The strange pleasure of watching the police take down Picasso


when I was As a kid, I remember being kicked out of the Museum of Modern Art in New York after trying to touch an Ellsworth Kelly painting. When I approached the painting, I was terrified when I heard alarming sounds with outstretched hands. I couldn’t associate the sounds with myself, because what I was doing seemed too logical to me: I was attracted to the dark red, so I wanted to touch it.

We don’t live very comfortably with art. There are other types of valuables with which we more easily coexist: sports memorabilia, antique furniture, musical instruments, luxury watches and handbags. We handle and wear and touch these things, probably because we have a sense of them as objects with no use or purpose. But “art” status often elevates the object with which we naturally struggle to live.

Watching it is like seeing someone else’s nightmare.

There are practical reasons for this. Art is often meant to be out of sight, on display, out of reach of the fingers. It can be fragile and needs protection to maintain – especially when we have decided that it should be protected as part of our cultural heritage. And yet I watched over and over again the video of Picasso falling, feeling not panic but childlike joy. It was a vaguely infringing experience to see the general rules – handle carefully, proceed with caution – To break so carelessly. A limit has been crossed. This was the reversal of another transformation: when a forgotten canvas in an attic is identified as that of Rembrandt or Van Gogh, which suddenly takes on importance and value. Here we get to see the opposite. Very briefly, a painting by Pablo Picasso becomes a quotidian object, something that falls to the floor and is picked up again. (The thief, too, turned the art into something pedestrian; during the robbery, he reportedly told the police, he cut off his hand, used a 16th-century sketch to wipe it off, and then converted that piece to a thrown in the toilet.)

I thought, before I saw this video, I was tired of the art. I write about it, among other things, for a living, but after a year away from museums, I did not feel the expected desire to return. It happened to me only after watching this video over and over again: what I was tired of was not art But the prediction of how we face it. It is always at a distance, often behind glass, often in sterile galleries that resemble airports. Most of the world’s art is not encountered at all; The financial value of the artifacts has prompted more and more collectors to purchase them as investments and store them in unseen, climate-controlled vaults.



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