Magritte With Some Fellows

Magritte liked to wear-and play around with-bowler hats

Cookie brought Cookie Junior, Sis, and me to a swell do at the Art Institute the other week. Cookie is a Fellow there, and as such, she gets to learn and do more things than a regular member like me. Luckily she can invite several commoners along to special events, which is how I got in.

We learned more about the Belgian surrealist Magritte than I already knew, but that isn’t saying much. Everything I knew about him prior to July 1, 2014 I learned from watching the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.

After learning a few things, and hearing stories I’m not supposed to repeat, we went to the reception. They do lovely receptions for Art Institute Fellows and their guests, but this one was something special. In keeping with the surrealist themes, many things were not what they appeared to be.

The most obvious place to acquire a napkin was from the young woman who wore thousands of them as a cocktail dress. As guests entered the reception and were drawn irresistibly to her bright turquoise form, she invited them—actually it seemed more like a  dare—to remove a napkin from her dress. Each paper square came off, with a bit of tugging, mostly to reveal more napkins underneath. Her knee-length skirt stood out like an inverted bowl, easily five feet in diameter at the bottom. Much hardware went into the design of her ensemble, but it would take a determined investigator some time to discover exactly how her dress managed to keep her decently covered while performing its useful service. We wanted to get to the exhibit itself, so we let that remain a mystery.

Red-and-white-striped cartons labeled “popcorn” were found to actually be holders for broccoli and cauliflower florets. Pale turquoise acrylic martini glasses contained a clear, cold liquid, but they were in such high demand that it was impossible to acquire any of this particular refreshment. Likely they held water, thus providing another means of astonishing the evening’s attendees. Small, pale egg-shaped forms floating in a creamy orange sea turned out to be white chocolate truffles. Adorning each round table was a silhouette of René Magritte in his iconic bowler hat, made of foam core, painted black, and stuck into a square pewter-colored metal vase that was filled with glitter-covered Styrofoam. At the the end of the evening, guests could be seen making off with these mementos. I might actually know someone who helped herself to one, but if so, I’m not squealing.

In the exhibit itself, trains roared out of fireplaces, a man peered into a mirror at a reflection of the back of his own head, a nude woman was painted into existence by a man who clearly longed for her, and an easel set up before a window might have shown what was outside the window, but might just as easily have obscured the actual view.

Magritte and the Mystery of the Ordinary. There’s a story there. I’ve got to go back and find out what it is.

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