would be silly art, not to mention disgusting art. No, Mr. Nishi has reacted to the recent news that Christopher Columbus was Jewish by carving his likeness in chopped liver and placing it in a tent made of Ritz crackers.
Just kidding. That would be delicious art. What Tatzu Nishi has done is erect an apartment around the statue of Columbus that stands in Columbus Circle. I think the sentiment here is beautiful: no one should be homeless on a semi-holiday named in his honor.
To see this art, you go up six flights of stairs and enter a room, which is fully furnished and includes a flat-screen TV, I guess so that Chris can watch Real Housewives of Genoa. This gives people the opportunity to look at the statue up close instead of having to look up at it and risk blinding by pigeon.
The exhibit, which is called "Discovering Columbus," has, of course, stirred up some controversy among groups that will use any excuse to stir up controversy. One such group is the Italic Institute of America, which is adamantly opposed to putting the name of the piece in quotes rather than slanted letters.
No, wait. It seems that the Italic Institute of America has nothing to do with type styles That would be the Helvetica Institute of America. The Italic Institute of America is a "guardian of Italian heritage." Sorry, I mean guardian of Italian heritage. A spokesman for the group said this about Mr. Nishi’s art:
"(the work’s) cocoon of conceptual art demeans the community and trivializes history."
This is the sort of statement to which the only suitable response is, "Oh, lighten up, will ya?" I must say, though, that it’s nice to see Italian-American groups like this coming to the defense of a Jewish person, (even if he’s been dead for over five centuries). And what community has been demeaned anyway? The Upper West Side? The Association of New York Statues? (The nearby statue of Albert Bertel Thorvaldsen was reportedly very demeaned, but that may be more because nobody knows who the hell he was*.)
In the meantime, I have some important questions for Tatzu Nishi:
- You built a 6-story walk-up for a statue?
- Since it’s a temporary installation, after which the statue will be removed for restoration, who will then get to live in the centrally-located 810 square-foot apartment?
- When you visit Columbus in his home, is it polite to arrive empty-handed?
- Can the concept be expanded? (I’m thinking here of constructing a triplex around the Statue of Liberty.)
- Can Columbus go on tour and stay in other people’s houses? Maybe he could use one of those house exchange websites and someone from, say, the Dominican Republic can use his apartment in New York while he uses their place to visit one of his old haunts.
Oh, yeah--one more thing: if Columbus comes to your house, do you have to dust him?
*He was a Danish sculptor whose self-portrait has been in Central Park since 1894 for no apparent reason.
For more on our adventures as first-time homeowners at age 57, and moving to Stamford, visit http://theupsizers.wordpress.com/