When my girlfriend Claire and I entered the Armory Show’s press conference, Michael Bloomberg stood at the microphone. It was a packed hall. Some people snapped photos; others sat in corners scribbling notes.
Claire and I expected Bloomberg would be discussing this year’s fair, the arts, etc. And from his agitation, it was clear he also expected that the questions wouldn’t dwell on his recent budget proposal. But reporters kept attacking Bloomberg for his education cuts, on account of which almost 5,000 public school teachers (some of whom with seniority) will get laid off. This would overcrowd already crowded classrooms. Eventually Bloomberg said in desperation: “If anyone wants to talk about art, I’m happy to talk about art.”
Then came a few more angry questions followed by the same replies. “We have a budget problem this year. We need a balanced budget this year.” Or, “Right now we have to downsize.” Or, “There’s a 600 million dollar budget – a tremendous amount of money.”
By now people seemed ready for a change in topic, not to mention some laughs, so I moved near the front, raised my hand, and posed a question about Picasso. Here’s the transcript of our brief encounter:
MB: Last question.
JC: Mr. Mayor – Jon Cotner, Paris Review. To change the topic, any thoughts on Picasso’s Blue Period? [Laughter]
MB: Always liked the color. [Laughter] And always…I actually have a connection with Picasso. His widow is a friend of mine. Françoise Gilot. [Pause] So um, I’ll have to consult with her before I say anything about Picasso, or her son, or her daughter, so…thank you very much. This…this [Video ends]
An interesting response to say the least. Behind me a guy said “How lame.” But I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, rather than address the isolation, poverty, and despair of these monochromatic works, Bloomberg gaudily refers to rolling with La Madame.