Arriving in London for a book launch for Bloomsbury I had time to spare and visited a few Mayfair galleries. At the Bastian there were some watercolours by Emil Nolde titled ‘Anatomy of Light and Water.
The work was interesting in its own right because it was unusually colourful for Nolde, but that was not the interesting part of the day. The more interesting part was a man sitting beside the front of house clerk, saying one of the paintings had brought him to tears. So, I engaged with his sensibility and found out he was a collector, had made quite a lot of money, but did not think he could write, and certainly never had done so. It is not as rare as one might believe for people to be brought to tears by a painting but it is unique in my experience to hear someone admit to it in public.
William was a man of deep sensitivity and while I left him my email I don’t expect to hear from him so I will relay his other story … of buying two paintings by an artist when he didn’t even have a chair in house and coming in from work and looking at them propped up against the wall. In two weeks of sitting cross-legged in front of them he broke through and saw what the painter was trying to achieve and why his other works were so different.
I then met an American collector, who did collect to sell later for profit but only bought works he responded to. He was much affected by our philosophy here at the New Art Examiner than each individual’s response to the visual inexperience is as valid as anyone else’s. I don’t know if he will write for us but I asked, as collectors rarely write while they are young and looking.
For the rest of my visit I went to see Damien Hirst whose abattoir early works were on show at the Gagosian in Britannia Street. The one in Grosvenor Hill has an eclectic mass of established names and a high density of unarmed, suited guards. I didn’t see anything they couldn’t have shown in the last thirty years. And there seems to be a trend of ‘in the style of’ works in which unknowns are reworking Salvador Dali, Man Ray and others. A beast that devours itself ends up dead.
I last visited Wallace House many years ago a light lunch followed by François Boucher, Michael Sweerts, Govaert Flinck Rembrandt van Rijn, Joshua Reynolds and dozens of others is a quiet return. A history of changing sensibilities; the over romantic poses of women, the repeated dead animals in still lives which Hirst no doubt would get a kick out of, and the discourse of figurative art that criss-crosses central London.
The intense need to have the same names appearing in all the major cities in the world following the buyers around like lap dogs is avoided in Wallace House where nothing is for sale. It was traditional, some might say boring, yet strangely refreshing. But spend two weeks every evening in front of just one of them and you may end up being brought to tears, who knows?