What does Banksy have that I don’t? Aside from $10 million….
When a big Claude Monet show came to the Denver Art Museum in 2019, I went twice. Once to the member preview, and again when my son Jake and his partner Lisa flew out from Brooklyn. For me, the exhibit changed from one visit to the next, just like the haystacks near Giverny did for Monet, from the summer 1890 to springtime 1891. That’s when he painted perhaps the most famous series of paintings ever done. Of humble haystacks!
The quotidian glance, transformed into high art. Which, when you think of it, is where genius truly lies: To hold up the everyday world to us, and say: See? It’s beautiful. Are you paying attention?
At the first show, I absorbed his paintings in reflective, worshipful solitude. That’s why you sign up for membership: To secure a gallery entry that excludes the riffraff, so you can have time alone with the art. Hush: You’re in the presence of sacred culture.
During my second crack at DAM’s Monet show, I was jostling with humanity, which always puts me into an antic disposition. In a crowd, I tend to observe the observers more than the artwork that drew them, and all sorts of thoughts pop into my mind.
As I waited for the crowd to clear, so I could have alone-time with Haystacks: Midday,
my mind started making connections. Or maybe I was just yearning for a snack. Why, I thought, Monet’s haystacks look just like cupcakes! Soon I was ready for a new project in my acrylic painting class, and this hit the canvas.
Like my painting teacher Claude, I didn’t stop there. Next I corrupted Monet’s Grainstacks: Snow Effect…
with more cupcakes.
I was particularly proud of the precipitation. They were sprinkles, after all.
Claude Monet had more patience than I. He stuck with his grainy-day theme through twenty-five canvases, including Meules, which sold at auction for $110.7 million two years ago. In French, meules means either “grindstones” or “grain,” which calls to mind the William Butler Yeats line, “how can we know the dancer from the dance?” Dancer is to dance, as grain is to grindstone. Get it?
I skipped that ambiguity entirely, by swapping out the haystacks. Art historians take note: I was now done with my “cupcake period,” and ready to move on to Hershey’s Kisses.
Soon after I hung my series on the wall of our kitchen — where else? — I saw this CNN headline: “Banksy’s ‘Show me the Monet’ painting sells for nearly $10 million.”
Here it is:
Now the intriguing question becomes: Did the secretive Banksy break into our house and see my Monet Cupcakes, and Claude Kisses, before he worked his second-hand magic with Bridge at Giverny? I can’t rule it out: His true identity is a closely guarded secret. And our guest list was short last year, which limits the field of suspects.
So, Banksy, I’m onto you. Fork over $4.9 million, and I keep this quiet.
As for you, Claude, my apologies. Care for a cupcake?