Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
Yasmina Reza got the idea for this play when a friend named Serge Goldszal bought a white painting for 200,000 francs, and she told him that he “must be mad,” and then they both laughed. Later, she wondered what might have happened if her friend had not laughed.
“Art” is widely acclaimed as a glittering study of male psychology. Marc, controlling and aggressive, is hurt that Serge could buy the painting without first consulting him. Marc does not understand Serge’s assertion that the Antrios painting has a “system,” that its minimalism builds upon the centuries of art that preceded it. To Marc, Serge is self-deluded, and in acting without Marc’s cultural guidance, he is a traitor. Both view Yvan, the conciliator, as weak. Serge is perhaps the most likable—always the first to admit he might be wrong—but those not familiar with art may find him snooty.
Reza told interviewer Simon Hattenstone, “Things are never clear in real life, so why should they be in art?” The play tackles the age-old question, “What is art?” For Serge, the answer lies in the judgment of the critics. When confronted by Marc’s astonishment at the price he paid, Serge notes he could resell it “for two hundred and twenty.” He feels smug for owning a work by a “well-known” artist. Still, Serge wants his friends’ approval, too.
Serge talks twice about Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the Stoic first century philosopher who wrote...
(The entire section is 549 words.)
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The Nature of Friendship
The central theme of Art is the nature of friendship. The play revolves around the interactions of three middle-aged men who have been friends for some fifteen years. This long-standing friendship is thrown into crisis when Serge purchases an expensive work of art. The severity of this crisis demonstrates the fragile nature of friendship because a simple change in the status quo brings up longstanding tensions between the three friends. Anne Marie Donahue observed in a Boston Globe review that Art concerns ‘‘the sadness and confusion that can result when long-term friendships collapse for no clear reason.’’ Benedict Nightingale noted in a review in the Times (London) that Art is about elements of ‘‘the politics of friendship,’’ such as ‘‘dominance, control, insecurity, and the place of compromise and fibs in most relationships.’’ By the play’s end, Serge and Marc have agreed to ‘‘reconstruct’’ their friendship, and they intend to have a ‘‘trial period’’ of reconciliation. Thus, while the friendship between the three men is temporarily patched up, the fragility of these relationships has been established, and the future of the friendship is left up in the air.
Friendship and Change
Marc feels that Serge’s purchase of the Antrios painting is a symbol of a major change in the nature of their friendship. Marc explains that Serge...
(The entire section is 841 words.)