Art, commerce and the dizzying world of artifice

I have been trying to get a blogger of note to become a reviewer of note, that is, get to her to do a notice on my book. Or should I say write a note, postice me, no, well notice me in her..well I think you get what I mean by now.

The problem is or was she was taken up with blogging the Hirst thing as he was selling 111 million or whatever pounds worth of what, we don’t really know yet, in the middle of what we’re not sure yet is the second worst (or just the worst) finance mess of all. I fear the financial bang down on economies and hell only knows what else, all that money stuff that holds us all up in the first and last place has much yet to say.

That Hirst Thing- SuperTouch

That Hirst Thing - SuperTouch

My own hazy memory of other memories tells me that 1929 was the first big stock market etc crash, but 1931-4 was the real pain that the ordinary bloke felt so keenly, pain the world felt all over. Ditto for 1987, which became 1991-3, when the real ordinary mess that was house values falling down around people’s ears really hit home.

I remember 1987 very well. I was in Sydney and was about to try to sell my apartment, and, a few days before the crash, went to a property auction in the suburb of Bondi Beach to see what I could possibly do, auction or straight sell. That auction day was a scene from Fellini. It was dizzying mad, like nothing I had seen, people shouting over each other to buy huts and hovels for double and treble their one day prior worth. Perhaps I exaggerate the doubling and trebling but that was what it felt like being packed into that auction house room.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach - by Pio Carlone

At that time the king of all things moneyed down under, particularly the market gambling sort, was a one Robert Holmes a’ Court, greenmailer and white knighter extraordinaire, who became Oz’s first billionaire. He was richest but still (unofficially) vying for the title of most wealthy man in Oz, fighting with two redoubtable dark nights and media souls, Rupert Mudoch and Kerry Packer, for the privilege, probably, I guess, because he came from the West not the East. But all up before the 1987 crash Holmes a’ Court was worth 2 billion dollars, a tidy sum even today, and from reports of Hirst’s worth, enough to buy him out twice over.

And Robert Holmes a’ Court – like that other Robert from Oz, Robert Hughes, the bloke that Hirst doesn’t too much like apparently – was a lover, no, a connoisseur of Art. I say Art with a capital, because Robert Holmes a’ Court was into ART in a big way. A horse lover, a stocks gambler, he also bought into the big and small art stables. He bought and supported big and small names. And one of his stable of small names was a one Paula, an artist I knew in passing. Paula created holograms, a pioneer of minor reputation in a part of the world that by geography alone diminishes the adjective minor to very very small in the world of ART – her end of it, at least. She told me about her brush with Robert.

Those who know what happened in 1987 will remember the face of Robert Holmes a’ Court standing at the glass wall of an upper floor overlooking the Sydney Stock Exchange that day his fortunes went a little too far south for his liver to digest. His face was a newsprint picture, financial grief of power disappearing faster through him than a bad curry. Post crash, when the bits stopped falling, when the exchange chit dust cleared (long weeks on after much gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands, and of course, horse trading), he was worth 600 million, not too bad either even for a mogul today. He devoted himself to other matters thereafter, his horse stud, his art and perhaps some charity if I remember well.

Paula told me how he arranged to see the work she had been doing under his patronage some days after his catastrophic crash – he was dead in three years, at 53. She described a distracted figure walking into her studio and standing trying to get his head around what she was doing, trying to fathomize what she was telling him (and Paula could tell you at twenty fathoms). The world of finance had done his head in. Getting his mind in a grip with tiny green hologrammed figures was beyond him. Robert stared at one of her projections stuck out in thin air. ‘But it’s so small,’ he said and left without another word. And that was it for Bob and ‘er, the last Robert H. a’ C. dollar she ever saw.

Paula in her studio

Paula in her studio - COFA

Now no one could say that Hirst’s work is tiny in the way that Paula’s experiments were back then. And what with that artistic industry of so many hands, his tanking of animals in preservative somehow brings Holmes a’ Court’s newsprinted face to mind, this apparition of a human staring at this watery cow, and turning to an assembly of art gamblers I see him trying to say something. Only I can’t hear him against all the clamour of bidding. Was it, what’s next Damien, the white elephant? No, that’s what I would say. Was it something about it all being so small? No, that cash cow aint tiny. I’m still looking, trying to read his lips as they disappear into the thin air of  a reconstruction of a long-lost auction room  – moments, ethereal elements caught up in a hologrammed memory – along with a good part of the world’s financial infrastructure, coming soon to a leaky tank near you, not to mention that review of my book, Bob H. a’ C ., his horses and Paula, my apartment, the diamond encrusted prices a Russian miniature oligarch saw fit to pay for a Hirst tanked up thing – all those mad, dizzying seconds.

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One response to “Art, commerce and the dizzying world of artifice

  1. Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

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