One of the first things to catch my eye last week was an article in The Guardian about the signs that burglars leave for potential burglars outside your house. Chalk marks on the ground, usually. I had known of this practice before, but seeing the examples given and their meaning brought it home afresh - pun not intended. In case you missed it, here are the examples given.
1: A good target.
2: Occupant, nervous and afraid.
3. Nothing worth stealing.
4. This house is alarmed.
5. Vulnerable female: easily conned.
6. Too risky.
7. Wealthy owner.
8. Has already been robbed.
Further comment is, I think, superfluous.
Except... gelling with so much talk of climate change and the parlous condition of the earth, it set my mind fancifully thinking what if aliens, robbers say, the extraterrestrial equivalent of Viking raiders, were to chance upon earth, recce it and leave the fruits of their reconnaissance in orbit. What would their signs say? Here, I have managed just two suggestions:-
Any more from any more?
Then there was the Andy Warhol Red Portrait affair. You may have seen this, too. Andy Warhol made ten identical red self-portraits. Excuse me while I rephrase that: there are ten identical red silk-screen portraits of Andy Warhol. David Mearns, a Sussex business man has one of them. It was to have been offered to the Tate, but has now been withdrawn. There exists a New York Foundation that pronounces on the authenticity or otherwise of works by, or said to be by, Andy Warhol. It offered to authenticate the work. The offer was turned down flat by David Mearns, who has accused it of making such offers in the past with the sole intention of stamping Denied on the back so as to destroy the value of the silk screen prints. From time to time the Foundations sells works that it owns, and so has a vested interest in the scarcity value of its own works.
And so the battle was joined: is the red portrait a fake or a valuable Warhol? The case for its authenticity is its provenance. Andy Warhol gave a photograph of himself to a friend. It was an automatic image produced by a bog-standard photo-booth. The friend passed it on to an outside firm. They produced the silk screens from it - and presumably ran off the prints. The finished prints were looked at and approved by Andy Warhol... and that's the case for the defence? Yes, my lord, there the case rests. What thinkest thou, O juror?
Good to see a painting taking the top Turner prize. Good, too, to see that beauty is the new ugly and to know that paint is okay again. I would not wish to exclude ugly, you understand, but it takes all sorts to make a world - even a fragile, fleeting world that is tied to a moment , a situation or an environment.
Richard Wright was asked - only natural, I suppose - if he had any plans for the prize money. His reply was that, like everyone else, he has bills. Since he has covered a rather large wall with the gold leaf that is destined to painted over at the exhibition's close, I just wonder if his bills really are like every one else's.
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