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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1298

Art opens with Marc telling the audience that his friend Serge has purchased a painting. Marc describes the painting as a five-foot-by-four-foot white canvas with fine white diagonal lines painted across the white background.

At Serge’s In Serge’s apartment, Marc and Serge look at and discuss Serge’s new painting. Serge...

(The entire section contains 1298 words.)

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Art opens with Marc telling the audience that his friend Serge has purchased a painting. Marc describes the painting as a five-foot-by-four-foot white canvas with fine white diagonal lines painted across the white background.

At Serge’s
In Serge’s apartment, Marc and Serge look at and discuss Serge’s new painting. Serge tells Marc that the painting is by an artist by the name of Antrios and that he paid 200,000 francs (approximately $40,000) for it. Marc laughs at the painting and says it is worthless. Serge asserts that Marc knows nothing about modern art, that he does not understand it, and that he therefore is not in a position to judge the painting.

Alone, Marc addresses the audience, asserting that it is a mystery to him why Serge bought such a painting. He admits that Serge’s buying of the painting has filled him with ‘‘some indefinable unease.’’

At Yvan’s
Alone, Yvan explains to the audience that he has just started a new job as a sales agent for a wholesale stationery business and that he is getting married in two weeks.

Marc visits Yvan at his apartment, where a painting of a motel hangs on the wall. Marc tells Yvan about the white painting Serge just bought. Yvan suggests that if it makes Serge happy and he could afford to pay for it, the quality or price of the painting is not important. Marc tells Yvan that he is hurt and disturbed that Serge bought the painting.

At Serge’s
Yvan visits Serge at his apartment, and they discuss the Antrios painting. Yvan is more openminded about discussing the qualities of the painting itself than Marc was. When Serge tells Yvan how much he paid for the painting, they both share a hearty laugh. Serge tells Yvan that he resents Marc’s response to the painting because of his tactlessness, insensitivity, and tone of smugness in expressing his opinion about it.

At Marc’s
Yvan visits Marc at his apartment, where a landscape painting hangs on the wall. Yvan tells Marc that he saw Serge’s new painting and that he did not like it, nor did he hate it. Marc asks Yvan if Serge’s painting makes him happy.

Alone, Yvan states that the painting does not make him happy but that he is not the kind of person who can really say he is happy about anything.

Alone, Serge asserts that, as far as he is concerned, objectively speaking, the painting is not white, that it has a white background, but that it includes other subtle colors as well.

Alone, Marc states that he should avoid attacking Serge about the painting he bought. Marc vows to be nicer to his friend and to be on his best behavior from now on.

At Serge’s
Marc and Serge wait at Serge’s apartment for Yvan to arrive, as the three of them have plans to go out to a movie together. While they are waiting, Marc and Serge discuss the white Antrios painting. Serge brings the painting in from another room, and the two men contemplate it.

As if alone, Serge suggests that his buying of the painting has caused discord between himself and Marc because Marc does not approve of the painting.

As if alone, Marc states that the discord between himself and Serge started before the purchase of the painting, when Serge used the word ‘‘deconstruction’’ in a discussion of a work of art. Marc observes that it was not the word itself but the tone with which Serge said it that bothered him.

Still at Serge’s apartment, Marc and Serge are continuing their conversation about the painting when Yvan walks in. Yvan gives a long explanation of why he is so late, because he has been dealing with a conflict between his mother and his fiancée over their wedding plans. The three men begin bickering. Serge then tells Yvan that he thinks his fiancée, Catherine, is an obnoxious person and that Yvan is in for ‘‘a hideous future’’ if he marries her. Yvan admits that Catherine has problems but states that he cannot back out of the wedding now that it has been planned.

The men begin again arguing over whether or not the painting is white. As they continue to argue, Marc calls Yvan a coward. Yvan responds to this by walking out of the apartment. Marc tells Serge that he no longer understands what his friendship with Yvan consists of.

A few minutes later, Yvan walks back in, explaining that he realized Marc is expressing some deep anxiety by his aggression toward his friends and that he (Yvan) wants to help Marc work through his problems. Yvan mentions that he has been discussing his friends with his therapist, Finklezohn.

As they continue to argue over the painting, Serge moves it into another room, out of their sight. Serge asserts that he truly loves his painting, which Marc finds hard to believe. Serge says that Marc criticizing his painting, which he loves, would be like Serge criticizing Marc’s girlfriend Paula. Serge then says that he thinks Paula is ‘‘ugly, repellent and totally charmless.’’ In anger, Marc physically attacks Serge. When Yvan steps in to try to pull them apart, he is hit in the head, and the scuffle ends.

Marc accuses Serge of replacing their friendship with the Antrios painting he has purchased. Marc points out that Serge used to look up to him and regard him as a role model. Marc explains that he loved being idolized by Serge but that Serge has transferred his idolatry of Marc into an idolatry of art. Marc asserts that the purchase of the Antrios painting symbolizes Serge’s newfound independence from him. Serge is indignant at the suggestion that he had been so strongly influenced by Marc in the past and states that their fifteen-year friendship seems to be at an end.

Serge and Marc then criticize Yvan, complaining that Yvan’s neutrality is what has sparked all the conflict between them. Yvan gets very upset and starts to cry because Marc and Serge are supposed to be witnesses at his upcoming wedding, and this break in their friendship will ruin his wedding plans.

In a moment of calm, all three men snack on a bowl of olives. Serge brings the Antrios painting back into the room. He borrows a blue felt-tip pen from Yvan and hands it to Marc. With Serge’s encouragement, Marc draws on the white painting with the blue pen. He draws a sloped line with a skier in a hat skiing down the slope. Later, Marc and Serge wash the blue ink off the painting, leaving it as white as ever.

As if alone, Yvan speaks directly to the audience, saying that after Marc drew on the painting, they all three went out to dinner. Yvan explains that Serge, in allowing Marc to draw on the painting, proved that he cared about Marc more than he cared about the painting. Yvan relates that, over dinner, Serge and Marc agreed to try to reconstruct their friendship on a trial basis.

As if alone, Serge addresses the audience, admitting that he knew all along that the blue ink would wash off the canvas. He explains that he lied to Marc and told him that he had not known the ink would wash off. He feels guilty about lying but feels that telling the truth at this point would only create more conflict.

As if alone, Marc addresses the audience, reciting a short poem about a skier skiing downhill in the falling snow. Marc ends the poem, and the play, by saying that his friend’s painting ‘‘represents a man who moves across a space / then disappears.’’

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