Shredding as Art?

As an art dealer, I try to stay in tune with the trends. While my preference is for the art and artifacts of Southeast Asia, particularly Nepal, I also pay attention to what is happening in the rest of the world. Sometimes I am totally shocked by what I see. Take the self-destrusting Banksy painting, Girl with Red Balloon – a hoax or a work of genius. Is this a commentary on the castoff nature of modern life and the disposability of precious commodities? But who is the object of ridicule here? The artist who doesn’t value his own work, the auction house that hoped for a killing, or the buyer who has lost over a million?

Not sure, but it is an interesting proposition I am thinking about shredding as art. Debris as art has a long history, particularly in mid-twentieth century Europe (Italy, Germany and France). Arts love to use trashed items as part of assemblages and collages. They would burn holes in paintings and rip and tear them to shreds. But the work itself remained. Nowadays, anyone with a Shredder Lab can produce a novel kind of material with which to make art. Like the old song, anything goes. Or if you have a conceptual bent, you can call the act of shredding itself the artwork. The aesthetic experience is in the observation. Woe be those dealers and money grubbers who want to save the bits and pieces as a residue to behold. It wasn’t meant to be.

Who knows what Banksy intended? Was he just watching and waiting in the wings, hoping for a good laugh. He is a huckster or a true purveyor of the modern spirit. Nothing lasts anymore, certainly not our moral values. Works of art have always had a tradition of longevity and great pleasure has been gained over centuries in collecting them for status or décor. Do we hang the empty Banksy frame on the museum wall? And most of all, how and when did Banksy put an internal shredder inside his 2006 painting?

As I stare at my little home office shredder, these thoughts run through my head. I am used to destroying the evidence of my life—each paper document one at a time. This is my work of autobiographical art. Would anyone care if it all ends up in the trash can in the alley, or a bag in my garage? What defines an artist? The desire to make a statement in any medium: even paper shreds? So many questions to ask. If the Banksy fiasco is causing all this reflection, this perhaps is part of its message to the artworld. But I am getting too profound. The auction house horror might be akin to losing money in a stock market crash: easy come, easy go. It is as simple as that. Money, money, money makes the world go round (Cabaret, 2002).

This Kitchen Remodel is Going to Kill Me

My wife and I embarked on a true test of our marriage: a kitchen renovation. It is a scary proposition.  Anyone who has attempted such a project knows what I mean. While the planning stage is fun, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. You argue over the smallest details. Each of us had a distinct opinion about everything from the color of the walls and the type of flooring to the kitchen faucet. I had a specific preference for a state-of-the-art chrome touchless model while Vanessa absolutely insisted on one that matched the new sink, complete with hot and cold knobs. It seems like a ridiculous fight in retrospect.

Either choice would have worked well, and all the new faucets are so sleek and modern. It is hard to select just one. It often comes down to budget, so we let that be the deciding factor. As it turns out, I gave in to matching the faucet style to the kitchen sink. In that we chose a “farm sink,” it made sense to go with a bit of a retro look. The kitchen isn’t going to be pure country by any means, but it will have some elements of the past such as a wood butcher block and a traditional tile backsplash with a central painted image. I love that appliances can be ultra-high tech or traditional and still include all the latest digital features.

A bigger problem was the terrible mess that was made during remodeling. More than once I cried, “this remodel is going to kill me.” I didn’t get much sympathy from Vanessa who was in the same boat. It seemed to take forever. If something wasn’t on special order (taking weeks to deliver), it wasn’t in stock. Then there was the constant fine dust that permeated every nook and cranny of the house. We seemed to be vacuuming every day. In fact, we were exhausted—even though we weren’t doing the work ourselves! The cabinet maker was superb and the plumber the best. We had no worries about quality or installation. Once we were content with our design decisions, we had to accept the next phase with grace. You have people wandering about your house, leaving tools in the oddest places.

Given the hassle, I wouldn’t hesitate if you are considering a remodel of any room of the house. It is so worth it when the upgrade is completed. We love our gorgeous new kitchen, and we received a lot of praise for it on Facebook when we shared it there. It has inspired us to cook together as never before. I bought my wife a set of ceramic dishes in recognition of her positive attitude during the noisiest phase of the renovation. She bought me a set of retro-style copper pots and pans to hang on the new wood rafter over the butcher block. Everything had been executed to perfection and any threat to the marriage was long gone.

Spent the Day on a Yacht…

If you have never boarded a yacht for a day of sailing in the sun, and an invitation comes your way, you are in for a special treat. I spent the day on a mega boat last weekend and I can’t wait to tell readers about it. It isn’t hard to imagine the luxury of such a vessel whose interior is made of the most gorgeous polished wood. The decks outside are newly stained and hold an array of colorful fold-up chairs and lounges. There are built in benches covered with inflated pads. No matter where you sit or recline, you are comfortable. The sails are so massive and when open to the wind, they are awesome. I watched the crew maneuver them skillfully.

As I expected, there were a variety of beverages from dozens of beers to fine French wines. Snacks were everywhere. When it was time for lunch, a huge tray of gourmet treats was passed around. I was in heaven. It was the yacht of an art dealer I know who wanted to thank me for acquiring a small copper Buddha statue from Nepal. He is a renowned collector who always challenges me to find rare objects. This is the essence of my business. He gave me a private tour of the boat. I could peek in nooks and crannies to see all the refined details that were apparent in the main cabin. The boat was divided into several sections so that people could cook or socialize and take a nap if they liked.

I was also impressed by these marine speakers on board that helped distribute some pleasant low-key music inside and out. They were top of the line I am sure, probably a well-known brand. They are like any quality speaker in terms of projecting clear and crisp sound with the difference that they are salt and waterproof. The material is a tough poly sealed with rubber but not unattractive. I imagine that it has durable steel mounts. I wish I could tell you about the woofers and tweeters as connoisseurs like to know this stuff. It was such a beautiful day that I couldn’t imagine waves wreaking havoc to any of this luxury.

Music was a nice touch and a pleasant alternative to a cell phone blaring. You felt as though you were in a fancy resort. They had great power, but weren’t overly large and conspicuous. Subtlety is the hallmark of the rich. Even when they dress, they don’t scream “look at me.” They wear the best deck shoes and cotton tees for sailing but it is always subtle elegance. I crossed my feet to cover my old boat shoes. Meanwhile, we talked about art and what the client would like to add to his collection next. I gave him my travel itinerary to give him some ideas. He showed him some photos online and he earmarked a few that piqued his interest. It was a glorious day altogether.

A Disastrous End to a Good Trip

I travel a lot and most of the time everything is hunky dory. You don’t expect trouble as a rule. When it happens, however, it is an unwelcome surprise. Such was the case a while ago when I lost my luggage. It was during a very successful business trip during which I had acquired a new client with a gift shop. This had never happened before and I became so miffed. I waited for hours while they checked the lost and found. Finally, I found out that my bags had been incorrectly placed on another flight. It hadn’t even come in yet. Another couple of hours passed and the tedium mounted. By the time I finally retrieved my belongings and got home, I was beyond help. My mood was ruined. Usually I am excited to see my wife.

She greeted me with open arms and already knew not to talk about the mishap. I would just get angrier. I was exhausted to say the least. I unpacked, took a shower, and jumped into bed. I fell asleep within minutes but, unfortunately, I dreamed about the luggage. It couldn’t get rid of the incident. My subconscious kept mulling it over. So much fuss about bags! After a good sleep, it was over and done. I had my luggage safe and secure and received an apology from the airlines and a free ticket to anywhere in the U.S. As an art trader, this would indeed come in handy. I had thought about an international excursion next, but I always take domestic trips when I have a customer in another area. This was the only positive of the experience.

A few weeks rolled around and it was time for my birthday. These seem to come regularly. Ha! My wife and I always celebrate by going out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. It is a special treat to which we look forward. Most of the time we go to casual eateries or stay at home. I travel so much that I don’t need to indulge the rest of the time. There are plenty of opportunities on the road. This time, I was into the idea of gourmet food. As we set off, I noticed that my wife had a large package with her. I knew it was my gift, but what on earth could it be? I would soon find out.

After dinner, she pulled out the present and I dutifully unwrapped it on the spot. It was a wonderful backpack from here, the kind I could use for travel and not have to check in. I could carry it on board the plane and stow it under my seat. What a perfect gift. She had also placed some travel items inside. She must have bought this bag after my luggage had been lost. She probably didn’t waste any time. She has good taste and knows my needs so her choice was the best.

A Homeowners’ Dilemma

I have been so busy these past few years travelling and scooping up artifacts for sale. I have to replenish my wares. Some of you may already know that my favorite stop is Nepal. The local arts and crafts are superb. I get to look at them daily as they grace my living room shelves. I have been preoccupied with my trade these last few months and have neglected my home. My wife has pointed out the worn carpeting in the bedroom, for example. You expect flooring materials to last a long time, but eventually they are ready to go. I am in complete agreement. There is nothing like a new carpet to freshen up the look of a home. As for me, however, I want a new water heater. I can’t believe I don’t have the modern tankless style. It is a bit of a dilemma for any homeowner: keep the old one as long as you can and pay high utility bills, or fork over considerable funds for a new tankless model like the ones at

Most people wait until their old unit conks out and they find themselves without hot water right in the middle of their morning shower. Icy cold daggers freeze them to their very core. I don’t want this to happen to me or Vanessa. Because it is a choice between carpet or water heater, I have to use my best selling skills to convince her that the appliance should come first. We will recoup our expenditure in a year. I have seen the numbers. You can cut your utility costs by at least 20% after installation. Now, who doesn’t want to save money. It is just painful to buy something major for the house (or two major things at one time).

Only newer homes include a tankless water heater. It was a great innovation. Our home is sadly not one of those containing the new version. The old ones are so unsightly and take up oodles of space. I welcome the reconfiguration of my basement so I can put in storage shelves. I can see the many benefits involved. I hope my wife will follow suit. I might tempt her with a storage closet for extra clothes instead of the shelves. She is always complaining about not enough room in the master bedroom. If I answer this need, I may well get my new water heater. It seems like the frugal way to go.

Since we couldn’t come to an absolutely clear decision, we decided to follow the money. In this case, it means what will cost more than we can afford at the moment. Surprisingly, it was the tankless water heater. We found a special on a model we liked because there was a surplus in the warehouse. Carpets aren’t cheap if you select top-grade materials. The water heater thus came out the clear winner. My wife isn’t too upset about it and will love her new closet.

Day Two of a Work Trip

As a gallery curator, I am called upon to travel the world to bring home the best of native arts. I never object to an opportunity to explore artisanal crafts, particularly in Nepal. I discovered the joys of this wonderful place on my honeymoon and I always want to go back. I know there are more surprises in store if I take the time to wander and roam. This time, however, I am going to Europe for a two-day work trip. I will meet an art dealer who has promised me that it will be worth my while. He has new items to offer, many of which I have never seen before. I got pretty excited at the prospect. It is time to make some new acquisitions.

I am open to paintings on any surface such as paper, wood, concrete, or canvas. I am always looking for small carved sculptures of stone or wood and items of jewelry made of local beads and yarns. These can be worn by my patrons but also hung on walls as decoration. They are striking when you pair them with wooden masks. You can put sculptures or ornaments on a table below your arrangement for a fabulous effect. I enjoy helping clients mix and match things in their collections.

The trip to Europe was pleasant enough and the dealer was waiting for me at baggage claim. He had a car waiting to promptly escort me to my resort hotel. It wasn’t in the city so it was a nice change of pace. Although the rooms were small and compact, there was a nice patio in the back overlooking an open area I would call a field. A few boys were kicking a soccer ball about and practicing. One was sitting on the sidelines, reading a web site about soccer on his iPad – The art dealer saw my look of nostalgia and asked if I ever played the game. Of course, I have. He loves soccer and challenged me to a match the next day. Today we would do business and make shipping arrangements.

I procured some exceptional artworks that would arrive in only one week. I would be salivating at home while I waited for the packages to come. I had already taken photos with my cell phone and had forwarded many to existing clients. I knew their tastes and special desires so I could begin the sales process while traveling.

Now for the soccer match. My opponent was skilled and confident and gave me a run for my money so to speak. He had me literally on my toes. I was exhausted after an hour, but I plodded on. I wanted to try out my best moves. I had to dredge up memories of younger days when I was a good player over all. Age takes its toll. We had a great time and it was a true bonding experience. I had never had time for recreation on past trips to Europe or even Nepal.

Another Good Find

I am hooked on Nepalese arts and crafts. Yes, I have been to this wonderful country. In fact, it was on my honeymoon. My wife and I loved finding special examples of the local wares. They often left me spellbound. As a gallery curator, you can bet that I bought some very fine examples. After we left, I never forgot the experience. I was bound and determine to continue collecting the Nepalese style to share with the world. The question was where to find more apart from going back to this ethnic paradise.

I didn’t have to wait a long time to continue my enterprise. I was surveying the goods at a craft fair about one hundred miles away when I spotted a group of native Nepalese artisans who were busy working on the best wood lathes I’d seen in my life to make wooden sculptures. He had a variety of woodworking tools on display. People love watching a master at work and they were gathered around. I joined them and scooted closer to get a better view. Some of the finished work was beautifully displayed on an adjacent table covered with a Nepalese woven cloth. I knew immediately that I had hit the jackpot. The wood lathe was working its magic. I asked him how he could tell if the wood was adequately seasoned, and he pointed me to a page that he had printed out from which he used as a reference. I am fairly acquainted with woodworking tools and was quite impressed with this man’s results. One figure after another was a veritable treasure. They were lined up in a row like soldiers at attention. I continued to watch and realized how long it took to make just one. He adjusted the speed now and then to fashion the perfect contours.

“Is everything for sale,” I asked. “yes, of course. Plus, I can make something to your liking in terms of size and subject matter.” I waited for the crowd to thin and started to negotiate a deal for my gallery. I would need a variety of figures and enough to create a real ambience. I would mount a display that included photos of Nepal and a map for quick location of the country. I would give the artist a few weeks to finish some custom statues. In the interim, I did some research and wrote a press release to entice the public to come to the gallery show opening. I was trying to find a list of local Nepalese in my state so they could receive special invitations. Of course, I wanted the general public to be impressed. It is said that I have a good eye and know a find when I see it.

An ad appeared in the local paper and in the online calendar for my city. I had a good turnout for the exhibition and made many sales. I was gratified that many others admire Nepalese handicrafts as much as I do. They are unique and hard to find unless you visit Nepal. Then you need a guide to take you to just the right spots. My honeymoon was the start of a life-long passion.

Adjusting to Newlywed Life


I did not think being married was going to be much different than dating my wife, Vanessa. We have been together for two years and although we didn’t actually share a place, we practically lived together. Let me tell you, readers, that little word practically changes the situation quite a bit.

We bought a house together but it wasn’t ready until about a week ago. The lease was up on my-then fiancée’s place first so she moved into my apartment. For someone who always told me that I had good taste, she certainly had a lot to say about my place once she was living there! So many of her things were “just better” and my stuff was pushed to the wayside. I didn’t react well to this, although I can say now that part of the problem was that I still considered it MY place. I made more room for her stuff but it drove me crazy seeing it all over the place. A lot of her things remained in boxes because we didn’t need it yet. The boxes got to me as well. Everything just looked so cluttered and messy. My home, which was once a peaceful and serene retreat from the craziness of the outside world, looked like an overflowing warehouse. I started escaping to the gallery as often as I could. Then I was accused of being a workaholic, which I didn’t deny. I told Vanessa I was working hard to pay for the wedding and honeymoon, which was true. Then she supposed I was cheating on her, however, that claim I could unequivocally deny. The accusation didn’t sit well with me. I tried to look at the situation from her point of view and determined that she was more concerned about my absenteeism than my faithfulness.

I started meeting her at her office for lunch since it is within walking distance of the gallery. I thought this was a good compromise because I got to see her without the mess of our apartment. I was honest about the reason I was avoiding home, which she understood but did not really have a solution for. I doubled my efforts to ignore the boxes all over the apartment. When that didn’t work, I printed 8 x 10 versions of my favorite paintings and stuck them to the front of the boxes. It still looked chaotic, but it was a more beautiful chaos, one that I could function in.

Then the time came for us to move into the house. Vanessa was lucky, nearly all of her stuff was already in boxes. I’m used to packing and shipping valuable art, not every single thing I own. But she helped me get all of my stuff packed and I realized how lucky I am to have her. We moved into the new house and we’re still unpacking. Most of the remaining boxes have been put in the spare room, and we are bringing them out one at a time. When we find multiples of the same item, we decide which one is best and we’ve created a ‘donate’ pile for the rest. One day, I’m sure that I won’t remember that it is my measuring cups we’re using. One thing at a time, right? Maybe I’ll work on that once these boxes are gone.

Favorite Moments of the Trip

When Vanessa and I talked about going on a honeymoon, we wanted to go somewhere monumental. I wouldn’t quite call my job demanding—more consuming, really—but hers is fairly high maintenance. We knew we had this particular time set aside and that it might be the only time we are able to get away for more than a weekend at a time. Vanessa is a planner, so she started researching destinations. She was the one who came up with Nepal. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a wonderful trip.

After recovering from the flight out there, we decided to explore the city of Kathmandu. Our guide directed us to Swayambhunath, an ancient Buddhist temple. It was absolutely amazing. All the different color flags, the statues, the people. And the monkeys. From an art standpoint, I was enthralled by my surroundings. The carvings were awe inspiring. As a regular person, however, I have to say that my favorite thing was the monkeys. We heard the mythology behind them, about how they were bornfrom lice. It is a hard thing to describe—you’re mobbed by these wise looking holy monkeys. It is a really cool experience.

I could have spent our whole vacation there, but Vanessa had other plans. We explored more of Kathmandu, visiting various markets and bazaars. I kept finding pieces that I wanted to mail back to the gallery, but Vanessa told me I had to wait a few days. I took photos and sent them to the gallery owners, who got as excited as I did. I made some arrangements with the locals to hold various things until I returned. It was definitely a challenge to get everything shipped off, but it was totally worth it.

Then Vanessa had a surprise for me. We went to the amazingChitwan National Park, taking a canoe ride on the Narayani River.  That was probably the closest I have ever been to an alligator or a rhino and it was both exhilarating and terrifying. You don’t realize just how big a rhino is until it is standing on the banks of the river and you realize what a small, crushable vessel you’re in. It was one of those things that I am grateful to have seen but probably both more grateful that I survived and never need to do again! Vanessa, on the other hand, was completely in her element. She took pictures of everything, filling up her memory card in just a few hours. It made me so happy to see her so enchanted by our surroundings.

After that, we made the long trek to Lumbini, believed to be the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. Vanessa wanted me to see the Ashoka Pillar located there because it is the oldest inscription in Nepal. While that was an interesting sight, it could not compare to the temple beside it—the Maya Devi temple erected in honor of the sacred land where Buddha was born. We were not allowed to take pictures inside so I will have only my memories of the fascinating drawings we saw inside.

It was a wonderful trip and I am both happy to be home and sad that we had to leave. I guess that’s the sign of a great trip, though, isn’t it?

Choosing Art


People often come into the gallery and ask me to help them purchase a piece. While I am always happy to do so—it is my job, after all—I am always hesitant. Art is such a subjective thing.Something I think is beautiful and would display in my own home is not necessarily what the person who just walked in the door is looking for. I am not the one who has to look at the piece all day long, so I can’t imagine why they not only ask me, but go along with my recommendations—especially when they know that I receive a commission. I am not as unscrupulous as some other art dealers might be; I do not automatically steer people toward the most expensive thing in the gallery. Instead, I try to ask them questions and find out what they like and where they plan to put the piece. Unless I’ve been in the client’s house and can see the lighting, the colors, and the physical space in which they are physically hoping to display the art, I cannot really say for sure what it will look like in its new home. I do, however, try to make the effort to find these things out, as well as what the client is hoping to purchase.I try to show them several pieces in various price ranges to give them options.

To me, art is a visceral thing. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I truly feel that art has to speak to the person if they are going to be happy with it in their living or work space. Art should evoke something in the viewer, but even more so with the owner. I want all of my clients to see their acquisitions and remember where they purchased the item, or who gave it to them, or the occasion the piece is commemorating. It should be a memory enhanced by the artwork, a joyous connection between artist and patron.

For that reason, I don’t typically recommend that my gallery patrons buy art solely as a means to accrue wealth, nor do I think they should buy something by a particular artist simply because that person is getting a lot of press for whatever reason. If they see the piece and it speaks to them, so be it. I will happily wrap it and send it off to its new home. But not for any other reason. I firmly believe that the relationship between a person and anything they display in their home should be a personal one and not stem from a financial choice or an attempt at an increase in social standing. Those are usually the pieces that end up being resold—sometimes for more than they are worth, but often for much less than originally paid—and it is mostly because people were not really in love with it from the beginning.

I like to walk buyers around the gallery so I can gauge their reaction to what we are seeing. If something lights them up, I know we have found the right piece. If not, I will continue to ask questions in the hope that I can match them with something wonderful.

New Show Opening Tonight

There is so much to do here today but I’ve been forced by the owners to take a break for a few minutes. I thought I’d use that time to check in here and give an update. We have a local photographer who has taken some wonderful black and white photos of scenery in the area. I met with him and loved his work from the start. There was something special about these pictures so we decided to do a special kind of show. I talked to the owners about it. They were excited and immediately started looking for possible locations for the show. They were able to secure some space at a local hotel, under the premise that hotel guests might want a souvenir to remember their visit. We are also hoping that people will be enticed into the hotel to see the photos and then possibly stay for a meal at the hotel restaurant. It has the potential to be mutually lucrative, and I am hoping that it works out that way. We have never done anything like this before, so I am keeping my fingers crossed. I really want this to do well for our sake, but mostly for the sake of the photographer—he’s never done a showing before—and for the hotel, because otherwise, this may be the last time they ever work with us.

My job, in all this, has been fairly extensive. Aside from my normal gallery duties, I selected the photos we would display and designed the marketing materials. I enjoyed that, although I felt bad when I turned down a photo. I select art all the time, so I am not sure why this artist in particular made rejecting some photos so hard. Once our location was officially secured, I walked through with the hotel manager and talked to her about what we would need to make the show successful (it was mostly lighting). Then the photographer and I agreed on print size, frames, and the sequence of photographs. We assigned a price to each one and I had the appropriate tags made. Once the prints came in, I hung them at the hotel. I actually just got back from doing that.

I am sure I will be sent home soon so that I can get dressed and be ready to represent the gallery at the show, but for now, I wanted to be here at work to see if there was anything gallery-related I could do. I haven’t been here much over the last few days. I have spent much of my time here for the last five years, so I do start to feel odd when I don’t at least check in every once in a while. And there it is—I’ve been found out and given the order to go home. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Great Day at Work

I love my job. I am incredibly lucky that the owners of the gallery let me select artwork without many restrictions. If it is beautiful and I believe we can find a buyer, they usually let me go for it. There is an almost spiritual feeling when I find something to bring home to the gallery. I enjoy experimenting to determine just the right way to display each piece and anxiously await a buyer to take it to its new home. Today, amazingly, I was able to sell two of our most beautiful pieces to two very different clients.

First, I had a couple walk in off the street. They had seen an abstract painting I picked up on my honeymoon and asked the name of the artist. I gave them the artist’s name and told them the purchase history—that I found it in a bazzar in Kathmandu and had it shipped here because the intensely saturated colors were unlike anything I had ever seen before. We stood for a few minutes together, all staring at the painting.Suddenly, the woman turned to me and asked me how I could part with such a gorgeous painting. I laughed and told her that it needed to be in a purely white space, to accentuate the reds and golds so skillfully blended and applied to the canvas. My home has no such space. Her eyes grew wide as she said that they were very minimalist peopleand that their dining room was all white, chrome, and glass. Her husband smiled in agreement, and that was that—the painting came down off the wall. I am truly excited for them, as I think the painting will bring them a lot of enjoyment. I know every time I look at it, I see something else within its swirling brush strokes.

After lunch, I had a regular customer call in and ask if we had anything new. He was looking for something for his wife for their 25th anniversary. I mentioned that we had recently acquired a small statue depicting the Hindu god Shiva and his wife, Parvati. I explained a little about their story: about how they learned from one another and how their lovemaking was so powerful it frightened even the other gods. My client chuckled at that. By then, I knew he was greatly interested. Everyone loves having something with a story behind it. I just knew this piece would make the perfect gift, so I offered to take a picture of it for him so he could visualize it better. Within an hour of his receiving the picture, the funds were transferred to the gallery and I was packaging up the sculpture.

I found two wonderful pieces excellent homes today. I truly hope that they bring much joy to their new owners. It makes it much easier to part with such beautiful art when I know it is going somewhere that it will be appreciated. I look forward to whatever tomorrow will bring!