“You’re not seriously wearing that to bed, are you?”
Jonathan stood at the foot of his and Sarah’s shared bed, wearing nothing but a Burberry cashmere scarf.
“I’m getting a cold,” Jonathan said slipping into bed besides Sarah.
He kissed Sarah delicately, first on the forehead and then on her cheek.
“Don’t strangle yourself.”
She blew out the vanilla-scented candle on the bedside table and felt Jonathan move towards her. She smiled at the touch of cashmere against the nape of her neck and turned to give him a kiss on the mouth.
Jonathan was the kind of man who respected tradition and believed in superstition. He wasn’t Catholic, but maintained his childhood tradition of eating fish on Fridays. He insisted on wearing a tie and hat when traveling, and though he called himself a feminist before it became popular for men to do so, Jonathan secretly reveled in the fact that he was the principal breadwinner and Sarah the primary home keeper.
He and Sarah met at an art exhibition six years ago. The exhibiting artist was a 20-something New York hotshot who cashed in his first million with massive paintings made via performative actions at gas stations across America. AJ Meyer’s “interventions” consisted of hitchhiking with nothing but rolls of canvas. He only accepted rides from freight trucks, and when it was time to re-fuel, AJ invited the truck drivers to help him splatter the unfurled canvases with petrol. The artworks lay to dry on top of whatever cargo was being carried, so the final composition was left to chance.
According to the press release at Galerie Haas & Hoch, the subtle imprints from the physical cargo drew attention to the detriment American consumerism caused the environment, while asserting a value hierarchy arbitrarily created by the invisible ‘market.’
Sarah, an art critic for the Berlin-based culture magazine Dystopia, thought AJ’s work was bullshit, but because the magazine’s main financier was the anonymous telephone bidder who paid 2.6 million euro for one of AJ’s first auctioned pieces, Sarah was obligated to comment favorably.
“I can’t get past the strength and emotive quality of AJ’s bodily gestures,” she said with feigned interest to AJ’s gallerist Heidi Haas.
The two women looked like twins from behind with their blonde buns, spider-thin legs, and black skirts. They stood in front of a three by four meter canvas splattered with a mess of shiny black petrol, interrupted by frayed tears and stained with a smudged boot print.
"These pieces should be read through the art historical lens of abstract expressionism, don’t you think? They very clearly follow the tradition of Jackson Pollock,” Sarah said through lips stained with cheap red wine, the only honest player in the art world. “I’m surprised you don’t mentioned it in the catalog.”
“Perhaps we should commission you for the next one,” Heidi said coldly. “Oh, excuse me, Sarah. I see the Sheikh. He wants to purchase the whole lot, you know. Let my assistant know if you need anything else for the article, okay? Ciao.”
Sarah remained in front of the artwork, searching in the splatters and frays for something meaningful.
“You must be part of this world.”
Sarah jumped. She hadn’t heard the thick mud of southern-tainted American English since her days at Washington and Lee.
“Black turtle neck. Black skirt. Black tights. Black shoes. All you art people wear black. Is it that depressing? I don’t get it.”
Sarah looked at the stranger. He was handsome in that all-American way that you don’t see among the sexy tousled man-buns and I-don’t-give-a-fuck neck tattoos of Berlin men. He had an old-world Cary Grant sort of look about him. And he was wearing a suit. Sarah hadn’t seen a man in a suit since she moved from New York seven years ago.
“And what are you doing here? Did you get lost on your way to Frankfurt?”
“Oh no, I’m not a banker, if that’s what you mean. I just think a man should wear a suit to these sorts of things.”
When Sarah didn’t respond, he added, “As a matter of principle.”