This summer it's very possible that you will run into people who'll ask, "Why didn't you buy van Gogh's 'Dr. Gachet' for $82.5 million or Renoir's 'Moulin de la Galette' for $78.1 million?"

You needn't be embarrassed by the question. Just use one of these replies:

"We don't have the wall space for the van Gogh because our children wouldn't let us take down their Mother's Day drawings."

"I intended to bid, but the Japanese had their heart set on the pictures, and they have so little of anything as it is."

"Renoir's colors didn't go with our drapes."

"Do you know what it costs to frame an impressionist painting these days?"

"We would have bought the 'Moulin de la Galette' but it wouldn't fit into our Volkswagen."

"I have a friend, Bill Morice, who told me that I didn't have to go to the auction, since he would take me to van Gogh's studio to meet him personally."

"My wife might have been persuaded to buy the Renoir, but she can't stand Mrs. Renoir."

"I'd rather have new patio furniture than an old French painting that has hung on God knows how many people's walls."

"I started to collect van Goghs the day he cut off his ear."

"We don't have $82.5 million for a picture, but if we did, we'd buy a Mapplethorpe photo instead."

"Renoir's 'Moulin de la Galette' isn't a bad painting, but unfortunately it has too many people in it for our taste."

"Years ago we had a choice of either collecting Rembrandts or baseball cards. Thank God, we chose the baseball cards."

"Lucy Scott asked me not to bid on the Renoir so that she could have it. Then she stopped raising her hand when it reached $330."

"We'll probably buy both works this summer when Ryoei Saito, the Japanese businessman, has his annual garage sale."

"My wife was about to purchase the 'Dr. Gachet' when I pointed out to her that we would then be stuck with two van Goghs in the rec room."

"Because we are favored customers, we have reserved seats at Sotheby's for any softball game on their schedule."

"I hate the role money is playing in the art game. The halcyon days of paying a lousy $5 million for a White Rock calendar are over."

"I would have bought Renoir's 'Moulin de la Galette,' but the artist refused to retouch it to make it more American."

"The reason we don't buy anything is because the auctioneer at Christie's never looks our way when we're bidding."

"He may have talent, but van Gogh is no friend of the farmer."

"Someday the Japanese are going to come back to New York on their hands and knees and beg us to buy back their paintings."

"Picasso makes me smile, but Norman Rockwell makes me think."

"Ralph went to the auction with me but lost interest when he found out that van Gogh never painted any landscapes of the Augusta National Golf Course."