Art is a Journey

Ok, I can’t help myself; I have to start this post with the punch line, spoken by one of the principals at a Westlake framing shop when she said: “this will be a real treat; I’ve never framed a Warhol before.”

This is the second half of my little story about some recent artwork acquisitions. Last time, I told the story of MJ McCabe and her gift. This time, I have the brief stories of the Warhol shopping bag and the museum in a book.

Warhol. Who doesn’t know him? (This photo was taken at the Modern in Ft. Worth.)

The man was the prototype for a new era of celebrity, famous for being famous.

He was an absolute creature of his time and, like him or not, his body of work is an essential part of the post-modern period in which he lived and created.

So, here’s the story. My wife and I were at a pre-Christmas holiday gala for Eremos, a small spirituality-focused non-profit with an intensely loyal group of friends and supporters. Like many such events, Eremos had a silent auction to raise money for the organization, with a generous array of donated personal services, books, travel vouchers, household furnishings, jewelry, and more.

Perhaps because of the unique nature of Eremos itself, I noticed several of the donated items were equally unique, as I browsed around from table to table. There were some interesting mixed media lamps, some unusually shaped, handmade tea sets, and then there was this unassuming shopping bag lying on a table off by itself, with a note placed beside it.

I was intrigued. The design on the bag was plainly one of the Campbell’s soup can images by Warhol – the everyday and mundane, celebrated as art and now recognizable worldwide, likely for eternity.

Here’s what the note beside it said: “For a Warhol exhibition in October 1966 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, a number of these shopping bags were printed. The number of prints in the edition is unknown. This particular bag was given to me as a Christmas present in 1969 or 1970. The bag has experienced some modest wear and tear over the years. I’m hopeful it will find a good appreciative home.”

Sold! (For $200, no less.) Ironically, we paid fifty percent more for the framing, than we did for the bag. Somehow, I think Warhol would have liked that.

The second story is much less impressive than the actual object itself. While browsing one of my daily, somewhat eclectic RSS feeds, I ran across a listing for a book called, simply, “The Art Museum.” What caught my attention was its description as the literal “museum in a book.”

At first, as I read the description, I thought they were talking about a unique, adult-targeted pop-up book. I imagined one of those children’s pop-up books, but with different museum galleries composing the pop-up pages, with tiny versions of the great masters, adorning the pop-up walls.

As I searched for it on Amazon, I learned from the reviews that it wasn’t a pop-up. Instead, the “museum in a book” billing came from the fact that it is quite literally the largest, commercial fine art book produced.

An ambitious project, it was intended to provide high quality images of every type of art from every period of history, ever. The end result is massive – the book weighs 17 pounds and is 1′ x 1’4″ and 3″ deep. It is akin to the champion, oversized pumpkin in the county fair, dwarfing the other pumpkins by 5-10 times in size.

It’s not for everyone. Homes with little kids would end up with lots of torn and smudged pages in no time – which might be fine, if your family is okay with that.

My attitude is that art, contrary to the impression that some museums project, doesn’t have to be some kind of vacuum-packed, sterilized set of visual and sculpted relics that are unapproachable.

So, in that spirit, the museum-in-a-book now lies open on a table that is one of the first things you see when you walk into our home. We want everyone – young and old – to enjoy it, linger over it, and find something that makes a lasting connection with them.

Turns out, art is as much about the process of connecting as it is anything else. That’s one of the things I’ve come to find, as we’ve acquired these few art works. Art is as much a journey as it is a destination – just like most everything else in life.

There’s the “thing” – the end creation, the painting, the tapestry, the musical score, the play. Then, there’s the story behind the thing – how it came into being as it took shape in the artist’s hands, what was happening when it was created, who the people were that influenced and supported the artist, and finally how the work itself came to arrive where it is now…in front of you. Just like this blog.