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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

incipient art collector

I bought my first original artwork today. It's a drawing by David Byrne from his new work on display through November 25 at Pace/MacGill. David Byrne was actually there today with his parents, but I did not want to intrude on his private family time by being a pesky fan. A few years ago I regretted not buying one of his tree drawings. Today I paid the price, literally: his chair drawing cost me more than double what his tree drawing would have cost back in 2003. I decided today not to make the same mistake again.

I have to admit to some trepidation followed by elation followed by doubt at buying a work of art. Once I decided to do it, I knew I could not afford it right now but I had to do it. Then I was jubilant to own something by an artist whose work and way of thinking have influenced me since my teenaged years. On the way home I started to think I had overpaid. But now I'm cool with it and eager to receive it and hang it in my apartment.

For someone who usually pooh-poohs the idea that art changes people, I have to admit that David Byrne is probably the one artist whose work has most influenced my own thinking. I was unhealthily ultra-serious as a youth, and here was this guy, whose music I loved, who had found a way to be both earnest and ironic at the same time. I've never heard anyone associate David Byrne with Oscar Wilde, but there's a similar wiliness about their public conduct. How else are we to understand his admiration of Microsoft Powerpoint and its Auto-Content Wizard? We can laugh at Powerpoint and office culture all we want: they are easy targets. Yet there is something perversely fascinating about them. Isn't there? That strange rhetoric of mine whereby I blur the line between sincerity and irony owes a lot to David Byrne.

The drawing I bought, which won't be delivered until the exhibition ends, is a chair with a very large rectangular back. I chose it because the proportions of the back reminded me of Richard Serra's steel plates. I doubt that's what David Byrne had in mind when drawing it, but that's what made it stand out for me from the others. How exciting.


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