My Summer Regret: Monkeys
As this season draws to an unofficial close one’s mind reflects not only on this summer’s memories but on those of summers past. And so it is that I recall a June five years ago when I had just moved into my current apartment. I was busily on the search for new art to hang on my blank walls, knowing that if I stared at that “Benjamin Moore Simply White” surface any longer I’d eventually snap, cover the entire studio in blackboard paint, and immediately start scrawling feverish dreams that would make a Henry Darger retrospective look like Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Eventually that search led me to peruse some paintings at a curious produce shop on the Upper East Side–as the Medicis no doubt did before me–where I noticed a price tag exclaiming, in megaphone font, “SALE! ONE WEEK ONLY! $185!” It already being Wednesday, I quickly looked at the attached painting, only to first notice a small, metal plaque screwed to the bottom of its wooden frame.
It read, simply, “Portrait, Edwardian Monkey.”
And sure enough, the plaque did not lie. The painting was in fact an in-studio portrait of a seated monkey, circa 1910. The subject was smartly attired in a Norfolk jacket, checkered cap, tasteful black tie, crisp white linen shirt and an onyx walking stick. On a small pedestal was placed a white and pink Chinese vase, filled with a cross-sampling of British orchids. A pipe was held firmly, but not tightly, in a gloved hand. The monkey acknowledged this viewer with little to no regard, as if I just happened to fall inadvertently within his line of sight only to be soon dismissed for a smudge on the wall, a chip in a teacup, or the grout between the tiles.
As I studied “Portrait, Edwardian Monkey,” with a critical eye for both subject matter and execution, a single yet persistent question eventually came to mind–Exactly what is the going rate for crap? Is $185 for “Portrait, Edwardian Monkey” a good deal? Is it a steal? Will I be kicking myself hard this week when I return to said produce shop only to find the painting is once more retailing for its standard six-figure price?
All I know is, if that plaque had read, “Self-Portrait, Edwardian Monkey” that shit would be hanging in my apartment as we speak.