Yellow card! Yellow card for the husband!
Kate took me to the Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale at Christie’s last night. I’ve been to one evening sale before, which are the main event of a particular auction: that’s when all the highest-value lots are offered. The people-watching is fantastic at Christies, because it’s a rich art crowd. You get to see all the sartorial nuances of the privileged classes. I’ll list all the types of which I saw at least three representations:
- Art professionals, male: Skinny; tight, double-vented suits; windowpane-check shirts in yellow or celadon; white handkerchief in the lapel; large, vulpine heads, big artistic hair.
- Art professionals, female, under 40: Tall; long, flowing dresses; expensively coiffed long hair; dominatrix heels.
- Art professionals, female, over 40: Short; tailored suits that cost as much as a German sports car; bobbed haircuts that cost as much as an Italian sports car.
- Rich clients, both genders, employed: Blue or gray suit; standard-issue business tie or scarf, somewhat bewildered
- Rich clients, male, independently wealthy: short gray hair, square black nylon windbreaker, European man purse.
- Rich clients, female, independently wealthy: Boxy shantung Mandarin jackets; chiseled artificial jaws. Tiny cell phone in a tinier purse.
- Art students, female: Ripped jeans, tight Old Navy shirt with plunging V-cut neckline, large cell phone in large purse.
- Finally, Christie’s professionals, female, under 40 (NY Office): Alert, conservatively dressed, deployed in a hoplite phalanx in the center of the main lobby. Duties: to scan the crowd for VIPs and alert the specialists of their presence (see art professionals, over 40 above.)
- Christie’s professionals, female, under 40 (Philadelphia Office): Elegant, intelligent, funny, blindingly beautiful, good-natured about picking you up at the train station when your motorcycle won’t start. Duties: pass along tidbits of information to clients that give the auction an insider frisson. “The same group of Giacomettis was offered at Sotheby’s last night, but it didn’t sell. This one is painted bronze, so it’s rarer.”*
I had a great time seeing the art. When a famous Cezanne is presented at the far end of a room filled with hundreds of people who regard it as an object of desire, there’s a movie-star thrill to seeing the painting in person that you don’t get in a museum. And it was entertaining to see the art go for millions: A Degas Petite Danseuse sold for approximately ten point two bazillion dollars. The auctioneer, Christopher Burge, was tall and impeccably elegant, and owned the room with his plummy British accent. “Two million two hundred fifty thousand? Well, since you asked so nicely…”
We drove home, getting to West Chester about midnight, so I left my car at the train station. Bringing my total number of vehicles at the station to two, or 66% of my available vehicular inventory. Kate set the alarm with enough time to get up and give me a ride to the station, but I committed a husband foul this morning: I neglected to set my own alarm, getting up at her scheduled time and blocking the bathroom with lots of gargling and yodeling. Ach, du lieber! That’s a marital yellow card, I believe.
* Duties the other 98% of the time: fill out paperwork, arrange shipping, and politely field any number of inquiries from sellers who would like to consign the “genuine Picasso” they discovered at a garage sale.