Themes and Meanings
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.)