In my place in line at the airport security checkpoint, I try to tune out a guy behind me, “Look! That man walked right up to the security check. Whose that guy? We were here first. I want to go in that line. I’m not waiting here.” He ranted on and on to anyone who could hear, yet no one in particular. I look at my fellow travelers moving through the airport. Airlines market to our desire to seek a higher level of status. They promote frequent flyer programs offering access to airport club lounges, exclusive lines, and better seats onboard. My mind wanders to art fairs. There, too, attendees clamber for inclusion to the pre-pre-previews. They compare notes to see who’s acquired the most invites to the abundant exclusive parties where they can see and be seen amongst important people. We all have our own personal ‘matter meter’ in which we want to be a V.I.P..
Historically, since the Renaissance, artists painted portraits of privileged aristocrats and nobility. Arguably, the most famous portrait is “Mona Lisa” painted in the 16th century by Leonardo da Vinci. Little is known of the noble woman Lisa Gheradini, who da Vinci captured on canvas. Most likely she was famous in her day. Now her image lives on in a life separate from that of the person. “Mona Lisa” is the V.I.P..
Who is the V.I.P.? This acronym generally known as ‘very important person’ is commonly used today making everybody a V.I.P. As a result, there are many V.I.P.s who consider themselves very (self-assumed) important people, and usually those are the V.I.P.s that others consider very idiotic people or very impolite people. The free dictionary online offers one definition of V.I.P. as visually impaired person. When considering the aforementioned V.I.P.s while they may have 20/20 optics, their self-perception of themselves may be visually impaired. I recognize my status as a V.U.P., a very unimportant person and I take my place waiting in line at the supermarket, the movie theater, the airport and everywhere else behind all the V.I.P.s so busily looking at their electronic devices reading and responding to important texts.
Today, artists are not hired to paint the highly esteemed, popularly known V.I.P.s, rather they are inspired to paint (or photograph) these portraits not for the individual, but for the art collector. I would like to see a revival in portraiture. (I will write more on portraiture in a future posting.)
Who are today’s ‘true’ V.I.P.s? They will not be seen in any V.I.P. line or holding any V.I.P. card because they are instantly recognizable. I call them triple V.I.P.s or VeryVeryVery.Important.Person.s. These 3-V.I.P.s have their people run their errands and make their phone calls, their personal chauffeurs drive them to their private planes, they visit stores, museums, galleries, after hours when no V.I.P.s are to be found or seen.
Shown here are images of 3-V.I.P.s captured by artists. I have purposefully left out titles…because, you know who they are!
Stuart Pearson Wright, 2001. Image courtesy of http://www.saatchi-gallry.co.uk