My phone beeped at 4.30am with a message.
“You were hitting on him!”
It seems that I forgot to put it on airplane mode when crashed into bed. Rubbing my eyes, I reread the message. A curator friend, who I’d planned several projects with, had accused me of hitting on one of her contacts during a dinner. I was completely unprepared for such an aggressive tone.
I looked back on the evening. We’d been in pleasant company at a fun dinner for the opening of a trendy restaurant. Nice faces, wine flowing. It seems she was referring to a handsome young man I had had a nice conversation with. I had no idea that this guy was important to her. In the midst of fun he had made rash statements that I would have been the most ideal wife for him, proclaimed toasts for our unforeseen wedding, and everyone laughed merrily. I had been the loudest.
I left the party with my friend Peter without looking back, and did not think that the cheerful feast would lead to a predawn attack of jealousy. But since that night, my curator friend still avoids eye contact with me – even during a private party at the last Venice Biennale.
A few weeks later, the curator of my upcoming exhibition cancelled her participation in the show. I was surprised by her the cancellation. “Unfortunately, I have to deal with family affairs, this is extremely important. I’m afraid I don’t have enough time to organise your exhibition!” she said. The show was up already and there was no real work for her to do anymore. I was confused, but I soon realised that both women were close friends. I was told that it might have been an act of solidarity .
But since that night, my curator friend still avoids eye contact with me.
I laughed the situation off, surprised about such a childish attitude. Still I was angry somehow and tried to calm myself by reworking my painting of a scene from Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, putting the phrase “You were hitting on him!” digitally on top of the painting. The eerie scene reminded me of the spectrum of emotions that burning jealousy brings out.
Jealousy, however, is not only confined to romance. “Stay away from my collector,” a middle-aged Berlin sculptor hissed fiercely at my classmate Linda during his opening. He invited her to manage his exhibitions, but could not bear the excessive attention that the guests gave to Linda and her paintings. Was it wrong that Linda handed out her business cards and communicated with people? The sculptor stayed guarding Linda, breathing heavily behind her, rather than making contacts with collectors.
Then there’s the story of another friend. The talented young photographer Marcel came to Berlin from Paris and was working on his application at the UDK when he met Bernard, an established photographer also from Paris. Bernhard was working in a 200sqm loft in Kreuzberg and had a bunch of artist friends like David Hockney. Despite an age gap, Marcel and Bernard became close friends, sharing an interest in semiology and French writers. There was a similarity in their artistic work as well: both worked with different layers of analogue photography. It was something that brought the two artists in dialog with each other in the first place. But when Marcel won a prize in Paris and the price for his art rose, he noticed changes in Bernhard’s behaviour.
Jealousy is a green-eyed monster that burns souls tortured by unfulfilled ambitions and suppressed desires.
Berhard didn’t show support but acted almost aggressively. When Marcel delicately confronted, Bernard was furious, accusing Marcel of adopting his way of producing art. Upset, Marcel waited outside of Berhard’s studio for the entire next day until her was bounced off by the assistant. He had considered Bernhard his mentor and best friend and the idea of rivalry between them had been outlandish to him.
Jealousy is a green-eyed monster that burns souls tortured by unfulfilled ambitions and suppressed desires. The art world demonstrates this perfectly – it’s a bloody battle with no winners.