Trendysomething in somo
On Thursday morning, Paris witnessed a monumental theft of precious artworks by the likes of Matisse and Picasso, sparking conversation on the inherent intrigue of art heists. The art world has reacted with dismay at the opportunity lost for the public to view the masterpieces, and questions what kind of person could possibly be so possessed as to commit such a crime.
The works' disappearance is indeed a cultural tragedy — but who among us has never stolen anything?
Society categorizes kleptomania as a dangerous mental malady, but many people grant themselves the good old "five-finger discount" from time to time. From Sweet 'N Low packets to silk boxers, we all do it. But we're not all as savvy as that Paris pickpocket.
During the hot and steamy summer of 2004, I was interning at the Holocaust Museum before embarking to design school in the fall. I was fairly pleased with myself at the time, and one day after work, I stumbled into a certain Rice Village retailer that specializes in urbane clothing.
Not thinking, I slipped a wallet into my back pocket as I continued shopping. After a triple-digit purchase, I mindlessly stepped outside, which of course ignited a blaring alarm. Staff swarmed around me, and I was swiftly handcuffed and whisked away to a jailhouse.
Many would feel overcome by fear arriving at jail for the first time, but I was mainly just irritated that the police confiscated my shopping bag full of legally purchased clothing (including a shirt that would have perfectly complemented that wallet). I was escorted to a cell with four beds bolted to the wall.
"This looks just like the sleeper car I took from Munich to Vienna!" I marvelled as I climbed on to one of the top bunks and introduced myself to my three roomies. We were all in the slammer for small-time crimes, like unpaid traffic tickets or latent adolescent boredom. When I explained my architecture dreams, they each related that they were construction workers. "We work with architects all the time! Good for you!" they cheered. I was positively charmed.
And so my night in jail was an edifying, rewarding experience, minus a clearly non-organic ham and cheese sandwich (FYI, jail does not have a "kosher" option).
I've kept my hands to myself since then, even resisting "mistyping" produce codes at Central Market weigh stations. But in the wake of the Paris caper, I can't help but wonder: What artwork would I steal from Houston museums?
Maurício Nogueira Lima, Objeto rítmico no. 2, ("Rhythmic Object No. 2"), 1953
I felt drawn to this painting when the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston first acquired the storied Adolpho Leirner collection in 2007. Braziian Constructivism is such a compelling movement in the way it chronicles how Latin America interpreted European modernism after World War II. There's not a Wikipedia article on the artist, so I really can't offer any further academic criticism. But I also think this would be really fun to stare into after inhaling.
Rene Magritte, La Trahison des Images ("The Treachery of Images")
I wrote a paper in high school about this painting, which was later co-opted by Michel Foucault, so I feel pretty entitled to it. Also, The Menil Collection already has way too many Magrittes, so I doubt anybody would notice.
Jacques-Raymond Brascassat, Spaniel with a Still Life of Dead Game, 1837
If you know me, then you know that I love spaniels. When Isabel B. and Wallace S. Wilson donated this painting to the museum, I think they got confused and meant to give it to me. It's no big deal, I can be really spacey too sometimes. Like that time with the wallet.
Alex Katz, Perry and Pamela, 1977
I saw a life-changing exhibition at the Whitney of Katz' work and just knew I had to make one mine. The painter's graphic aesthetic would be well aligned with the vivid Lima canvas. This painting would also look great in my home because interracial couples are very much of the moment, and I try to surround myself with as many as possible to communicate how liberal and enlightened I am.
Also, it looks like these two are about to get in a serious brawl, so I would enjoy speculating the shit that's about to go down between them: "Did you seriously finish the Kashi and not replace it?"
"If it wasn't me, then who was it?!"
René Magritte, L'empire des lumiéres ("The Dominion of Light"), 1954
His work may be cliché in Houstonians' minds, but I will always be captivated by Magritte's deceiving compositions. I particularly appreciate this painting because the scene reminds me of my townhouse in SoMo. And although the body of water does look out of place, this is seriously what my block looked like after Hurricane Ike.
What I'm saying is that Magritte lived in Montrose and did lots of paintings there. Remember, you can trust me on this one because I wrote an essay on the artist in high school.