Sleazy Posers And Flawless Curators: Art Scene Clichés IRL
I recently set off to the city of amour and JE NE SAIS QUOI to see what was going on in its scène artistique. Paris. I fell in love with its bordering-on-kitsch beauty and its weird smells. I bought a very chic second-hand coat with a fur collar that I now rarely dare to wear in Berlin. I ate more baked goods and cheese than my digestive system can usually handle and my French is still only suitable for small talk. And yes, I spent most of my three months in the city strolling through museums and galleries, sipping glasses of red wine.
I know. So far, so cliché. But don’t clichés feed on reality and reality feeds on clichés? Isn’t life itself an inevitable interplay, a continuous feedback of imagination and actual experience? Maybe. Peut-être. Anyway. The point I am trying to make here is that this is a text about clichés. About walking, living people who are, charmingly or annoyingly, too cliché to be true. Because my main takeaway from living in Paris was that no matter if you are at a vernissage in London, Berlin, or Paris, you will sooner or later (hopefully!) meet one of the following art scene characters.
The Sleazy Art Poser
On my very first night in Paris I forced myself to stop by an overcrowded exhibition opening. Everyone dressed as though they were attending a fancy horse race while I regretted that I hadn’t changed out of the outfit I’d worn on my EasyJet flight. I was enjoying anonymity, a vodka orange on ice, and a nice painting when I heard a throat clearing behind me. And there he was. Very tanned, very middle-aged, possibly very rich, visible chest hair and a whiter-than-white shirt.
After some initial small talk the sleazy art poser was quick to introduce me to his friends („He is a very famous artist, you should visit his studio“), to order me a brightly colored drink („I know everyone here“) and to invite me to a rooftop party where I could have consumed as much champagne and as many macarons as my heart desired. Unfortunately I lost his business card.
The Cool Bohemian Artist
We bonded at a networking breakfast for artists. For me, it was love at first sight. I admired her unruly hair streaked through with grey, her biker boots, her skull and snake shaped jewelry from the other side of the room, before I finally approached the cool bohemian artist. We had a good laugh when she told me how she made herself unpopular in Stockholm’s art scene of the 1990s when telling a now very famous curator that his review was kind of shit.
My kind of woman, I thought. What an admirable, no-fucks-given attitude! We continued to meet up for eclairs and coffee, she showed me her beautiful clay sculptures and we went thrift shopping for her upcoming wedding in Mali. I hope she remembers to send me an invitation.
The Self-Proclaimed Art Addict
A gallery celebrated its anniversary by chauffeuring a large crowd to the gallery’s satellite exhibition spaces in the countryside, an hour’s bus ride from Paris. Frankly, the art was a bit shit, but hey – there were free snacks and drinks, and it was nice to get out of the city on a sunny weekend. I heard her jangling 60s vintage bracelets and her laugh pealing out like a bell before I actually saw her: A friend of a friend of a friend and a self-proclaimed art addict. Instantly likeable.
In the following weeks, we went to exhibitions a lot and I was always being amazed by her genuine excitement about art. And art fairs. And art galleries. And posting about art on Instagram. One day she told me that she had barely slept because she was behind on posting and had to urgently come up with new hashtags. Actually, excitement isn’t even the word. It’s more like a lifelong commitment. I hope she will make a lot of money one day so she can fill her apartment with vast amounts of paintings and sculptures and prints.
The Flawless Curator
She has angelic hair, great style and co-directs a project space that is Paris’s uncontested cool place to be. When I was introduced to the flawless curator at a birthday party, we discussed our love lives and professional careers. I was not only impressed by her intelligence, humility and choice of lipstick color, but also by how moderately she drank. I did not.
I vaguely remember her helping me down the stairs so I could puke on the street. Suffering from a mean hangover, self-pity and almost dying of embarrassment, I sent her an apology for my unpleasant behavior the next day, to which she only responded that it had been lovely to meet me (followed by a pink flower emoji). It seems unnecessary to mention that her excessive sweetness made me feel like even more of an inferior human being. It was time to go back to Berlin.