Immemorially, the keystone of the whole foil racket has been the artist, that person who no matter how lithe, young, attractive or electrically pulsing with inspiration, remains reassuringly low-earning because he has a) no art to show or b) no success selling art if he has managed to show it. For years local artists had preserved the status quo by making art that was unpurchasable; one innovator would strip naked and pretend to be a dog for weeks on end in a SoHo gallery, going so far as to pee on the legs of amateurs of culture; another would walk around with a cigarette- girl tray filled with lipsticks in hundreds of shades, which she would choose and apply minute-by-minute to suit whatever activity she was pursuing. Lately, however, artists have refashioned the pedestal they had built for themselves. They have been making art that vaguely represents forms Manhattanites recognise from life, and some have gone so far as to render these forms in an appealing way. And now, people are actually buying their art. As a result, the bankers, traders and television executives who once patronised their palette-wielding friends are now engaged in a mad scramble to buy their art (whose unpopularity they had long clucked sympathetically over), lest their colleagues in the world of high finance brand them philistines. Movie stars indulge in SoHo shopping sprees, while the unknown multitudes can't stop for a cappuccino in a cafe or a snack at a restaurant without being forced to seat themselves across from a wall full of last week's daubings of the latest artist-in-residence.
For arts-occupied friends of the artists, another subtler dilemma arises. If the artist in question saw your play, listened to your recital, watched your film, or read your book, does that mean you are honour-bound to buy one of their plastic foam hommages to marsupials? The predicament is, if anything, more awkward for the artists themselves. Ripped from their garrets and propelled into penthouses, they have no idea how to proceed now that the public is making itself artistic, when every painting sold jeopardises a soiree invitation from a newly-jealous friend.Reuse content