My Summer Regret: Monkey Edition
One Labor Day weekend, several years ago, I was in the process of decorating my new apartment. Well, newish apartment. I had actually moved in three months prior and had yet to make it my own, which was rather inexcusable considering it was a small Manhattan studio saved only by the fact it had a private patio (which doubled the apartment’s size in warmer seasons while in the winter I stared at a Christmas tree that halved my living space).
Nonetheless, I suddenly became motivated to find some new art to hang on my blank walls, realizing that if I were to stare at “Benjamin Moore Simply White” much longer I’d eventually snap, cover the entire studio in blackboard paint, and immediately start scrawling feverish dreams that made a Henry Darger retrospective look like Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
So that Labor Day weekend for some inexplicable reason (that reason of course being “aimless wandering” in a city emptied of everyone who could afford to escape to the Hamptons one last time) I found myself perusing some paintings at an upscale produce shop on the Upper East Side—as the Medicis no doubt did before me. It was then that I noticed a price tag exclaiming in a very insistent font, “SALE! ONE DAY ONLY! $185!” It already being afternoon, 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 tiles.
As I studied “Portrait, Edwardian Monkey,” with a critical eye for both subject matter and execution, a single yet persistent question came to mind—Exactly what is the going rate for crap? Is $185 for “Portrait, Edwardian Monkey” a good deal? Is it a steal? Would I be kicking myself hard later that week when I returned to said produce shop for my art needs only to find the painting was 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.