He lurks in the dark of your art history recitation, like a Kashmir-clad spider. He is in Wharton. He likes Martha’s Vineyard but prefers Cabo. His favorite artist is definitely a dead, straight, white guy who depicts 17th century Dutch life. His favorite writer is Ayn Rand in a close tie with Antonin Scalia. He may or may not pen the token republican opinion piece in the DP. If you had a nickel every time he asked if the class was “reading too much into this” you would be all like,
Sometimes you wonder to yourself why someone who clearly doesn’t like art would be in art history. But how else would an investment banker know how to decorate their office? In nearly every art history or English or poetry class I’ve ever taken this over-privileged white dude exists. This kid who clearly thinks everyone in Art History is an idiot and that he is a genius because MONEY. He looks through the lecture slides like,
This kid also talks a lot because he thinks he is so interesting so you must think everything he says is interesting too. So while this kid is just ranting on about how he’s never been to a museum but would love to check out the ICA (“Oh, so that’s the place across from urban outfitters! Cool.”) and how his mother knows the director of the Getty and he goes to their fundraiser every year and how much he loves impressionist art you’re just sitting there wishing you were dead, thinking:
But that’s nothing compared to when he actually tries to engage with art. Unfortunately the poor rich kid doesn’t know anything about art. What do people do when they don’t know anything about something but still can’t keep their mouth shut? They say really stupid controversial shit. Like, “I think Georgia O’Keefe painted flowers and we should just leave it at that.” Or something like “Well, does it really matter how they made the painting?”. Or my favorite is when he’s talking about Sol LeWitt and drops something like, “there’s nothing really there” when talking about C-O-N-C-E-P-T-U-A-L art. And you’re just sitting there like,
But every once in a while you’ll have a great TA who will just stare this kid in the eyes and be like,
and you’ll just be like,
But the kid, who has never been told he is wrong and certainly will be damned if that’ll start in an art history class (where you can’t be wrong because it’s all made up, right!?) gets all pissy after class. This kid also hates women/minority artists who challenge his privilege but will clearly just make up reasons for his dislike to cover that up. Like, he’ll come up with a weird, convoluted reason for hating Carolee Schneemann because she empowers herself. He’ll say something like, “I get what she is trying to say, and of course women have been in a worse situation then men, although that’s changing I think, I just don’t understand why she had to pull that out of her vagina. Like didn’t that hurt? Couldn’t she get her point across without being so extreme”. To which you’re like,
He’s not a bad guy. I mean, sure he is perpetuating normative notions that are oppressive (I’ll stop there) but he’ll lend you his notes (well, he takes them on an iPad so he’ll email you his notes). When you run into him doing a keg stand at a frat party, he’ll say hello before launching into a drunken rant about how he just doesn’t get Cindy Sherman (really, this is an effort to get you to admit that you don’t get Cindy Sherman too and thus reassure himself of the delusion that no one does - or something like that). And the way he says it, it’s like you shouldn’t think he’s dumb. I mean, if you admit you don’t get something, then it doesn’t mean you’re stupid, right? If you go to an art history class and are confused it doesn’t matter, because art history isn’t a ~real~ subject, like science is. He gets science, but doesn’t get art history. This cannot be a reflection of who he is or his character. No, to him not getting a work of art is a reflection of the poor quality of the artist because Art History is just made up. In fact, by not getting something it’s like some deep innate biology detecting that Art History is bullshit and made up. He doesn’t get Cindy Sherman because it’s not real and it’s not important that he understands her.
Or maybe he does “get” Cindy Sherman, he just “disagrees” with her. This is my favorite. He’ll say something like, “I get it, I just don’t like it.” That’s legitimate because when you grew up in L.A. and have been to some pretty wild house parties you’re allowed to disagree with Cindy Sherman. When you’re a man, you are allowed to disagree with anyone. And if you disagree with a woman, in that case you’re brave and the work is objectively bad. He pictures himself raising his hand for the silent minority in the recitation. Him, the lone, brave rich kid who has the courage to stand up to those crazy feminist art theorists who are just so wrong and could they please stop making something out of nothing. Disagreeing with Cindy Sherman is so, so, so brave. Like, he’s a patriot saving America from art.
And it gets to the point where recitation is going really well, and like, you know, maybe you can power through this kid’s BS and just use it to affirm your intelligence and the intelligence of those around you. And then Mondrian comes up on the projector. And the kid raises his hand. And you’re thinking… uh-oh. And the TA calls on him with a look on her face like she just stepped on a rusty nail. And with a smirk to end all smirks he says, “I don’t get it. I could do that.” Then he gestures to the wall and says, “it looks just like a wall”. Some of this essay is made up but this part is 100 percent fucking the truth.
I. Could. Do. That.
But the worst part is this kid will probably have some position of power somewhere down the line. He’s got too much privilege not to. He’ll be at the MET fundraisers talking to some beautiful girl about how this or that work really speaks to him but really he’ll just be trying to get in her pants. To him, art is just another notch on his penis utility belt to use to build himself up so he can have sex. Why else would he stay after every recitation to flirt with that pretty TA if, while he asked her innate questions about Mondrian, he wasn’t secretly whispering: