Mayor Giuliani enters Brooklyn

By Steve Martin

An exclusive essay written by actor and devoted art collector Steve Martin for The Saatchi Gallery Art Opus.


‘It’s time, Mr. Mayor.’

‘Wait,’ said Rudy, ‘I’m just getting a brush-up course on art.’

The mayor turned to Philippe de Montebello, the director of the Metropolitan Museum  of Art.

‘Manet … nude people on a lawn. Okay to like. Cézanne, daring apples. Okay to like. Picasso, very daring … nudes, everything,’ said de Montebello.

‘Picasso would be good to like,’ said the mayor.

‘Yes,’ said the mayor’s best friend, Ace. ‘It would show that you’re open to daring art, just not this CRAP!’

The mayor turned to his legal counsel: ‘Everything proceeding with the lawsuit?’

‘Well,’ said the counsel, ‘What if, and this is just a what if, what if we find a clause that says it’s okay for them to charge for specific exhibitions if they’re funded by  outside sources?’ 

‘Hmm,’ said the mayor. ‘Public funds should never be used for art that causes parking overflow and traffic jams. It destroys the city!’

‘Very good, Mr. Mayor.’

With a ‘Let’s go,’ the mayor stood up,  and the group moved out of City Hall, and toward the phalanx of Cameros that had been readied for the taking of Brooklyn.

Not having a sunroof in his car, the mayor was forced to hang out a rolled-down  window, but the effect was potent. People lined the streets to glimpse him as the battery rolled toward the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Some protestors shouted out cat-calls at the mayor. ‘Isn’t that illegal?’ he said. ‘Actually, it’s not,’ replied Ace. The mayor thought for a moment, then said, ‘What if we sprayed them with malathion? ‘Will do,’ said Ace.

They arrived at the Museum and went up the few steps to the entrance, past the security check, up the elevator to the  hallowed halls, housing the big names of nineteenth century art: Heade, Cropsey, Kensett, Cole. ‘These are okay to like,’ said the mayor. ‘I believe so,’ said Ace.

Finally, the entrance to Sensation was before them. The mayor was dumbstruck. A shark was floating in the tank. ‘This is not Manet, this is not Cézanne,’ the mayor said loudly. Then quickly whispered, ‘Is it?’

The next room and the mayor confronted his destiny: a painting of a black Virgin Mary, resting on two shellacked piles of elephant dung. He almost felt his knees buckle, but they didn’t. He felt a swoon coming over him, but it passed. Ace spoke, ‘It’s oddly  benign, it’s kind of sweet.’

‘Fifty lashes,’ shouted the mayor, and Ace was dragged away. Then the mayor, in a strict interpretation of the constitution of the great city of New York, shouted, ‘I am confiscating this painting in the name  of the City of New York and the Mayor of Brooklyn, which I am, I think.’ 


‘Where should we take it, your honor?’

‘Take it to my house; it’s the only place where children under eighteen are safe from it,’ said the mayor.

It was night. The offending painting had been safely installed in the mayor’s bedroom. The mayor stood in front of it, as soft lights played on its lustrous surface. ‘How dare someone make such a picture and then expect it to be displayed with public funds.’ He tried to hold that thought, but it kept slipping away, slipping out of his consciousness. He would resurrect it, but it would recede to somewhere far away, to be replaced with another question that kept intruding. 

‘What does it mean?’ said the question. The mayor sat back on his bed, candlelight play-ing off his face, and repeated the question with a slight variation. ‘What can it mean?’ Then, in the reverential quiet that had befall-en the room, a light with no source saturated everything with an orangy glow, and an  angel appeared. It hovered over him, and the mayor fell to his knees. The angel whispered: ‘What we are compared to Her.’

‘What we are compared to Her?’ thought the mayor. He saw the painting of the Virgin resting on its vile feet, and for a fleeting  second, saw the painting as reverential homage to the glory of God from a pathetic being. Once the angel saw the thought had traced itself, however lightly, across the mayor’s mind, the angel dissolved into the ether and vanished.

The next day the mayor passed Ace in the hallway outside his office. ‘Ace,’ said the mayor, ‘I’m sorry about yesterday.’ ‘Oh that’s all right,’ said Ace, ‘I needed to have some sense legislated into me.’

They shook hands like the old compatriots that they are, and Ace took the mayor aside. ‘So you spent the night with the picture.  

Is it as disgusting as we think it is?’ ‘Oh yes,’

said the mayor. ‘Yes, it is.’ But before he answered, there was a tiny pause of reflection. ‘I’ll keep it at the house for a while, to keep people safe.’

‘Are you sure you’ll be safe from it, Mayor?’ said Ace.

‘Yes, I’ll be safe. I’ll keep it hidden from view and just bring it out for parties so we can ridicule it.’ Ace started to depart, but the mayor stopped him. ‘Oh, Ace, let’s confiscate the shark too. It might look good in the foyer.’

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