The Meaning of High Art

The Meaning of High Art is a Shavian look at what it takes to make it as an artist– talent, perseverance, a little luck, but most importantly a shrewd business sense. It’s the story of an idealistic artist hailed as a genius for work he did as a joke while drunk, who tries in vain to get people to appreciate his “real” paintings.

Leonardo Bailey (Leo) is a talented artist with a peculiar talent for painting realistic, although hugely depressing, paintings of New York City. Unfortunately, people hate reality, and thus, his paintings. One miserable evening, while getting obscenely drunk, he paints several colorful, impressionistic happy faces. And it’s a huge success, and he’s economically forced to paint dozens of “happy, sappy, stupid” paintings. His career continues to skyrocket. And with such success comes a new penthouse apartment, a speedy new sports car, and the admiration of Jenny, the beautiful young woman he’s been lusting after.

Leo finally gets a show along side of another great artist, Alfred Doolittle. But Leo hates Doolittle’s work, and when he meets Doolittle, he tells him so. Doolittle simply smiles and agrees, explaining that his mediocre art work is merely a wise business decision, shallow and superficial, but infinitely marketable. Leo becomes determined to sell his “real” paintings.

Leo slides one of his “real” paintings into his next show and the critics rip it to shreds. Meanwhile, a homeless man steals some of Leo’s “real” paintings and shows them as his own. And the homeless man receives massive critical acclaim for Leo’s work. Utterly distraught, Leo breaks up with his girlfriend and prepares to plunge off the balcony of his penthouse apartment. But Doolittle arrives and points out that killing himself will only increase the value of his “happy, sappy, stupid” paintings. Completely frustrated, Leo tells the public the truth, that his “happy, sappy, stupid” paintings were the result of a drunken stupor, not the work of a true artist, but everyone just laughs, figuring it’s the ranting of a temperamental artist. And now, combined with the suicide attempt, the value of his “happy, sappy, stupid” paintings enters the stratosphere. In a last ditch effort to make his “real” work seen, Leo takes off after Doolittle and ends up learning the ultimate lesson about art, life… and most importantly the business of art.

The Meaning of High Art is a broad comedy for all the people who think they have a vision (however misguided that notion may be), and feel surrounded by people who don’t. It’s a comic quest about truth, genius, and what “high art” really is, and it’s the ultimate revenge on all the doubters who couldn’t see genius and originality if it hit them square on the head!

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