Art (play)

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Art Reza-Hampton.jpg
Written by Yasmina Reza
Date premiered 28 October 1994
Place premiered Comédie des Champs-Élysées, Paris
Original language French
Genre Comedy
Setting The Paris apartments of Serge, Marc, and Yvan

'Art' is a French-language play by Yasmina Reza that premiered on 28 October 1994 at Comédie des Champs-Élysées in Paris. The English-language adaptation, translated by Christopher Hampton, opened in London's West End on 15 October 1996, starring Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Ken Stott, produced by David Pugh and Sean Connery, running for eight years.[1]

'Art' played on Broadway in New York from February 12, 1998 to August 8, 1999, again produced by Pugh and Connery, plus Joan Cullman. The March 1, 1998 opening-night cast featured Alan Alda (Marc), Victor Garber (Serge), and Alfred Molina (Yvan), who was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance. 'Art' won the Tony for Best Play and went on to a 600-performance run. Replacement actors included Judd Hirsch, Joe Morton, George Wendt, Buck Henry, George Segal, and Wayne Knight.

From December 2016 to February 2017 the play was revived at The Old Vic, London starring Rufus Sewell, Tim Key and Paul Ritter[2] and will embark a UK tour from February 2018.[3][4]

The comedy, which raises questions about art and friendship, concerns three long-time friends, Serge, Marc, and Yvan. Serge, indulging his penchant for modern art, buys a large, expensive, completely white painting. Marc is horrified, and their relationship suffers considerable strain as a result of their differing opinions about what constitutes "art". Yvan, caught in the middle of the conflict, tries to please and mollify both of them.

The play is not divided into acts and scenes in the traditional manner, but it does nevertheless fall into sections (numbered 1–17 by Pigeat).[5] Some of these are dialogues between two characters, several are monologues where one of the characters addresses the audience directly, and one is a conversation among all three. At the beginning and end of the play, and for most of the scenes set in Serge's flat, the large white painting is on prominent display.


Serge and Marc inspect the white painting in a 2011 production by OVO theatre company, St Albans, UK.

Set in Paris, the story revolves around three friends—Serge, Marc and Yvan—who find their previously solid 15-year friendship on shaky ground when Serge buys an expensive painting. The canvas is white, with a few white lines.

Serge is proud of his 200,000 franc acquisition, fully expecting the approval of his friends.

Marc scornfully describes it as "a piece of white shit", but is it the painting that offends him, or the uncharacteristic independence of thought that the purchase reveals in Serge?

For the insecure Yvan, burdened by the problems of his impending doom (wedding) where he is stuck in an insoluble problem and his dissatisfaction at his job as a stationery salesman, their friendship is his sanctuary, but his attempts at peace-making backfire. Eager to please he laughs about the painting with Marc but tells Serge he likes it. Pulled into the disagreement, his vacillations fuel the blazing row.

Lines are drawn and they square off over the canvas, using it as an excuse to relentlessly batter one another over various failures. As their arguments become less theoretical and more personal, they border on destroying their friendship.

Awards and nominations[edit]



  1. ^ Andersson, Benny; Ulvaeus, Bjorn; and Craymer, Judy (2006), "Mamma Mia! How Can I Resist You? - The Inside Story of Mamma Mia and the Songs of ABBA", Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, p. 151.
  2. ^ Billington, Michael (2016-12-21). "Art review – Rufus Sewell shines in finely shaded character study". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-01-16. 
  3. ^ "How the Old Vic has reinvented itself post-Kevin Spacey | Features | The Stage". The Stage. 2017-05-04. Retrieved 2017-05-14. 
  4. ^ "David Pugh on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-05-14. 
  5. ^ Pigeat, Aurélien (2005). Art (in French). Paris: Hatier. ISBN 2-218-75089-9. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Reza, Yasmina (1994). Art (in French). Arles: Actes sud. ISBN 2-86943-410-3. 
  • Reza, Yasmina; Hampton, Christopher (1996). 'Art'. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-19014-6. 

External links[edit]