Sunday, February 17, 2013

Life Imitates Art Imitating Food, or “Life in Washington”

The photo embargo of Lady M and the Wee Wons enjoying themselves in the exclusive enclave of Aspen has been implemented with magnum force (can I say that?).

So instead, how about I share a little more about our romantic Valentine’s dinner at Minibar, the very exclusive D.C. restaurant, just before we left on our our separate butt equal mini-vacays?

minibar dcThis is the whole restaurant: looks more like a movie set than a restaurant doesn’t it?

Let me begin by explaining that many consider chef/owner José Andrés’ experimental culinary exploits to be high art. These same suckers sophisticates consider Basquait to be one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

basquiat untitled pechoBasquiat’s “untitled Oreja-Pecho” sold for $10 million at a Sotheby’s auction last week

bitesize mini corn on the cob at minibarJosé Andrés’ Bite sized corn on the cob (with fresh corn shoot) sold for $225 at Minibar last week

What makes Basquiat’s art worth that kind of money? See if you can figure this out on your own:

You will find this hard to believe, butt Jean-Michel Basquiat received no formal art training! That places his style in the Primitivist school of Neo-expressionism. His rise to art world stardom was rapid and extreme. Championed by the likes of Andy Warhol and David Bowie, he went from being an obscure street graffiti artist, living on benches in Washington Square Park, to a prominent painter with studio space in SoHo and gallery representation in the U.S. and abroad in just a few short years. He also “dated” Madonna (who didn’t?) for a short time.

Art connoisseurs explain his “primitive” style to us peons:

Basquiat focused on "suggestive dichotomies," such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience.

Basquiat's art utilized a synergy of appropriation, poetry, drawing and painting, which married text and image, abstraction and figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique.

Utilizing social commentary as a "springboard to deeper truths about the individual", Basquiat's paintings also attacked power structures and systems of racism, while his poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle.

Allow me to translate: he created childish stick figures and inserted words and phrases that art critics declared to be “symbolically bold statements about race and society.” Like this one, titled “Ribs Ribs Ribs”

basquiat ribs“Ribs” is crayon on paper: how primitive is that?

As you can see, you and I are clearly unqualified to determine the value of the creations rendered by artists who have been swaddled in a fresh set of the emperor’s new clothes. That’s what our betters are for.

As far as I can tell Basquait’s greatest claim to fame (aside from being a black man with an exotic name and parentage), was dying of a heroin overdose at the age of 27 in 1988. A tragic death suitable for the tortured artist motif ensured his art is nearly priceless to this day.

Butt back to the Wons’ Valentine’s dinner; Minibar is a restaurant where art pretending to be food is prepared by cooks pretending to be artists for patrons pretending to be connoisseurs. That’s how things roll in the world of modern art.

tomato seeds, diced tomato and Spanish anchoviesJosé works on his sardine art with tomato seeds, diced tomato and Spanish anchovies

Not at all unlike the world of politics; where politicians pretending to serve the public pass laws prepared by special interest groups, passed on to bureaucrats to turn into unfathomable regulations to serve up to the public. And when you’re done, you’re presented with a huge bill and you’re still hungry.

Back in 2009 I pointed out that Washington was selected as home base for an extended run of the Emperor’s New Clothes. As such, it was a natural habitat for a restaurant presenting art masquerading as food.


Pretend food is huge these days. “Molecular gastronomy,” an avant-garde culinary movement best known for its gels, emulsions and wild chemical experiments with food, was invented by Ferran Adria at El Bulli (now closed) as a combined art and science project. While he made dining decidedly interesting it’s still debatable as to whether or not it technically qualified as a meal. Butt at $650 a head (drinks extra) it was definitely a meal ticket.

As Ferran himself described his concept of food: "Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner." Sort of a “HOPE ‘n CHANGE approach to food consumption. It seems the perfect model of dining in Washington, no?  Where “nothing is what it seems,” LOFO voters are constantly surprised and delighted and the rest of us are provoked.

Like art,

Jean-Michel-Basquiats-Fiv-010Basquiat’s Five Fish Species

and food,

deconstructed_wineMinibar’s 12 flavors: deconstructed white wine

beauty is in the eye of the beholder: some will see the following as the haute cuisine olive oil bon bons the pretend to be, others will see mini urine bombs.

Screenshot Studio capture #947Relax – it’s just food porn.    

Politics is like that too: in the eye of the beholder I mean. While some see the Won in all his glory, others see him as a naked imperial emperor. I attempted to explain this phenomenon  when I first introduced myself, back in 2009, some people refuse to let go of reality and go with the flow:

“Don’t they know that we have a new Emperor and Empress? Can’t they see their new clothes? Don’t they get it that at the end of the day, allusion and artifice is all we have to offer?”

Nothing has changed around here since then. It’s just that the cost of the Emperor’s new clothes is escalating as political patrons – who apparently know more than we do about the intrinsic value of things - keep bidding the price up. It’s clearly a seller’s market.


An artist is somebody who produces things that people don't need to have.   Andy Warhol

Linked By: Larwyn’s Linx on Doug Ross@Journal, and Car in on The Hostages, and BlogsLucianneLoves, and NOBO2012 on Free Republic, Thanks!