The Wrong Trousers

in which Jonathan Grossmalerman worries about the ingenious devices shippers use in order to ruin his precious art and what Miami people will think about his soiled outerwear

By Jonathan Grossmalerman

Dreaded window box

So, Miami – we meet again... I’ve survived the unpleasant turbulence that played with our hurtling vessel, careening through space, batted about by the unseen paws of some capricious celestial feline (that’s supposed to be a metaphor for the last several years of my life for the most part, but also, coincidentally, what upset the brittle plastic cup on my tray table, spilling its contents on my lap and implying a pee stain, which I assure you it is not.... What else can I say? Turbulence freaks me out).

Anyway, I hope my beautiful paintings had a smoother trip. Crated and lovingly strapped into a truck. At least I hope they were crated. Goddamn it! I bet they used travel frames. Paintings stare out like caged animals from those! Trapped behind wood slats. Garrotted! Any malevolently careless art handler could take a spike or what-have-you and poke a painting through a travel frame. In the hands of an art handler, a travel frame is worthless. Have you ever met an art handler? I don’t like to disparage a whole profession, but art handlers are real shitbags! It’s a well-established fact. You know Caravaggio once killed one?

No, travel frames are really just a minimum of protection!

Actually, a minimum of protection is the dreaded window box! That’s when a gallery doesn’t care or have the money to use real wood and merely folds some cardboard around the edges with a 5cm lip, haphazardly wrapping plastic around it, which in turn is meant to hover over the surface of the painting and protect it as if by magic. It’s awful to even watch art handlers perform this barbarism. The evident guilt in their furtive movements. Momentarily seized with feeling as though a regular person. Like hired goons murdering a child. They know they are doing wrong, yet there they are, doing it anyway. Afterwards they skulk silently and cannot meet anyone’s gaze for some time. I’ve seen this many times and it never gets any easier. There is absolutely nothing more insidiously criminal than a window box!

Of course, I could arrive to find they’ve simply bubble-wrapped my paintings. Perhaps separated them with sheets of cardboard? My chest tightens at the thought of what horror might have befallen them on their hellish death march. Manhandled within an inch of their lives by the grubby paws of every shiftless meth-addled art handler in New York. Laughed at and spat upon! Placed back-to- front! Terrible sculptures nudged up against them incautiously! Perhaps even set on fire! Who knows what these art handlers do? Has it ever been documented!? They exist in an entirely grey area! A dank middle-world of bitterness and regret! Something must be done!

What I hoped would be a triumphant reentry is now ruined. I am a worried mess, clutching my carry-on awkwardly so as to hide my drink-/urine-stained trousers and close to tears as I limp down the aisle. The stewardess winces as I pass, not even offering a rote “buh-bye”.

Wrapped in bubble wrap! Wrapped in bubble wrap! Perhaps just wrapped in plastic! Why not? All bets are off now. The resignation sets in. The fires of excitement in my heart are extinguished.

It’s true, I’m showing with a young, seemingly artist-run Bushwick gallery at Pulse, one of Miami Basel’s many satellite fairs. Yes, my paintings have probably been mishandled by syphilitic criminals. Molested in the most perverse and unkind ways.

But will the pleasant tropical breeze not be the same after all? Will thonged vaginas not frolic under the palm trees paired with browned bouncing breasts? And won’t the ultrarich be in the general vicinity? Will my hotel porter be any less hot, Latino and gay for me showing at a lesser fair? I may be on the outside looking in, but is the view not wonderful? It is. It is wonderful.

Hello, Miami, I love you. Now is there a place I can get some clean trousers? 

This article first appeared in the January & February 2016 issue of ArtReview.