The main room of a flat.
A single set. As stripped-down and neutral as possible.
The scenes unfold, successively, at Serge’s, Yvan’s and Marc’s.
Nothing changes, except for the painting hanging on the wall.
MARC: My friend Serge has bought a painting.
It’s a canvas about five foot by four: white. The background is white and if you screw up your eyes, you can make out some fine white diagonal lines.
Serge is one of my oldest friends.
He’s done well for himsel, he’s a dermatologist and he’s keen on art.
On Monday, I went to see the painting; Serge had actually got hold of it on the Saturday, but he’d been lusting after it for several months.
This white painting with white lines.
At floor level, a white canvas, with fine white diagonal scars. Serge looks at his paiting, thrilled.
Marc looks at the painting. Serge looks at Marc looking at the painting.
Long silence: from both of them, a whole range of wordless emotions.
SERGE: Two hundred thousand.
MARC: Two hundred thousand?
SERGE: Handington would take it off my hands for two hundred and twenty.
MARC: Who’s that?
MARC: Never heard of him.
SERGE: Handington! The Handington Gallery!
MARC: And the Handington Gallery would tak it off your hands for two hundred and twenty?
SERGE: No, not the Gallery. Him. Handington himself. For his own collection.
MARC: Then why didn’t Handington buy it?
SERGE: It’s important for them to sell to private clients. That’s how the market circulates.
MARC: Mm hm…
SERGE: You’re not in the right place. Look at it from this angle.
Can you see the lines?
MARC: What’s the name of the…?
SERGE: Painter. Antrios.
SERGE: Very. Very!
MARC: Serge, you haven’t bought this paiting for two hundred thousand francs?
SERGE: You don’t understand, that’s what it costs. It’s an Antrios!
MARC: You haven’t bought this paiting for two hundred thousand francs?
SERGE: I might have known you’d miss the point.
MARC: You paid two hundred thousand francs for this shit?
Serge,as if alone.
SERGE: My friend Marc’s an intelligent enough fellow, I’ve always valued our relationship, he has a good job, aeronautical engineer, but he’s one of those new-style intellectuals, who are not only enemies of modernism, but seem to take some sort of incomprehensibile pride in running it down…
In recent years these nostalgia-merchants have become quite breathtakingly arrogant.
Same pair. Same place. Same picture.
SERGE: What do you mean, ‘this shit’?
MARC: Serge, where’s your sense of humour? Why aren’t you laughing?… It’s fantastic, you buying this painting.
Serge remains stony.
SERGE: I don’t care how fantastic you think it is, I don’t mind if you laugh, but I would like to know what you mean by ‘this shit’.
MARC: You’re taking the piss!
SERGE: No, I’m not. By whose standards is it shit?If you call something shit, you need to have some criterion to judge it by.
MARC: Who are you talking to? Who do you thing you’re talking to? Hello!
SERGE: You have no interest whatsoever in contemporary painting, you never have had. This is a field about which you know absolutely nothing, so how can you assert that any given object, which conforms to laws you don’t understand, is shit?
MARC: Because it is shit. I’m sorry-
SERGE: He doesn’t like the painting.
But there was no warmth in the way he reacted.
No warmth when he dismissed it out of hand.
Just that vile, pretntious laugh.
A real know-all laugh.
I hated that laugh.
 Translation by Yasmina Reza and Christopher Hampton, 1996.