I work in finance, and my wife is a lawyer. We collect art because it brings us pleasure. My brother is a tech entrepreneur with very deep pockets, thanks to his portfolio of crypto investments. On a Zoom call last week he told us that he’s one of the people driving the NFT boom. He talks as if he is a Medici underwriting a historically important new art movement. It’s either delusional or a convoluted PR stunt for a crypto scheme that I don’t fully understand. He lacks genuine taste. He said he has an “adviser,” but we’re convinced that it’s his friend from Burning Man. The pieces he showed us were beyond bad, and shockingly expensive. Now he’s insisting that I have to collect the same artists. He’s my little brother, so I don’t want to hurt his feelings. How do I tell him politely that his art is shallow and a bad investment?
We’ll ignore the NFT aspect of this question because we’re only a few weeks into the boom, and already no one cares about expensive memes anymore. What’s blazingly apparent is that the collectors driving this craze don’t value the quality of art as much as they ascribe value to the spectacle of high sales prices. You are judging your brother’s priorities, and with good reason. If he were using his money to restore drinking water to Flint, Michigan, instead of buying GIFs, the world would be a more hopeful place and not likely to get ruined by a crypto con job.
Ancient adages often ring true, especially the one about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. You and your wife love art, yet your brother and others might think your cherished purchases completely suck. The opinion of others matters only if you expect your art to increase in financial or historic value. But if you truly love it, that doesn’t matter one bit. Your art enriches your life, not necessarily ours. Maybe your brother simply enjoys a druggy digital art gallery replete with racist signifiers, cosplay upskirts, easy punchlines, and overwhelmingly cynical depictions of a tear-flooded world on the brink of collapse. These may bring him comfort.
Accumulating astronomical wealth does not automatically turn someone into an asshole. It is what the ultra-wealthy invest in and how they spend their money that usually makes them reprehensible. You love the art that speaks to you and brightens your days; he loves “art” because it is an expensive gamble that might yield unbelievable capital. Who’s the real winner here?
In the end, it’s his money, and you can’t tell him how to spend it, or shame him into having better taste. We are all entitled to our own heinous aesthetics and idiosyncratic reasons for connecting with art, no matter how soulful or superficial. Perhaps we can all stay in our own lanes in the name of brotherly love.
An adjunct instructor in my MFA program just stole my idea and art. His new work looks just like my thesis project. He was my mentor and crit leader! Why can’t this loser get his own ideas?! Should I confront him or call him out on social media?
That’s odd. Typically it works the other way around. Smart adjunct teachers don’t show their work in class in order to avoid the sting of seeing their style and technique regurgitated by lazy students. You must be a very good artist for him to take such a bold chance. It can be argued that ideas are shared territory and that all art is a borderless conversation, but the person making that argument is almost always a thief who rips off other artists to strengthen a weak conceptual appropriation game. It seems as if you are certain of his guilt, but don’t let rightful rage mess up your revenge strategy. Reach out and give him an opportunity to explain himself before yanking the pin on your cancel grenade. If his defense is bullshit, and you still feel the urge to go nuclear, make sure to include his words verbatim in your glorious Clubhouse evisceration. If that doesn’t work, rest assured he will naturally marinate in life’s own revenge: being old without any good ideas.
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