“Queer Eye” Is Great but the Wall Décor Ain’t

Dr. Yi’s new living room

A visit from The Fab Five is a wonderful thing. Everybody gets a remodeled house, a great haircut, flattering clothes, a cooking lesson, a gentle prodding to take more care of themselves (you are worth it!) and a lot of hugs.
The team is sensitive and flexible to the needs of the recipients—a barn for an animal rescuer, remodeled restaurants, a trip to the gym, a music room, new teeth, glasses, a writing space for a guy that teaches writing workshops, a gym for a physical trainer, connection to a winery for a veteran trying to save the family farm with a farm-to-table restaurant, a community center for another vet building housing for homeless veterans, a fixed-up clinic and garden for a doctor who has a clinic and a school to train medical personnel (a remarkable person!,) reconnections to family, friends and possible mates—I could go on and on.
The people they help are wonderful too, lovable and loved— and we know that because they are nominated by parents, partners, friends and employees who all see something special about them. The main reasons they don’t take care of themselves are because they are depressed, don’t know how or they are giving it all to other people—or a combination of these.

So, it may seem very low of me to criticize the Fab Five for the furniture store wall decor they put in these remodeled living spaces. But please, hear me out. This is a crisis in American art—I’m just using Queer Eye to make the point.

Here is Dr. Yi, “a caring pediatrician, first generation Korean-American, the first in her family to go to college.” She was nominated by her husband who was taking care of their three-year-old while Yi finished her residency. See her remodeled living room above.

This is her living room pre-QE:

Dr. Yi’s living room pre QE

This her new bedroom:

Dr. Yi’s new bedroom
Dr. Yi’s old bedroom

My real question is not to QE, but to artists.  Should Dr. Yi and her family have this mindless crap on their walls?

Here is Tyreek. He is a writer. He works with an initiative called Mighty Writers in West Philly, where he “teaches children writing not only as a tool to learn but as a tool for personal development. He volunteers with ‘The Block Gives Back’, in a bid to clean up neighborhoods and create a strong sense of community.” Two examples of the new pictures.

Tyreek and Bobby from the show and the new art

Here is AJ, a civil engineer. He inherited from his father a good-looking painting that the team reframed and hung in his living room and matched the accent pillows and curtains to—but okay. I mention him because he is the only person who mentions the art. When he sees MIA which they hung in his bedroom, he says, “Wow, there’s a piece of art in here!”

And here is Matt. The farm guy. Oh, he did also mention the art. He said, “There’s stuff on the walls…and pictures!”

The guys are only there for a week, of course, and there’s a lot to do. They do make some effort to tie the art to the person, musical notes for a musician, a cow and farm landscapes for the farmer, etc. And it’s also likely that some of their suppliers give the furnishings for the publicity.
I asked a few of my painter friends if they would do that. Only one of them said yes—without enthusiasm.
(I know that they store quite a bit of their own work, as I do myself.)
The reasons why not were unclear and perhaps not comfortable to say. Something to do possibly with devaluing their work by giving it away, a question whether the recipient would like it and take care of it—that is super important to all of us.
And, I think the unspoken reason is that neither the QE watchers nor the people involved are their intended audience. And certainly they never will be, if they think art is for museums and the super elite—as it seems to be now.
Another thing is that art does not function as décor—it stands out, providing an experience, a place, a memory (even of a place you have never been), an inner world of feeling—it takes you somewhere else. Decorators don’t seem to like it for that.

Real art, and yes, that’s what I’m calling it, might possibly be worth something someday, either monetarily or in some other form of value to your heirs. And nothing from a furniture store will ever be.

I like the idea of my work starting its public life in an intimate and/or modest place. But it’s not all that easy to “sell” it even if I’m giving it away. A friend admired a painting of mine and I gave it to him, only to find that he didn’t like it—perhaps he was being “nice”—ugh, I hate that.
And just last week, we had mice and one of the exterminators admired a painting unsolicited (!) and I offered to exchange it for mice control —and he laughed. I was too shy to ask if he thought it wasn’t worth 175 dollars.

I tend to ignore the whole genre of furniture store art. Most people in the art world probably do. But check it out:

The example above is from Wayfair and look at the prices. Not only is the first piece on the left $33.99—it’s been discounted from $45.99. They don’t seem to make money from the art they sell, they just need something on the walls of the store.

QE also uses IKEA and West Elm where the prices are a bit more.
This one is $200 discounted from $350. There is some pretense in the marketing that the work is special–a hilarious example are the pieces designated as “minted for West Elm.”


“Minted for west elm – After The Storm by Sue Prue”

$233 – $319

Select Size: 24″x24″

One episode from Queer Eye, “A Decent Proposal,” stood out in a horrifying way. I’ll be covering it in my next episode.


P.S.-I think I should say again that the Fab Five are really cute and very kind and the show is a fascinating picture of American life.