Saturday, December 27, 2008

Modern art through the eyes of a security guard

I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario on Saturday. It was educational, eye-opening and enlightening. But not in the way the art gallery intended.

I was wandering around on the fourth floor of the art gallery, where the works of contemporary art are on display. At one point, I found myself standing in front of five identical canvases hanging on one of the walls. Each canvas was painted completely white except for a small square of beige in each corner.

Mistaking my jet lag for stupefaction, a security guard decided to approach me.

"Can I ask you a question?" he said.

"Of course," I replied.

"What do you think about that?" he said, pointing to the five white canvases in front of us.

His question took me by surprise. I wasn't sure how to answer it. I didn't know whether to give him the "right" answer or an honest answer. The truth was that I didn't think much of the paintings at all. I didn't like them. But I didn't dislike them either.

I wasn't sure if he was a passionate art lover looking for an lively discussion or just genuinely curious to know what I thought.

"Um . . ." I said, stalling. "Um . . ."

I couldn't think of anything intelligent to say so I just decided to tell him the truth.

"Well, modern art isn't really my thing. So I don't know."

He loudly kissed his teeth to signify his disapproval.

"I don't like this stuff," he said.

He told me he wanted to paint a tiny black dot on a canvas and call it a car in a snowstorm.

"They'd probably hang it up in here," he said with a laugh.

He told me he hated patrolling the fourth floor. The second floor is where it's at. He said he likes the older stuff because it gives you a real glimpse into history. He told me he never gets bored when he's working on the second floor. But the fourth floor? Pure torture.

"Have you seen the sink?" he asked.

I told him I hadn't.

"Okay," he said. "Come with me."

He led me through a few rooms and stopped in front of a huge canvas with an actual bathroom sink glued to it.

"There you go!" he said.

The mere sight of it inspired another round of teeth kissing and eye rolling.

He took me around to see a few other works of art that he particularly despised. It was my own private tour of the art gallery. With a security guard. Who hated modern art. It was like the anti-tour tour.

It was educational, eye-opening and enlightening. But probably not in the way the art gallery intended.

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