The high priestess of suburban etiquette returns, this time offering a safe path around the smug fartknockery of an art exhibit.
My boss is taking the staff to see an art exhibition in a few weeks and word around the water cooler is she’s using this as some kind of staff performance appraisal. I know nothing about art but obviously, don’t want my boss to know that. What can I do?
Vincent my angel,
You’ve come to the right place: I do know something about art. Why you need go no further than to look at my own inscrutable Mona Lisa smile, something I fostered in the early days of my marriage to Edouardo, who was 28 years my senior, because I wanted his friends to realise that although young I certainly wasn’t stupid. Well, not in the way they thought. And I also had a little art tuition while I was studying at the Psychological Institute of Merrimac and Mermaid (PIMMs) on the Gold Coast. One time we were assigned to do a psychological study of The Scream by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. Well naturally as someone with strong empathic traits, I could see straight into the troubled anxiety-ridden mind of the painter: he’d not only left the iron on in his apartment which was worrying enough, but he’d decided to give his screamer gender identity issues—quite a radical move back in the day as you can imagine—and I received a very high mark for my in-depth assessment and insightful analysis. I believe I was the only one in the class who’d discovered that little known fact about the iron. Research has always been one of my strong points.
That began my love of art, although I admit there’s still much to learn. Why, I still don’t understand what Fauvism is, in fact I have no idea whatsoever what a Fauv even is. I used to think it was Faunism, which would be charming. Just think of that lovely Mr Tumnus who lived on the other side of the wardrobe helping dear little Lucy Pevensie and her siblings meet Aslan. So delightful.
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- Ask Dotty: How do I discuss emotional labour with my partner?
But back to your immediate problem, Vincent—no knowledge of art yet you must make a favourable impression on your employer. Now, my darling late husband Edouardo was always ready with an astute answer or comment even when he wasn’t overly familiar with the topic at hand. He loved to bluff and always said that if you say something with enough conviction you’ll usually get away with it. Try sayings things like “Salvador Dali certainly had a fascination with clocks” or “I adore Monet’s waterlilies” or “Whistler’s mother seemed very stern but apparently she enjoyed a good round of badminton”. Or my favourite: “Did you know that Rembrandt was his first name?” Your boss will be bowled over by this (who wouldn’t be?) and of course darling, you share the same name as Vincent Van Gogh, another troubled artist. Perhaps you can suggest you were named after him because you were born on a starry night (that’s a famous painting darling. See, your art education is improving by the minute).
My favourite painting of all is one done by a local contemporary artist I met through my friend Oscar. His name is Basil Hallward, best known for his portraits—his painting of his friend Dorian created quite a stir–and I arranged for him to paint my devoted companion Lady Gaga. Naturally he jumped at the chance to render in oils my perfect Pomeranian, and let me tell you Vincent my love, what a job he did. Oddly, he told me never to put it into the attic, but heavens, why would I—the painting is divine! If you’re ever over my way, I’d be very happy to show it to you. You’ll be utterly enchanted. But do ring first.
But back to the exhibition. Here’s my advice: nod intelligently at the works, and with your hand on your chin make sounds like “mmmm” and “oh my”. If you’re feeling very confident remark on the play of light and shadow. Artists and critics really go in for that sort of thing. If there are abstract works you merely need say you’re a Kandinsky fan: I tried it once and it went down a treat. And finally, make sure to overawe your boss and therefore earn a fabulous performance appraisal by commenting jocularly that if Picasso had ever met a woman who actually looked like one of his paintings, he’d probably have had a heart attack. So witty. Tee hee, I don’t know how I do it! You’re welcome darling—good luck.
Glad to have been of help. Ta ta for now.