She was saying things to Nuala so people looking at the paintings would not feel they were under surveillance. It's always a bit like working in Top Shop or Dorothy Perkins or Wallis, some shop where they have this etiquette of leaving the customer at arm's length.
These open days are hard at first, but you get used to them. People come into the studio and sometimes they walk straight out. Or they look at the paintings and they want to see something figurative lurking behind it all when there is no behind. But the paintings are so explosive they don't know what to do with it. And you're sitting there with this poxy table with a bowl of cheese doodles and you feel like a complete wally.
This bloke was walking about.
Sometimes this mania for hospitality takes possession of you. She asked if he would like a cheese doodle.
He said I'm fine thanks.
He had an Italian accent. He had one of these haircuts that all the men have these days, where there is hardly any hair, it is like short fur on the skull. His eyes were this light glowing gray, like those little monkeys, those lemurs that you see on TV or at the Zoo, and he had this pulpy, kissy mouth. He was standing by 1.1.4.
When people number paintings they do it the wrong way. You get an idea while you're working on a painting and you have to do it in another painting because otherwise you would use the first painting. It's like taking cuttings from a plant. So if you just use ordinal numbers you lose all that. You lose a distinction, because sometimes a painting is just out of the blue.
Sometimes you know there's a gap between one painting and another, that was a painting you didn't do, so you can show that with the number and that's good, the missing painting still has its number like a name on a grave.
He was wearing a black T-shirt and a black cashmere jacket and black jeans, these really expensive jeans, and these red cowboy boots.
The paint is always white, this fat gloopy stuff, and people have never seen anything like it. Sometimes it's twenty centimeters thick or maybe more, it can take a year before it's really dry. You have to give people really careful instructions when they buy one. Once this gay couple fell in love with this painting that was really not ready to be moved but they said they would obey her instructions implicitly and of course Serge was keen to make the sale so they took it and this great big splodge fell off on a brand new carpet.
You weren't supposed to live in the studio but of course people did surreptitiously.
If you are working with white you get fanatical about having the specific white, and you are in a constant state of panic that the white will be discontinued. Robert Ryman liked to work with a white from Winsor & Newton called Winsor White, so when Winsor 8z Newton decided to discontinue production he bought a whole consignment and filled a closet with it, and this is what you can afford to do if you are Robert Ryman. So this is one problem of being poor, that you can be cut off from the work you would go on to do by the discontinuance of a white. This is something people can understand, the expense of materials, these things you can touch and see. But if there is a painting that would be dry in a week and another painting that would be dry in six months there is that pressure to paint something that will survive in the time you know you can pay for. So that is the tradeoff, the more white you buy the less time you can pay for. So you are always living hand to mouth.
She was two months behind on the rent on the studio. If she would get kicked out she would never find another studio for [pounds sterling]300 a month.
Serge owed her [pounds sterling]5,000 from the London Art Fair two years ago.
The bloke was looking at 1.1.11111.1.
Nuala was sitting on the tall stool to keep her from feeling like a complete prat.
She said people didn't talk about the War when she was growing up. There was this very tidy surface and you didn't know there was anything but the surface. They didn't talk about the camps. So then when she was sixteen Max told her about them and she understood the Baader-Meinhof, she wanted to blow up a building. Her father made her do the Geselle which was three years of hell. She knew if she stayed she would kill herself. So she hitchhiked for about six years around Asia.
When you are that age you don't think about the cutoff age for the Turner Prize. You don't realize that the people who are going to get their work to a certain level before the cutoff are not hitchhiking around Asia. If you would realize it you would not be able to do anything about it, because if you would not hitchhike around Asia you would not be an artist. So you can't say if I would have gone to art college then.
Nuala had helped with the cheese doodles and twiglets and there was juice. Wine would be better but if it's crap wine what's the point? And what would it be but crap wine?
She said when she was growing up her father would not let her do the Abitur, he thought she was too thick, he made her go into an apprenticeship in dressmaking. They sat in this cellar and everything had to be done just right, making buttonholes, if you did it wrong you had to do it again and that was three years. At the end you had to do a Gesellenstiick, it's quite an old-fashioned word, maybe they don't have it in English, to show you had mastered the craft. It had to have all these features, this special collar and these special cuffs and special pockets.
She still had the suit she made.
There was a wardrobe off a skip in a corner. She went to the wardrobe. It had a special padded hanger.
May I see?
The Italian guy was standing at her shoulder.
She said: Yeah, OK, why not.
It was a suit in a scratchy woolen cloth. It was a dirty mustard brown. You did not get to choose what you would make up, it was a chance for the dressmaker to get rid of fabric she could not use, other places treated the apprentices better, she had heard. The suit had buttoned epaulettes and cloth straps with a button at the cuffs and a cloth half belt, and pockets with buttoned flaps, and of course a lining, and self-covered buttons. It had piping in dark brown. It had three semi-pleats above each breast, each set interrupted by a pocket. It hung on its hanger, this baleful garment that no one would ever wear because of the hatefulness of the cloth and the cut and the straps and the stitching, and all this time the garment had been locked up in a wooden coffin with no one to look at its madness.
He said: Ma che brutto!
He said: Take it over to the light.
In the white light of the studio the sullen mustard wool, the psychotic stitching, the brutal dowdiness snarled at the world.
He said: Madonna!
He said: When was it made?
She said: 1962.
He said: Can you still do this?
She said: I don't do this anymore.
He said: I want this.
She said: It's not for sale.
He said: I want twenty of these.
She said: I am not a dressmaker.
He said: No no no! Who would wear such a monstrosity? What do you take me for? No. You are an artist. I will give you [pounds sterling]1,000 apiece.
She said: I might be able to do one more.
He said: That's not enough. I want to have a show. I need another nineteen.
He said he would have a show in his gallery in Milan.
He said: The paintings don't interest me.
He said: You'll get the normal terms, fifty percent split, the twenty grand is up front.
She said maybe she could find someone to help her and he said No. It's got to be you or the deal is off. You know you can't find someone to do this kind of work.
He said: Will you be able to find-
No, we go look for the stuff together. Maybe we go to Leipzig, I think, they got a lot of ugly old stuff left from before '89, yeah I bet we can do it.
She did not know what to do because she just couldn't.
Then Serge came in, he had been down the hall in Danny's studio schmoozing with a buyer who maybe would take something for his company headquarters. Serge said: Adalberto!!!!!!!! Christ, I'd no idea you were in town.
So maybe you can imagine if five lizards would be in an icebox and somebody would put them up the back of your jumper so they would be crawling up your back with their cold claws, because realistically how many people in the artworld would there be with the name Adalberto--
Adalberto said: Yeah I'm really excited about this piece she did back in the 60s.
At first Serge got excited because of the sale and then he started to be pissy because Adalberto wanted to be the gallerist for the material in Italy so Serge would not get a commission, but Adalberto said No no no we're not gonna argue this is the most exciting work I've seen in a long time but I gotta have a free hand to take it where it needs to go, we'll work something out, we're not gonna be assholes about it.
It would never have arisen in the first place if Serge had paid her the [pounds sterling]5,000 he owed her from the London Art Fair.
People were coming into the studio and looking at the paintings and all it would have taken was just one to buy just one.
She could tell that Serge was flattered and Adalberto was talking about dinner and she could tell he would bamboozle Serge into agreeing to anything.
Serge was thinking he could make some good contacts, and if he knew the right people he could get some publicity for his next opening, maybe Nick Serota would come, if Nick Serota would come it would be the bee's knees.
She was completely skint.
She said she would have to think about it because she was not working in that tradition at all, and Adalberto said Yeah, sure, think about it, I have to go to New York next week so it would be good to go to Leipzig tomorrow so you can do some before I come back.
Adalberto said: Look, let's not pussyfoot around, 1 give you [pounds sterling]2,500 apiece, that's fifty grand.
Serge was just standing there completely gobsmacked.
It's easy to say you can just walk away from it.
They flew first class to Leipzig out of City Airport. It was sort of the way you are always imagining it would be if you would get your lucky break, you know you are sleeping in a sleeping bag on a concrete floor and there is no heating and no l00 but you think maybe one day you will be discovered, but meanwhile everybody is poor. If she would have lunch with Serge he would always go somewhere really cheap, and then they would go Dutch. And meantime Serge had given her the scoop on Adalberto, she had heard stories of course but it turned out he was this really hot potato, he was on the committee for the Venice Biennale so if Adalberto would like her work it would be phenomenal.
When they got to Leipzig they took a taxi to this posh hotel. Adalberto said he did not know if they would find what they were looking for in Leipzig, maybe they would have to go deeper, but they would maybe have some luck.
The thing that is famous in Leipzig is the passageways, these arcades. The most famous is the Madler-passage, but they have them all over, these passageways between streets that were built to be fashionable places to be seen, with shops selling things that fashionable people would want to buy, well you can imagine how popular that would be in a socialist republic. So they would go down an arcade and out into the street and down another arcade, looking for this thing Adabalerto had in his head.
If you would go to East Germany in those days it was still the way it was under the Communists. You would go into a shop and it was like a time warp. A shop would have a little window display and it would be a pair of knickers and a packet of tights. You forget what people used to wear, so if you suddenly see it in a shop window you can't believe it. You can't believe that it went on looking completely normal. So they would be drawn into these shops that were not selling what they needed, because it was like a museum.
Adalberto was still wearing the red cowboy boots. He saw all this stuff and he went completely mad. He would see a garter belt in a glass case in a little shop and he would be like a man possessed, he would buy maybe the entire supply of garter belts. He would ask what is the German for this, and it would be a garter belt or an antique pair of knickers or a slip.
Then he would say: We gotta be focused, we gotta be totally focused on this, this is gonna be, what is that word, humongous. Estupendous.
Then they found a haberdasher.
It had these bolts of this disgusting beige jersey. Adalberto said: We gotta be focused. We gotta be totally focused.
He said: Ask where they keep the suiting materials.
So they went to the back and she thought she would throw up. There were these bolts of woolen cloth.
Adalberto was saying Madonna.
There were all these conservative colors that you don't see any more, this navy blue, navy blue is the hardest color to match so it dates really obviously because the idea people have in their head of a dark neutral blue changes over the years, people in the fashion industry, the way they perceive a dark blue is affected by the other colors they are working with at the time. So there was this navy blue that had survived like a finch in the Galapagos, and a prehistoric brown, and some grays that also date really quickly. They were not utilitarian colors, just colors of cloth that was meant to end up in respectable clothes and you would not imagine the body inside and you would not imagine that people would sign a form to put people on a train to go off and be butchered.
Adalberto was saying: Ma che brutto! Che brutto!
He was saying: If we were not coming now it would be too late!
And he was saying: You are the one with this special training, you must pick what you would work with, what they taught you to work with.
She said: I can't.
He said: If I say something maybe it corrupts what you were taught.
She said: I can't.
He said: OK, OK. Look, we take everything back with us, I don't have time for this, when we get back you decide what you want to use.
He went to the saleswoman and he pointed to the back: Ich will alles verkaufen.
You could tell she was not used to customers who did not know German. You could tell Adalberto was not used to people who would not roll over and play dead if you would give them a lot of money.
She said: Kaufen, Adalberto. You are saying you want to sell everything.
In the fullness of time, said Adalberto. I will. But OK. Ich will alles kaufen, Madame.
But she couldn't stand it, all this money sloshing around when she kept agonizing about [pounds sterling]600 for the studio, and where she would put the paintings if she could not pay the rent.
So she said: No. It's stupid. There's nowhere in the studio to put it all.
She said: Look, Adalberto, go away. Go for a walk. Go to a cafe. I can't think with you standing there saying che brutto.
This was one of the luckiest things she ever did.
OK, said Adalberto. You're the boss. I come back in an hour.
In Germany it is not like Britain, where you go into a shop and you ask for advice and they haven't a clue. If you go to a building supply store the people working there will know all about the different grades of wood. If you go to a shop that sells beds the people working there will know all about the construction of the beds, and which beds are good for the back, and the beds are all really well built because people know what they're doing. And if you go to a haberdasher the staff will know all about the different types of cloth, and the proper thread to use, and the proper zip to use with a particular weight of cloth, and if you try to buy the wrong thing they will be really strict. So it is holding back the economy because to get a certain sort of job you have to have had this training, but if you go into a shop they are knowledgeable. So Adalberto was the one who was so keen on this project but he was doing it in this impulsive Italian way which would never come out right, because to do it right, look, here was the shopkeeper who had been working in the trade since her teens, and Adalberto wanted to rely on the memory of someone who did an apprenticeship back in 1962.
So you have to love this about the Italians, that they are completely impulsive and unpredictable and inconsistent, and in the War they were not at all keen to exterminate the Jews, after the Germans occupied France Jews would go to Italy to escape the Vichy regime, and that is what you have to love about them. And if you look at Goethe, if you look at Germans who love the South, you see that is what they do love about it, that love of the moment.
But if you are going to do something properly you have to plan ahead or you will end up cutting the moment wrong. Then events will be all wrinkled and puckered.
She had brought the suit with her because if you are buying notions you can't rely on memory. Scknow she brought it out of the bag and she explained that her friend wanted more like it, and maybe it would be quite hard because it was made in 1962. And then she told this little lie, because if she told the truth it would sound completely bonkers. She said she thought maybe he was making a movie and he wanted the costumes to be authentic. This would be something that a German would understand, that you would want the details to be correct.
The saleswoman looked at the suit. She said: Did you make this?
She said: Yes: a long time ago.
She had not been back to Germany since she left. After the years of hitchhiking she had gone to Britain, because if she would go to Germany she would kill herself. It was as if she had discontinued German, and then had to dig up a tube of it at the back of a cupboard.
The woman was looking at the suit, inspecting the workmanship and nodding and making little noises of appreciation. She said she thought she had something that would work.
She brought out this bolt of cloth that nobody would ever have picked up for something to wear. If you would make a suit in it the suit would last for a million years. It was this muddy olive green.
The woman said: Does he want different colors?
If you set out to make something ugly it is like setting out to make something beautiful, you will just end up with kitsch.
So she had to pretend she was just making some suits the way they used to make suits.
They had two kinds of gray, a navy blue, a dull mustardy tan, a black, two kinds of brown, and then the linings. There was a chest with twenty-five drawers, and on five of the drawers was a button. That was the selection of buttons. There were those metal zips that nobody uses anymore.
You could see the shop had been there since before the War, so its fittings were unchanged. The chest of drawers for the buttons had remained unchanged, but production of buttons would have been suspended during the War, luxury buttons, and under the Communists this would not have been a high priority, the resumption of button production. After the Wall fell dressmaking would maybe not look sexy so the shop would not be rushing to expand. So there was something touching about the five buttons, it made you want to buy them, but to do the suit properly you would cover buttons in the same cloth, to show your skill.
And this was another thing that was quite old-fashioned, the shop had the linen that used to be used for the interface. It used to be you would use linen for the interface, and you would sew it in under the collar using these big stitches, basting, now they have an artificial material, and you can even iron it on, but in the East maybe they would be more conservative so this was this shop in 1992.
Adalberto came back. He looked at what was on the counter and he said OK, but we take the whole cloth because maybe they stop making it.
If the collar of a suit is to fall properly, the inside, the underside, has to be smaller than the outside. So you have to mold the cloth to shape it properly. There is a special stand of wood, with a wooden crossbar covered in padding, and you hang the jacket on it, and then you can work on it with an iron. It is not all sewing, there is a lot you can do with heat. But you need proper equipment. So they did not find this in Leipzig but they went to Berlin and bought one and it was a nightmare to get on the plane, but if you are flying first class they are more friendly and helpful, even the Germans. You would have thought Adalberto was their long lost uncle, everyone was so anxious to help with the stand and the bolts of cloth.
So Adalberto was going to New York and he said he would like to do a show in two months.
When you make a garment for the Geselle you have one week to do it under exam conditions. You can't ask anyone how to do something. The room is all set up with the equipment, and you go in from seven to six, and you work there. But that was one week for one suit at the end of three years of hell, when you can do it all in your sleep. And the cutting has already been done for you, because you learn to make the pattern and cut in the next stage, that is when you start being creative. So even if there are some things that are more mechanical to talk of doing nineteen suits in two months, singlehanded, was mad. But if you would pour cold water on the idea of someone like Adalberto he would not find a way around the problem, or give you another month, he would just lose interest and do something else.
People think it would be easy to walk away.
Artists are lucky to get a gallerist, and you think if you get a gallerist the world is your oyster, and then maybe you are still teaching or working in a call center. But if Charles Saatchi would walk into the gallery and buy out the show, or walk into the studio and buy out the studio, you would not have to worry anymore. There are these collectors who can make a career. And there are these gallerists that people watch, they can make a career. So you know if you tell one to go away because he is interested in something that doesn't interest you, probably you will never meet someone like that again.
On the weekend of the open studio the administrator was already writing to her for the third time about the rent. But naturally word got round about Adalberto. If you think that the people who run it are dreaming that someone like Adalberto will just come, and that if he would take up an artist they would be over the moon, they are not going to throw out that artist because of the rent. But if they would hear that it is all off they would be hounding you for a check.
The paintings on the walls were defenseless. They could not dry faster if it would not be possible to pay the rent on the studio. The paint is completely trusting. You think if nobody else is going to look after it it is up to you.
She had a superstition. If you have made your Gesellenstuck, you should not let it go. So she made twenty new suits, instead of nineteen, and this was a very clever thing to do.
If you watch art auctions maybe you will think there are some very rich artists, because Hockney's Portrait of Nick Wilder sold for [pounds sterling]3 million. But Hockney sold the painting a long time ago. It is the paintings from the 60s and 70s that make that money, and it is the people who own those paintings, and the people who handle the sale, who make the money. So it is too bad for Hockney that he did not keep aside a painting from that time.
Nobody would ask Hockney, at least you think nobody would ask Hockney to go back to that early style. You think he must have enough money so he would not be pressurized, anyway. But what if somebody discovers what you were doing in 1962, and they commission you to do nineteen more of what you were doing in 1962? If you can do even one you can do nineteen, and if you can do nineteen you can do twenty.
So she did twenty, and Adalberto never saw her Gesellenstiick again, because it stayed on its padded hanger.
Adalberto gave her a check for [pounds sterling]45,000, because he had subtracted the cost of the materials. So he had made this really grand gesture of wanting to buy out the shop, but if he would have done it she would have had to pay for all that useless stuff, and she still had bolts and bolts of material.
If you have followed the British art scene at all you will know that there are some things that are secondary. Tracey Emin made a tent called Everybody I Have Ever Slept With and the point was not the quality of the stitching. Later Emin did some other sewn work, but she got other people to do the sewing, and Hirst's dot paintings were not executed by Hirst, and this is all in the tradition of Warhol's Factory.
This would not do for Adalberto. It was the hatefulness of the pockets, the pleats, the buttonholes, the hatefulness of the stitching, that gave the garment its brutality. How is a garment to be brutal if made by someone lucky to get the work?
So Adalberto came back from New York, and he walked up and down in front of the twenty suits. They had been pressed with a proper steam iron. These were the wallflowers.
He said: What is that German word? Schrecklich.
He hung the twenty hideous suits in his showroom in Milan. The show could never be so transgressive outside Milan--if you have no sense of style, if you know nothing of design, you cannot see the stupidity of the ugly pocket which only a trained apprentice could execute correctly. But in Milan they practically fainted. Minuccia Prada bought out the show.
Adalberto still wanted to have a show in New York. Prada said OK.
Adalberto did not like the kind of catalogue that gives a CV of the artist.
Adalberto did not like it when an image of the artist was used as a sign of the artist.
Adalberto came to talk to her. He said: We are doing a show in New York. It's not Italy, they are not so sophisticated, people need things spelled out.
He said: I need a, what is the word, urine sample.
He had one of those little plastic cups, and you know, maybe you think it is for a visa or something, so she went to the l00.
Adalberto said: That's great and we will need one of the other, here is a box for it,
and she knew she would have heard of it if the US government made people give a shit sample,
she said: Adalberto, what are you doing?
Adalberto said: We are doing a show in New York. We have to be more explicit. That's all.
He said: It's about the body. Hatred of the body. Denial of the body. The hanging requires the body.
He said: I hate the kind of hanging where you have seen it a million times, the lighting is a cliche, the frames are a cliche, and then the buyer wants to know if it comes with the fucking frame and you want to say sure, and just for you we are throwing in a free pack of underwear autographed by the artist, I hate that crap.
Adalberto said Prada said she would maybe show it in the store in Tokyo.
That was because of the purity of the idea of the urine sample. People have this idea of the frame, a piece of wood, a piece of metal contiguous with the piece, we really have to get away from that.
Adalberto said: Now don't freak out on me.
He said: Are you still menstruating?
If you go to some new country you think you can leave behind the universe of words you grew up with, and even in the new country people are always building that cage of words, that is why it is good that art can be a thing. But people are always thinking they can break through the cage another way. When she was in art school in the 70s it was this very radical experimental time and sometimes people would do art that the teachers did not get, there was this bloke who did an installation in Manchester or it might have been Bradford and he had the examiners come out for it, and they just left. So he didn't get a degree. And even in those days it was funny that art was supposed to be transgressive but you were supposed to get a degree, but to be an artist and not go to art school would have been the absolute pits. But it was exciting because these famous artists would come to talk to the students, or you could go to London and see the shows and it was all happening right now.
There was this guy, Kerry Trengrove, he died, he smoked and he drank, if you do both it's bad, he got cancer of the throat and tongue. Most of his stuff ended up in the skip. But he did groundbreaking work. He did a show at Covent Garden, they put on very new things, he dug this deep hole in the ground of the gallery, just big enough to sleep and move around in. And he put a bed in, and a wall of Complan, and he covered it over with thick glass, with just enough of a gap to let air in, and he stayed there a week, he did everything there, he slept and ate and peed, and people could come and look down and see him underground. And that was groundbreaking work. That was back in the 70s. And he did another piece, he got these dogs, that were disturbed, or strays, and he stayed with them in a room for a week, and just by being there with him, for the week, they became tame.
And now, who has heard of Kerry Trengrove? Maybe five other people.
Or this other artist, Stuart Brisley. He was the performance artist in the 70s. He got this bath and he filled it full of offal and he lay in it. Another time he went on the roof of the Hayward Gallery, and he had himself strung up, naked, upside down. First he covered himself in this thick clay mud--his work always had this painterly quality--and then he had himself strung up, and it was already autumn so it was quite cold, and someone stood on the ground with a hose and hosed him down--cleansed him.
But he is in books. You can read about him in books. So there is a record. That is why records are so important. You need someone to be there, to be a witness.
But all that expressiveness, that confessionality, that exhibitionism, that plastering of more meaning on the world, maybe you want to leave that, maybe you just do.
But then maybe, you think of the paintings going in a skip. Maybe you think if someone wants to be a witness for this kind of covert exhibitionism then the paintings will not go in the skip.
This was this very bad time when the National Gallery was quite keen on plastering meaning on its collections, so once a year they would have an exhibition and a big banner outside the National Gallery that said Making and Meaning, and if she would take a bus through Trafalgar Square she would want to vomit, the buses through Trafalgar Square should have art sickness bags during the Making and Meaning Season but they didn't.
And now here was Adalberto with this idea that he was a curative genius and if other people got that idea all the gallerists would be doing it.
But maybe you don't see this, if you have done something you were never going to do again and somebody asks you to do something else you would not really do it is easy to go down that road.
Adalberto said if she was not menstruating they would just take a blood sample with a syringe but it would not be so good. He said they were going to have to use someone else for the breast milk which was not so good.
Sometimes the fact that something is easy seduces you. It is not like making a buttonhole or a pleat, the body is producing these fluids and solids and it is so simple to collect them.
Adalberto took her to this gym as a guest member, what a production. Men today have these bodies that you never used to see, they are pouring these hours into the body, if you look at Jim Morrison that is the type of body that men used to have and a man with a body like Anthony Quinn in La Strada would be really embarrassing because it would be really over the top, but today nobody would want a body like Anthony Quinn because it would not be buff. Compared to what men have nowadays that would be nothing, and here was Adalberto with one of these bodies, and he was saying she must wear three sweatshirts and two pairs of sweatpants and run on a treadmill but it was not practical to run because she had been poor for so long. So he said OK, and he punched this button until the track was quite steep. He had brought this motorcycle helmet that he put on her head. It had a little rubber cup where the chin strap was and he said he would be back in fifteen minutes.
It took about an hour to collect the sweat.
He said she could use an onion for the tears.
He said if he gave her a cup she could spit into it.
He said maybe she could get really drunk so they could get the vomit.
If you have never been there you think it is easy to walk away.
She went to New York for the show. She flew first class. They put her up at this posh hotel called Morgan's.
When she saw the show it was not as bad as she thought. On one side of the room, on one long wall, were the suits. On the facing wall there were these tiny shelves, maybe 4 cm by 4 cm, in aluminum, and on each shelf was a glass container with thick sides flush with the edges of the shelf, and in this container would be the piss or the sweat or the blood, so it did have its beauty It was good that there was this vast space between the work of art and the frame, you know when something is curated there is this mania for attaching things to it, words, facts, there will be a little card on the wall and people will go anxiously to the card to avail themselves of its wisdom and return to the work of art with the little trophy, these words that were on the card, and sometimes you will see people hunting manically for the card--
So there was a boldness about this space that was good, and it was good having the works of art on one wall somehow, and the numbers were by the glass jars on the opposite wall and there was nothing on the wall with the works of art at all. So that was quite clever and mischievous.
Maybe if you are making art that is a thing, maybe if that thinginess is what you immerse yourself in, if you spend all that time away from about, if you are never attaching, maybe you are lost to words after a while, then someone comes along who is really good at manipulating and you can't make words push for you.
But maybe it is just that Italians are slippery. In the War the Nazis would send directives to the Italians about extraditing Jews and they could not get them to cooperate. The Italians could not get excited about it and if they are not excited about it they are not going to do it but if they are excited about it you can't stop them.
The papers had said that Prada had bought out the show for $1 million. Maybe it wasn't true. She would rehearse things to say to Adalberto but he was quite hard to pin down.
Then one day it was in the papers that an artist had had him declared bankrupt. If someone doesn't pay you this is something you can do, have them declared bankrupt. This artist had been quite clever, she had a contract and that was what made it possible to recover the debt. But all the other artists he owed money did not have contracts. There was nothing on paper to give them a right. And anyway he was a limited company.
So the [pounds sterling]45,000 was all that was left from the twenty suits, and some of it had to go to the Inland Revenue. So the only thing was to do a show while that excitement was still in the air.
This was really tricky because Serge did not want to be abandoned but he felt somehow he had been left with the less interesting work, it poisoned his interest in the painting. Serge wanted her to make some more suits for the London gallery. He was desperate to be cutting edge. If he would show suits all the bigwigs in London would come because they did not see them in Milan and New York. But it had been happening for so long that a lot of the paintings were really really dry. So she said he could show one suit if he would do a show for the paintings, but it would not be for sale.
So Serge had this show. And naturally now he nominated her for the Turner. Anybody can make a nomination but because of Adalberto she made the short list. They invited her to submit a piece, and sometimes you get disgusted. You keep thinking the tide will turn and painting will stop being unfashionable and then it would be exciting to be short-listed for the Turner. But the Turner selects these things that are exciting for people who don't know anything about art. In art school there is someone in every year doing Minimalism, or Conceptualism, and then the Turner will pick somebody who is doing what people do in their first year of art school, so it is kind of disgusting to get selected. So then Serge was saying I'm not saying another word. My lips are sealed. You know what I think, but I'm not putting any pressure on you, because it's absolutely your decision.
And maybe you would think that this would be the big chance to show what interests you. But the thing about being an artist is that from the minute you go to art school you realize there is this need to be canny. There is this need to make a name for yourself. There is this need to deal with the people who have the power. And Turner, Turner did it as much as anybody, he was a genius but he did what he had to do to get into the Royal Academy. So when she applied for UK citizenship it was not just a rejection of Germany. Why would she do it if not to be eligible for the Turner if the chance would come? So if you have set it up to give yourself that chance, there is this obvious next step to do give them what you think they will want to win. And she was really tired and anxious because of Adalberto going bankrupt, and the cutoff age was fifty so this was the last year she would be eligible, and sometimes a story has a momentum of its own, and it was as if they had nominated a puppet. So she submitted her Gesellenstiick, and the way she installed it was she hung it on one wall under a white light, and on the opposite wall, down the long end of the room, she put a glass jar of spermicidal jelly.
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|Article Type:||Short story|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2013|
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