Art

by

Yasmina Reza

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Yvan Character Analysis

The meekest of the trio, Yvan works at a stationery company that belongs to his fiancée’s uncle. He is drawn into the argument between Marc and Serge as a kind of referee when Marc, having become upset by Serge’s acquisition of the two-hundred-thousand-franc all-white Antrios painting, asks Yvan to take a look at the painting and confirm how ridiculous and offensive Marc thinks it is. Yvan, however, finds himself moved by the painting. He is then caught between his two more ego-driven, competition-hungry friends as they attempt, during a long night of fighting and arguing, to one-up one another and get to the root of how completely differently they see the painting. This time, Yvan appoints himself the referee in the situation—which draws Marc and Serge’s ire and resentment, and causes them to call him out for being an “amoeba,” always waffling or refusing to take a stand. Furthermore, they mock his masculinity because he seems to be going through with a marriage that he finds exceedingly stressful, mostly to appease the women in his life. Despite this, Yvan provides the most valuable statement of the night when he references a theory posited by his therapist when he brought up Marc and Serge’s tumultuous friendship to the doctor—he reveals that his therapist ventured that if two people bind their identities up in one another’s opinions, there can be no healthy growth and no independence. This is exactly the position Marc and Serge have gotten themselves into—Marc, believing Serge sees him as a “mentor” in the art world, has grown to love the fact that Serge was largely dependent on Marc’s ideas and opinions, and now that Serge has severed himself from this unspoken contract in an attempt to assert his individuality and feed his own ego, the fallout is devastating. As the play ends with Serge inviting Marc to deface the Antrios by drawing on it with one of Yvan’s pens—in order to prove that Serge loves Marc more than the painting—Yvan looks on in horror, amazed at the small and large acts of betrayal and cruelty that have escalated over the course of the evening. In the play’s coda, Yvan reveals to the audience through a direct address that he has, in the weeks since the trio’s fight, found himself constantly on the verge of crying uncontrollably, overly sensitive in the wake of having witnessed such emotional violence and unable to withstand any “rational argument” that arises in his day-to-day life.

Yvan Quotes in Art

The Art quotes below are all either spoken by Yvan or refer to Yvan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Art and Meaning Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of Art published in 1997.
Scene 1: At Serge’s Quotes

MARC: It’s a complete mystery to me, Serge buying this painting. It’s unsettled me, it’s filled me with some indefinable unease. When I left his place, I had to take three capsules of Gelsemium 9X which Paula recommended because I couldn’t begin to understand how Serge, my friend, could have bought that picture. Two hundred thousand francs! He’s comfortably off, but he’s hardly rolling in money. Comfortable, no more, just comfortable. And he spends two hundred grand on a white painting. I must go and see Yvan, he’s a friend of ours, I have to discuss this with Yvan. Mind you, Yvan’s a very tolerant bloke, which of course, when it comes to relationships, is the worst thing you can be. Yvan’s very tolerant because he couldn’t care less. If Yvan tolerates the fact that Serge has spent two hundred grand on some piece of white shit, it’s because he couldn’t care less about Serge. Obviously.

Related Characters: Marc (speaker), Serge, Yvan
Related Symbols: The Antrios Painting
Page Number: 4-5
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 2: At Yvan’s Quotes

YVAN: As long as it’s not doing any harm to anyone else…

MARC: But it is. It’s doing harm to me! I’m disturbed, I’m disturbed, more than that, I’m hurt, yes, I am, I’m fond of Serge, and to see him let himself be ripped off and lose every ounce of discernment through sheer snobbery.

Related Characters: Marc (speaker), Yvan (speaker), Serge
Related Symbols: The Antrios Painting
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 3: At Serge’s Quotes

SERGE: You know Marc’s seen this painting.

YVAN: Oh?

SERGE: Devastated.

YVAN: Oh?

SERGE: He told me it was shit. A completely inappropriate description.

YVAN: Absolutely.

SERGE: You can’t call this shit.

YVAN: No.

SERGE: You can say, I don’t get it, I can’t grasp it, you can’t say “it’s shit.”

YVAN: You’ve seen his place.

SERGE: Nothing to see. It’s like yours, it’s… what I mean is, you couldn’t care less.

Related Characters: Serge (speaker), Yvan (speaker), Marc
Related Symbols: The Antrios Painting
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

SERGE: I don't blame him for not responding to this painting, he hasn't the training, there's a whole apprenticeship you have to go through, which he hasn't, either because he's never wanted to or because he has no particular instinct for it, none of that matters, no, what I blame him for is his tone of voice, his complacency, his tactlessness. I blame him for his insensitivity. I don't blame him for not being interested in modern Art, I couldn’t give a toss about that, I like him for other reasons . . .

YVAN: And he likes you!

SERGE: No, no, no, no, I felt it the other day, a kind of . . . a kind of condescension . . . contempt with a really bitter edge...

YVAN: No, surely not!

SERGE: Oh, yes! Don’t keep trying to smooth things over. Where d'you get this urge to be the great reconciler of the human race?! Why don't you admit that Marc is atrophying? If he hasn't already atrophied.

Related Characters: Serge (speaker), Yvan (speaker), Marc
Related Symbols: The Antrios Painting
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 4: At Marc’s Quotes

MARC: He wasn't laughing because his painting is ridiculous, you and he weren't laughing for the same reasons, you were laughing at the painting and he was laughing to ingratiate himself, to put himself on your wavelength, to show you that on top of being an aesthete who can spend more on a painting than you earn in a year, he's still your same old subversive mate who likes a good laugh.

YVAN: Mm hm… You know. . .

MARC: Yes...

YVAN: This is going to amaze you…

MARC: Go on. . .

YVAN: I didn't like the painting . . . but I didn't actually hate it.

MARC: Well, of course. You can’t hate what's invisible, you can't hate nothing.

YVAN: No, no, it has something . . .

MARC: What do you mean?

YVAN: It has something. It's not nothing.

Related Characters: Marc (speaker), Yvan (speaker), Serge
Related Symbols: The Antrios Painting
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 5: At Serge’s Quotes

YVAN: “If I’m who I am because I’m who I am and you’re who you are because you’re who you are, then I’m who I am and you’re who you are. If, on the other hand, I’m who I am because you’re who you are, and if you’re who you are because I am who I am, then I’m not who I am and you’re not who you are…” You see why I had to write it down.

Related Characters: Yvan (speaker), Marc, Serge
Page Number: 41-42
Explanation and Analysis:

MARC: It’s true I can’t imagine you genuinely loving that painting.

YVAN: But why?

MARC: Because I love Serge and I can’t love the Serge who’s capable of buying that painting.

SERGE: Why do you say buying, why don’t you say loving?

MARC: Because I can’t say loving, I can’t believe loving.

SERGE: So why would I buy it, if I didn’t love it?

MARC: That’s the nub of the question.

SERGE: (to YVAN) See how smug he is! All I’m doing is teasing him, and his answer is this serenely pompous heavy hint! And it never crossed your mind, [Marc,] for a second, however improbably it might seem, that I might really love it and that your vicious, inflexible opinions and your disgusting assumption[s] might be hurtful to me?

MARC: No.

Related Characters: Marc (speaker), Serge (speaker), Yvan (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Antrios Painting
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

YVAN: I’m not like you, I don’t want to be an authority figure, I don’t want to be a point of reference, I don’t want to be self-sufficient, I just want to be your friend Yvan the joker! Yvan the joker!

SERGE: Could we try to steer clear of pathos?

YVAN: I’ve finished. Haven’t you got any nibbles? Anything, just to stop from passing out.

SERGE: I have some olives.

YVAN: Hand them over.

Serge reaches for a little bowl of olives and hands it to him.

SERGE (to MARC): Want some?

Marc nods. Yvan hands him the bowl. They eat olives.

Related Characters: Marc (speaker), Serge (speaker), Yvan (speaker)
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 6: At Serge’s Quotes

YVAN: The day after the wedding, at the Montparnasse cemetery Catherine put a bouquet and a bag of sugared almonds on her mother’s grave. In the evening, thinking about this tribute, I started sobbing in my bed. I absolutely must speak to Finkelzohn about my tendency to cry, I cry all the time, it’s not normal for someone my age. It started, or at least revealed itself at Serge’s, the evening of the white painting. After Serge, in an act of pure madness, had demonstrated to Marc that he cared more about him than he did about his painting, we went and had dinner. Over dinner, Serge and Marc took the decision to try to rebuild a relationship destroyed by word and deed. One of them used to expression “trial period” and I burst into tears. I can no longer bear any kind of rational argument, nothing formative in the world, nothing great or beautiful in the world has ever been born of rational argument.

Related Characters: Yvan (speaker), Marc, Serge
Related Symbols: The Antrios Painting
Page Number: 61-62
Explanation and Analysis:
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Yvan Character Timeline in Art

The timeline below shows where the character Yvan appears in Art. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1: At Serge’s
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Marc says that he must go see Yvan, a mutual friend of his and Serge’s, and discuss the painting with him. Marc says... (full context)
Scene 2: At Yvan’s
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At Yvan’s house, a “daub” hangs on the wall—an intentionless, thoughtless painting executed without any skill at... (full context)
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Marc enters Yvan’s flat, and asks what he is doing. Yvan explains that he is looking for the... (full context)
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Marc asks Yvan if he plans to stay in the flat once he marries his fiancée Catherine, and... (full context)
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Marc asks Yvan if he has seen Serge lately. Yvan says he hasn’t, and Marc reveals that he... (full context)
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Yvan asks Marc to calm down. Marc tells Yvan to let him finish, and then asks... (full context)
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Yvan thinks for a moment, and then says that if the painting makes Serge happy and... (full context)
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Yvan tells Marc that Serge has always been an exhibition freak. Marc counters that once Serge... (full context)
Scene 3: At Serge’s
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Serge and Yvan are together in Serge’s flat. The painting is not on the wall. Yvan asks Serge... (full context)
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...going through a “similar phase” now, the painting is a vintage one. He asks if Yvan likes it. Yvan says that he does. They both remark on how the painting is... (full context)
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Serge tells Yvan conspiratorially that Marc has seen the painting, and was “devastated” by it. He reveals that... (full context)
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Serge tells Yvan that he doesn’t blame Marc for not reacting well to the painting—Marc has not gone... (full context)
Scene 4: At Marc’s
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...wall of Marc’s flat there is a painting of a landscape seen through a window. Yvan and Marc are in the living room discussing Yvan’s recent visit to Serge’s. Yvan tells... (full context)
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...Serge was not laughing because his painting was ridiculous—he was laughing to “ingratiate” himself to Yvan. Yvan meekly agrees. There is a silence, and then Yvan gently tells Marc that while... (full context)
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Yvan tells Marc that he’s getting bitter, and that it’s unattractive. Marc tells Yvan that he... (full context)
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Yvan steps forward and addresses the audience. He says that of course the painting didn’t make... (full context)
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...flaw in Marc’s thinking, Serge says, is that Marc believes the painting to be white. Yvan, on the other hand, can see clearly that the painting is not, in fact, white.... (full context)
Scene 5: At Serge’s
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Marc and Serge are at Serge’s apartment. Serge tells Marc that Yvan liked the Antrios. Marc asks to take another look at it, and Serge excitedly goes... (full context)
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...and helpful. Serge tells Marc that Marc has just completely lost his sense of humor—even Yvan, he says, agrees with him. Marc is hurt by this. He takes a homeopathic capsule,... (full context)
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...that it’s now eight, and everything decent will already have started. He cannot believe that Yvan is always late. Marc suggests leaving without Yvan and going to dinner. Serge agrees, but... (full context)
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...better than any of them. Serge then swiftly changes the subject, telling Marc that if Yvan doesn’t show up in the next three minutes they should head to dinner. Marc accuses... (full context)
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The doorbell rings. It is twelve minutes past eight—Yvan is over half an hour late. Serge lets Yvan in, and Yvan enters, in crisis... (full context)
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When Yvan suggested excluding all parents’ names from the invitation and simply printing his and Catherine’s, Catherine... (full context)
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...and had only heard his half of the conversation, asked what was going on. When Yvan revealed that his mother was being difficult about the wedding, Catherine became angry all over... (full context)
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Serge asks what happened next. Yvan reveals that nothing happened—nothing has been resolved, and after a brief “mini-drama” with Catherine, he... (full context)
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...use of the word modern as a compliment. Serge accuses Marc of needling him incessantly. Yvan tells the two other men that if they spend the whole night fighting, it will... (full context)
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Yvan proclaims that he has put up with enough abuse for one day, and will go... (full context)
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Yvan, distressed, tells the other two men that he can’t possibly call off the wedding—he only... (full context)
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Yvan tells Serge that he thought of him yesterday at work, when they printed five hundred... (full context)
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Marc asks Yvan how he could, in front of him, describe the colors as touching. Yvan tells Marc... (full context)
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...Serge if Serge believes that he himself is a man of his time, and if Yvan is. Marc asserts that Yvan cannot possibly be a man of his time, what with... (full context)
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...take his leave as well. Serge tells Marc that he is a coward for attacking Yvan, who is incapable of defending himself. Marc apologizes to Serge and confides in him that... (full context)
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After a brief silence, Marc apologizes again for upsetting Yvan. Serge reveals that the painting of Yvan’s that Marc insulted was painted by Yvan’s father.... (full context)
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The doorbell rings, and Yvan enters, manic as he was before. He announces that the elevator was full, and so... (full context)
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Yvan tells Marc and Serge that just the other day he was discussing the two of... (full context)
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Marc sarcastically tells Yvan that he is a “lucky man” to be getting advice from Finkelzohn. Serge, jumping on... (full context)
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...Serge argues that he is simply exhausted—and, frankly, is growing bored with both Marc and Yvan. Yvan suggests they all go out to eat, and Serge suggests Marc and Yvan go... (full context)
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Yvan begs his friends to calm down and get along, but Serge tells Yvan he is... (full context)
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...that he cares about Serge’s spending two hundred thousand francs on a “piece of shit.” Yvan begs Marc not to start up again, but Serge is already readying his own argument.... (full context)
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...of Paula, Serge chose not to say that he “found her ugly, repellent, and charmless.” Yvan accuses Serge of lying to make Marc feel bad, but Serge insists that he actually... (full context)
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...serious.” Serge continues to berate the manner in which Paula waves away her cigarette smoke. Yvan accuses Serge of exaggerating. Serge points out that Yvan must agree with him—he is not... (full context)
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In trying to strike each other, Marc or Serge—it is unclear who—strikes Yvan. Yvan removes himself from the struggle, groaning and clutching his head. Serge leaves the room... (full context)
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...calling Marc himself “worse than repellent.” As the two of them argue back and forth, Yvan screams that he is in agony, and wonders if he has a concussion. Serge and... (full context)
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...“and all it implies,” while he himself never replaced Serge with Paula. Serge, confused, asks Yvan to “translate” what Marc is saying, but Yvan proclaims that he has tuned out—both men... (full context)
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Yvan urges the two to make up—there is still time to salvage the evening and enjoy... (full context)
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...apart from their other friends’ faith in them. Marc has attempted to mold Serge and Yvan into people he has faith in, but somewhere along the way, he has failed. Yvan... (full context)
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Marc tells Yvan that he cannot stand Yvan’s desire to put Marc and Serge on the same level—the... (full context)
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Serge points out that Yvan is only making “I” statements and only talking about himself. Yvan argues that “everybody talks... (full context)
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Yvan, overwhelmed by his friends’ piling on him, says he could burst into tears. Marc and... (full context)
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Yvan bursts into tears. He tells his friends that they are being brutal, and asks why... (full context)
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Yvan asks if there is anything to eat—he is so hungry he feels as if he... (full context)
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Yvan asks if Serge plans to draw on the painting. Serge simply demands the pen once... (full context)
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...skier in a woolly hat. When he has finished, he examines his work. Serge and Yvan are stony and expressionless. After a long silence, Serge proclaims that he is starving, and... (full context)
Scene 6: At Serge’s
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Yvan remains in his seat, but speaks to the audience as if he is alone on... (full context)
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Yvan says that after Serge, “in an act of pure madness,” at last proved once and... (full context)