2010-05-13: Kept



Date: May 13, 2010


Modern art pales in comparison to the back of a cereal box. Two critics share opinions.


80 East -NYC

It's not easy to find The Thing You Really Have To See before it becomes That Old Thing, but it's one place where high society and scene-leeching hipsters cross paths. Thus, it must be fate that in this Soho galleria, on Second Opening Night, whatever that is, Lee and some of his pals with iPhones and thrift-store-chic outfits have found their way to "80 East", a gallery small and comfortable, originally outfitted with sculptures, champagne and a guest list, now supplemented with scathing criticism, overpriced Pabst Blue Ribbon and too many fun crashers to kick out. It's now less about the art and more about the impromptu party. "That's what I'm saying." Lee is explaining to a woman in a $3,000 designer coat over a clearly ironically worn Abstinence Camp 1987 secondhand T-shirt. "Times New Viking has just lost their touch ever since you were able to make out the lyrics on the third album, I don't care about the repress."

Not more than two feet away, a tall woman in another ridiculously expensive outfit is eying a collection of wires quite intently. "I feel as though I should untangle and straighten them," she sneers, her South African accent causes the statement to be much harsher than originally intended, but it works. "This is ridiculous." She says with a wave of her hand.

The artist in question seems a little more than incensed at her criticism of his work and defends it like a knight would his princess. "It's a statement, about how the world is in chaos. You need to look past the medium to see the message."

Rolling her eyes, Vasha flicks her free hand in a dismissive gesture as she raises the flute of champagne in the other to her lips. After taking a long drink, she narrows her eyes at the little man and purses her lips into a snarl. "Perhaps you should write that in your placard, for I all I see is a mess of wires that needs cleaning."

Lee snorks at Vasha's quip, adding, "Or you could just rename it 'Texas Instruments Failed Prototype Circa 1961' and slide it into the history museum." The artist is about to rejoin when he notices Lee is texting someone and ignoring him. "It's bad, isn't it?" Lee says to Vasha when the guy flounces off., putting away his iPhone.

"It is all bad, art died when impressionists took over." The woman drawls slowly, her words sounding almost like a leopard's purr. She gives the texter an appreciative glance as the artist moves off, then turns her head to watch after the miniature man, just to make certain he's moving off. "And what are you then? A collector or merely a critic such as myself?"

Lee says brightly, "Party crasher. I'm Lee." He offers his hand. "Oh, you couldn't puzzle out the impressionists? Well, there are always cereal boxes to look at the back of." he smirks in a superior fashion.

Taking Lee's hand, Vasha gives him a bare wisp of a smile and gives it a small shake. "Vasha," she greets, her tone of voice sounding a level more interested than neutral. "That is an interesting observation, perhaps I should frame one of those for my — benefactor.." the word is emitted with nothing less than contempt, ".. for his birthday. I am certain he will not be able to discern it from one of these."

Lee replies, "A sugar daddy? Well, it must beat working, Vasha. Is it anyone I would know from a Gawker feed or celebrity rehab shows?" gracefully.

Vasha turns and leans a little closer to Lee as she point across the room to a short, pudgy man that looks to be in his late sixties or early seventies. "His name is Sol Hertzog, if he has been on television it is only on your C-Span channel. Perhaps a news program defending the policies of our country." Sol catches the gesture made by Vasha and raises his cigar toward her while giving Lee something of a narrowed eyed glare.

Lee says, "I actually do watch a lot of C-Span," in the tone of a confidential admission. He cocks his body towards Vasha's lean, openly. "I teach civics to seventh and eighth graders." he murmurs in the tone others use for 'i am a secret agent'. "But I don't recognize him. South Africa? I'm guessing from the accent."

Her eyebrows twitch upward at his admission, perhaps in surprise that anyone actually watched the channel more than anything else. "I see… So you allow your students to watch television in your classroom? Is this a common practice or is it a better way to make them be quiet?" Vasha's hazel eyes drift toward Sol once more before she turns her back on him, much to his dismay. "Yes, from South Africa," her accent makes it sound more like Sotheffrika than anything else. "Which school is it you teach at, Mister Lee? Perhaps you have taught one of Sol's children?"

Lee laughs, wryly, "No TV in my room, no. But I have to study up on current events, so that I can convince them that the stuff in the books is actually relevant. Real. Something that's happening right now." He adds: "I teach at Brubaker Secondary, on the Upper East Side, so I might have. Not a bad train ride, I live in the Village."

"Trains, I hate those things. Filled with rats and refuse." Her nose wrinkles and her lips turn to form a slight grimace and she shivers lightly at the thought. "I will never understand how the people of New York find them acceptable to live with." Then she turns back toward the statue to examine it a little further and lifts her champagne glass toward it. "How much do you suppose a thing such as this is worth on the market?"

Lee replies, "It's worth whatever you can get him to pay for it, like anything else you decide you want." with equanimity bordering on boredom. Money does not excite his interest much, it seems. "My sister runs a comic book shop, she sold basically a folded color piece of newspaper garbage for eighty thousand dollars one time. People will pay for anything." Perhaps unconsciously, his eyes flick back to Vasha, identifying her as merchandise.

Vasha looks back at him, meeting his gaze. By the expression on her face it's obvious that her interest has been piqued. "Eighty thousand dollars, really? Where is this shop, in the village where you live?" She takes another sip of her champagne as she eyes the lanky hipster beside her, her eyes moving up and down his frame as though appraising a cow at the market.

Lee gives the cross streets for The Secret Lair. "It's been in the family for a while. I want nothing to do with it, comic books rot your brain. But it's nice having a chunk of building in the family that's paid for, you don't get stuck comparing rents all the time like the rest of New York." he says. "So have you come here for any reason besides your, ah, benefactor?"

Lee is given a look of contempt. "Yes," she answers simply, her tone turning to something falsely pleasant. "I have come for the art, for the cars, and … for a man." It's said quite matter of factly, by the way she doesn't even turn her head in Sol's direction as she says it, it can possibly be assumed that she wasn't referring to him. "I understand that owning a piece of this island is something of an accomplishment. Buildings here are worth into the multi millions."

Lee nods. "Yeah…not an old dump like the Lair, nobody'd buy it except to knock it down, but it's up there. What man are you here for?" He's intrigued now. He thinks she means a specific man, not even a narcissist like him would think she came all the way from South Africa for him.

"Even to knock down, the space alone could fetch quite a price." Her eyes slide to the side to peer at him out of the corner as he poses his question. Giving a slight hum, off key as it is, she smiles a little and looks up and to the left. "A man that is knowledgable in dance, the tango in particular. Someone that has a certain way with making my world explode around me… Who has a way with my automobile." Vasha turns and gives Lee a predatory smile before her eyebrows twitch upward, "Perhaps you have seen such a man?"

Lee grins right back at her like a dope. "I dance the tango, what self-respecting man doesn't? But, I don't qualify on the driving thing, so I guess we'll never find out about your world exploding. I'm guessing if I knew the guy you were looking for he might have mentioned you before. So…sorry. You're sure he's here in the city, though?"

Shrugging, she nods somewhat and takes another long drink from her glass, emptying it. "Quite. In a city of more than five million, even cutting it in half to account for females… That leaves two and a half million to pick through. How can he not be among that many?" Vasha's words turn wistful as she meets Lee's gaze and holds a pregnant pause before continuing. "It is quite unfortunate that you cannot drive a vehicle, there are so many adventures that we could partake in, mmm?"

Lee says, "Oh, I can drive, I just wouldn't say I have a way with cars." He leans in, frames it with his hands: "I have….. a 1996 Volvo." A conspiratorial nod. "Mostly full of overdue library books. I'm a scofflaw, a rebel. Is there an adventure you need a ride to tonight?"

"1996 Volvo, you have quite the taste in good autos. A boxy model but quite reliable," she observes. Finally she glances backward toward her 'escort' for the evening and grimaces in distate. "Tonight, no. I am, unfortunately, required to accompany Mister Hertzog to another party. Though, perhaps we will meet again at this shop of comic books you loathe so? I find myself rather interested in seeing a bit of colored newsprint that is worth so much to so few."

Lee snickers, "I wouldn't recommend it, but if you really want to, I'll bring along a mop to sop up the nerd-drool that's sure to puddle in the aisles. Let me give you my number." Because of course she is the one that will want to call him.

Vasha smiles, it's a narrow eyes smile that is reminiscent of a Cheshire Cat. "Excellent," she purrs leaning a little closer to him. She doesn't offer a cell phone, a pen, or even a piece of paper. Then again, her outfit doesn't seem to have a place for her to hold any of those items. "I will be certain to contact you within the coming days."

Lee gives the phone number, assuming that she's sharp enough to remember it. "I hope you find the guy you're looking for." he says softly. "I had a chance to be a kept guy once." he admits. "I loved her like crazy, even. But…I had to be my own man. We split up a while after that. I suppose it would have been a high price either way." He is showing her a bit of a sensitive side now, almost calculatedly, but not insincerely.

"Who knows, I may have found him and have not realized it just yet." Vasha smiles politely and then quickly whispers the number to herself a few times to commit it to memory. The empty glass is deposited on a passing waiter's tray and Vasha's fingers are laced together in front of her. "Being the kept pet of anyone is a trying practice. There are only a few reasons why anyone would wish to be such a thing."

Lee shakes his head, leaning back to finish off his own drink, sliding a hand into his coat pocket. "If love wasn't enough, I hate to think what would be. Was very….very interesting to meet you, Vasha."

"Love is such a very quaint thing. For those convinced that it exists, it is grand. When it weathers away, not so much, mm?" She turns and lifts one hand to give him a slight finger wave. Within moments, she is across the room and trying to keep the expression of disgust from her face as the bile rises to her throat at Sol's first touch of her back.

Lee, a Romantic born 100 years late, grins crookedly. "'Tis better." he says cryptically, and disappears into the rumors and references.

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