Friday, August 10, 2012

Support Art: On the Uses of Wealth

Yes, dear readers, it is time for me to get on my high horse and abuse the wealthy once more--not, however, for precisely the reason you would expect. 

Yesterday, I visited the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, where there was an exhibit of Duncan Phyfe furniture.  Because I enjoy decorative arts just as much as fine arts, if not more, I spent a fair amount of time looking over this exhibit.  As I looked at graceful lines, rich woods, and carefully tailored purposes, I thought, "This is what rich people are for."

I won't say that only rich people can be patrons of the arts.  But it is, in general, their best and most important role in society.  Rich people want nice things, so they support artists, who (ideally) then go on to share their talent with the rest of us.

But going to the "Indulge" section of the Neiman Marcus website (something guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of anyone who works hard to keep a roof over their head and food on the table) shows that the rich, apparently, can think of nothing to do with their money but buy items that look like everything else in the world, but cost ten times as much.  Where are the hand-bejeweled chess sets?

This is my argument: not with the money spent, but with the poor value of money spent.  In the old days, rich people knew how to spend money.  They bought beautiful, costly things.  What are we going to put in a museum a hundred years from now?  A Fendi bag?  Maybe!  But darlings, let's face it--the rich have deserted fashion as well, and haute couture is now functionally dead.  There will never be another Elsa Schiaparelli.  Instead, fashion struggles to retain relevancy where it has, in general, neither taste nor beauty nor the good craftsmanship that should be the hallmark of a couturier.

Really, Mitt?  Where is your costly diadem?!
Consider, if you will, Mitt Romney, everybody's favorite money-stuffed punching bag.  Mitt Romney could go around encrusted with rubies and draped in ermine.  Or he could wear a suit made of chinchilla.  Instead, Romney spends what I'm sure is a tidy sum to look like "just another" corporate casual asshole.  Well done, sir.  I salute you.  His wife seems to have slightly (only slightly) better priorities.  Her fondness for expensive horseflesh is decadent and conventional.  But what's all this shit about elevators for the Cadillacs?  For that kind of money, you could fund the education of another Cellini and set him up with costly materials to make a treasure for humanity.

So rich people, please stop wasting your money on crap.  Support artists.  Support art.  Give humanity something beautiful.

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