Dear Ms. Demeanor,
We live in a relatively small co-op building with six apartments per floor. Recently, one of the largest apartments on ours sold to a very wealthy couple who happen to be fine art dealers.
After they finished a gut renovation of their unit, they offered to redecorate the common hallway, which had suffered more than the usual wear-and-tear during the extensive siege by their contractors.
The finished project (product) is top-of-the-line and elegant. Unfortunately, in my view, the same cannot be said of the artwork they chose to display in the hall. As the mother of two young children, I am uncomfortable with explicit nude images in a public venue.
How do I approach my new neighbors and explain that I don’t find this “art” appropriate for our common areas?
Oh, my! This seems to be a case of be careful what you wish for!
How absolutely lovely that your new neighbors attempted to win friends and influence people by cleaning up their messes and leaving the hallway better than before they arrived.
Yet as it appears you ceded all control when you (or your board) approved the hallway renovation, you may need to pursue an extremely diplomatic solution.
Before you embark down that road, it may help to remember that taste in art is a subjective matter. From what you have told me about the decoration of your common area, it would appear that your new co-habitants are sophisticated patrons of the good life.
Take a good, long, hard look at the artworks… Are they “artistic”, explicit or pornographic… As Justice Potter Stewart said of the latter landmark Supreme Court case, “I know it when I see it.”
If you still believe that the pictures cross the line between art and are-you-kidding-me, slip a note under the neighbors’ door (a note allows you to say exactly what you mean without being distracted or hemming and hawing in a face-to-face exchange) thanking them profusely for their generosity and lauding the upgrade in style. Politely mention that while you are fascinated by the new exhibit, you find it all a bit too provocative for the semi-public arena of the hallway.
You could suggest they mount something less challenging, or you might propose a monthly exhibition that rotates amongst all your hall mates… anything and everything from travel photography to finger paintings. If they are true art lovers, they will be delighted to see what you all have to offer.
Last ditch diplomacy: Identify the one or two most discomfiting pieces and gently ask if they would mind hanging them at the opposite end of the hall from your door. Then, at least you won’t have to brace yourself every time you leave the house.
Previous advice from Ms. Demeanor: