JS: And what do you make of those people and their new interest in us?
MW: For me, the art world — my beloved home since Columbia University made me realize I was not an art historian — always had the congeniality of a hornet’s nest and the glamour of a teacher’s lounge, so I was surprised to see famous people who could be anywhere crossing the moat. And not just cross it, but really seem to have fun inside the castle. And then entertain the castle. Then the art-world grumbling started. The same tired notions of the art world being invaded by celebrity, and the transforming of the art world into the entertainment world … blah blah blah, I can’t even finish the sentence without falling asleep. But had nobody heard of the strange calculus in which the fame of a celebrity fades as the celebrity approaches the gravitational sphere of the art world?
JS: That’s your theory, right? You call it “Gaga’s Law.”
MW: Okay, it’s a crackpot theory. But don’t crackpot theories, art, and religion all have in common the fact that they might not matter?
It used to be that an artist hitting a mid-career skid and needing to feed his (it was all his, so I use that pronoun confidently) addiction for attention would start hurling himself at the actor or celebrity of the moment to get a few secondhand butterfly kisses of fame. But now I worry about the celebrities. Really. I can’t sleep. We seem to get them when they flatline. I like Miley Cyrus. I liked the “Wrecking Ball” video. She really cried, for Christ’s sake. But I worry about her. It used to be that celebrity art took the form of the Gustave Moreau-esque face-paintings of Phyllis Diller and John Wayne Gacy’s sad clowns. Chuckled at, but not laughed at. Why a celebrity would open him- or herself up to the damning ridicule of the art world by tossing their bleeding hobby into that shark tank, I have no idea. What is wrong with being loved all the time?