Today's Reading

As Dana worked her way up toward the skylight and confetti machines, she ignored most of the art on display. The decor—which was all it really was—was a mix of Ansel Adams's iconic photography of the natural world interlaced with Andy Warhol's prints of mass-produced landfill. The Wall Street guys were throwing terms like juxtaposition, negative space, and rampant consumerism around as if they understood—or cared—about them. Dana worked in the art department at Christie's, and she knew advertising when she saw it. When you looked at Warhol's soup cans beside one of Adams's Sierra portraits, it was impossible to miss the message: too much garbage, not enough forethought. Which was why they were all here: Horizon Dynamics was going to change the world. Or so the seven-story foil banners hanging from the ceiling declared in a classic ad agency focus group slogan: Today's Solutions for Tomorrow's Problems!

All of Warhol's work looked like T-shirt art to her. Sure, it was popular. Sure, you immediately knew what you were looking at. Sure, it was a time stamp from an important cultural period. But so what? When Dana looked at the posters and silk-screen portraits, all she saw was a guy who had bothered to show up.

But as an investment? Warhol was a touchstone for both the nascent collector and the uninformed alike; he had brand recognition. It didn't matter if it was a Brillo box, a portrait of Jagger overlaid with camouflage, or one of his early shoe sketches—they were all known commodities. Looking up a Warhol piece at auction was so much easier than going through the mental anguish of trying to understand how a small painting could be worth more than a large one. When you purchased a 1969 Campbell's Soup II, signed in ballpoint and stamped with its series number, all you had to be able to do was read a catalogue.

But Adams was the real deal—an American giant. That his work was hanging here beside Warhol seemed like a snide remark to Dana. But she understood that not everyone got Adams—the biggest obstacle she faced when speaking to clients was getting them to equate his oeuvre to other art forms. It was sad how he had lost some of his relevance to an age where everyone who carried a cell phone camera fancied themselves a photographer. But to Dana, Adams's work was like reading Whitman—and you either got it or you didn't. And most people didn't.

She was halfway through the final turn around the ramp when she realized that her glass was empty. And since she had spilled half of it, she was entitled to one more. But that would be it—a single drink. Then it was quits for the night. Cross her heart.

Dana looked over the railing to the atrium below. The bar was too far away to make in these heels. And she wasn't in the mood for running into Muffy/Missy and Cruella on the way down to discuss children she didn't have and trips she wouldn't take.

She looked around for the elevator just as the lights began to dim. She steadied herself on the railing and looked down into the atrium far below.

The string section began a playful little composition that sounded like birds chirping.

Then foil confetti began to snow from the machines hanging beneath the skylight—fluttering down in a thick, mirrored swarm. The lasers punched into the cloud and it pulsed, developing a heartbeat. It looked alive, playful.

The atrium erupted in applause.

Holograms blossomed from the floor, sprouting up toward the falling foil—three-dimensional tree trunks that grew in accelerated time lapse, branches reaching toward the skylight. The outstretched holographic limbs contorted as they rose and touched the falling foil confetti, and the transformation was complete.

For an instant, the Guggenheim was a lush translucent forest, heavy trunks of computer-generated old-growth trees ascending into the thick canopy of foil foliage overhead.

The gentle chirps generated from the violinists changed pitch and turned into the calls of exotic birds, each voice different.

The room disappeared, and Dana was transplanted to an ancient point in time, before man began to tiptoe toward the happenstance of evolution.

She began to clap with the rest of the partygoers. Then—Dana's mind had time to register the flash. And the initial instant of the explosion.

But everything disappeared when she was destroyed by the shock wave.

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