Of Capital and Courtesy

Installation shot of Malevich and The American Legacy at Gagosian Gallery; photo by Todd Heiser, courtesy The New York Times

* * *

On assignment for City Arts, I visited Malevich and The American Legacy, an exhibition at the uptown branch of Gagosian Gallery. My take on the show will have to wait until I sit down and mull the thing, but here’s a question I have right off the bat:  Where do the sleek young things working behind the front desk master the fine art of condescension?

Their numbers are legion; their wardrobes are black. Most are women, some are men and God knows Gagosian isn’t the only venue that employs such types. Legend has it that Mary Boone, in order to cultivate an air of exclusivity at her gallery, established the tradition of the aloof counter person. It’s long since become art world writ. Do the people who apply for these jobs come in with patronizing attitudes or is there an Academy for The Perpetually Disdainful to which they’re shipped for training?

Leave it to Gagosian to turn things up a notch. One young lady at the front desk sniffed, snapped and impatiently shooed away anyone with the temerity to ask for information or the name of this or that artist included in the exhibition. It was all she could do, this gatekeeper of commerce, to stop from dousing her hands in sanitary gel after coming in contact with us mere mortals.

But then there was the security guard who sized up the situation and, on his own initiative and with a smile, handed out checklists to several gallery-goers. What do you know? Good manners live among those commissioned to protect art, if not those peddling it.

© 2011 Mario Naves

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  • James Lourie  On March 15, 2011 at 10: 26 pm

    Thank you for saying it. I thought it was just me.

    • James Lourie  On March 16, 2011 at 6: 58 pm

      Exclusivity and shame are very popular these days, in all camps.

  • Rob  On March 16, 2011 at 2: 46 am

    They’re called “gallerinas” and they are paid less than the security guards. Thus, the condescension comes from being the only child of a well-meaning doctor in Missouri who pays her East Village rent but doesn’t know she’s started smoking cigarettes.

  • Valentine  On March 17, 2011 at 7: 47 am

    Who asked you to come into the gallery? Were you invited? No, you were not.

    Allow me to spell it out for you: you’re an annoying pest, smiling like an idiot with your delusions and BA from who knows what state funded liberal arts university.

    You don’t belong here.

    We have given you Thomas Kinkade, NPR, Burger King and white wine. What more do you want?

    I find it greedy and ridiculous for you to expect anything more. Courtesy…Why?

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