Tuesday, November 6, 2007

talk is cheap

Pretty Lady writes of friends who entertain notions of buying her work, love to talk about it and then never do. This reminds me of a couple I knew in New York.

We were all pals before they got married. I always loved them both. He was an entertainment lawyer, who did very well. He liked to remind us that he could have done much better had he gone into corporate law, but the diatribes only went so far as they went from better to better apartment, hitting the Grammys and the Cannes Film Festival along the way.

First it was Little Italy. Then a couple of delicious flats in Greenwich Village. I recall the last one I ever saw them in – a back yard (!), an old stone lane - probably Barrow Street or the like.

They got into the “we want one of your paintings” mode and I offered to give them one - in all sincerity, too, because they meant a lot to me. But oh no, they must buy one. I felt a little funny about it at the time because I had this feeling it might not be a straight business deal. And for the record, it really is not all that much fun bringing out all your offspring, for someone to ooo and ahhh and comment upon, like going over the kids at the orphanage… will one find a home?

Well, they just couldn’t decide between two particular works. So I said: “Take them home and you can figure it out once they are with you.”

Life moved faster for those in the faster lane. As they moved here and there, I never did see my paintings once on their wall. Oh, probably all the busyness of moving – you know, it is distracting! And then came the babies, two adorable daughters.

I tried my best to keep a relationship with them. If she called for lunch, I would say “What time?” but I was stood up a lot. An incredible lot. So busy no doubt!

Then one night they called me from Raoul’s on Prince Street: “Oh, we were thinking about our dear friend and how much fun it would be to see you - and could you come down?”

I said give me a half hour (I lived on west 56th.) But by the time I got there, in my 14 dollar cab ride, they were gone. When I called them, they acted like their time was what had counted.

And then I said: “I want my paintings back.”

Blank silence at first on the phone. They didn’t get it. What had they to do with anything?

And sure enough, as the woman angrily handed me my paintings back in the darkness of that night, they were scratched. I have never mended them either and still have them both.

Luckily I have never had friends like that in Portland. Portland is weird in many ways – as regards relationships and what people might expect. But one thing we don’t seem to do here is dangle rotten carrots in front of each other faces. Just about anyone who ever said they wanted my work, got it, in one way or another - with very little talk, because talk is cheap.

(They live in the burbs now.)


yvette said...

I too had a friend who just had to buy a piece. They chose the best piece in the series I was working on, and then asked if they could make payments. Of course I said, and they gave me $200 toward an $800 piece. (worth much more, but of course I was giving them a "deal". Months went by, and no more payments. (I saw this person all the time, many times a week, usually.) When I finally broached the subject, she said "I thought I already paid you". I got one more payment and finally just let it drop.

Now when I want to give a friend a painting, I just give them the damn thing. I also choose who those people are more carefully.

Anonymous said...

Yes, "the best piece of the series" is also critical in the story too. Because let's face it, they are not all equal.

If I were to have given them a piece, it would have been much smaller or maybe older. But they took two hot off the press, both 38" x 48".


beebe said...

I just nod politely when friends say they want to buy work, knowing that nothing will ever come of it. I certainly never bother trying to set up a studio visit. Trading work with artists is one good way to get and give work; but thinking that your non-artist friends will follow up on an offer to buy work is like waiting for an ex-girlfriend to come back to you. It's probably never going to happen and--if it does--it will happen in a bizarre, disappointing fashion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for visiting me, beebe.

- But don't you ever want to get them an etiquette lesson?


beebe said...

Yeah, but I tend to want to give EVERYONE an etiquette lesson--those people who clip their nails on the train, the people who stop dead in the middle a busy sidewalk to take a phone call, et. al. What a waste of time, agreed?

My worst experience: I held an art sale a few weeks before I moved to NY from Chicago. Get rid of some stuff and finally give the people who've always threatened to by some work a chance to scoop something up cheap, you know? Some people were very kind and supportive and bought some larger drawings. One friend showed up and picked through some stuff and pulled out one small drawing, maybe 8" x 10", and asked how much. (I should preface this next bit that by saying that I'm a real stickler for detail and that even my smallest and most casual drawings tend to be fairly labor intensive.) I say, "Oh, let's say $25." She put down the drawing and said, "I thought you said things were going to be on sale for cheap." I busted out laughing when she said that, thinking "Ah, nice one!" and that she was giving me some shit. But she left without buying anything and I realized later in the evening--upon recallng her body language, etc--that she wasn't kidding. She thought I was trying to skin her. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

- How 'bout all the ones who say they are gonna come, oh they are gonna come to your opening? They go on and on in reverie.

Then the next time they see you "But you've got to let us know when the next one is!!" and the the whole performance goes on again.

I finally told one friend "You really don't need to do that....."