Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bust, Bowl and Palette

BBC2 had a programme the other night tracking the trends in mass-market art, from Vladimir Tretchikoff through the cheeky Tennis Girl to today’s bestsellers like Sam Toft and, the current number one smash, this photo of Ullswater. The programme took an unnecessarily long time to come to the less-than-earth shattering conclusion that living room art and gallery art fulfil different functions, so while a Jack Vettriano might look vapid and naff if it were hanging in the Tate, you wouldn’t want to wake up every morning to find Francis Bacon or Lucien Freud screaming at you from the landing. It is therefore besides the point to be snobbish about these things; one might as well scoff at a pair of curtains because they’re not the Bayeux Tapestry.

The programme did get me thinking about my own art collection – an absolute mish-mash of things I like, things created by people I like, things I’ve created myself which nobody else likes, things with a sentimental value and things that I barely notice are there at all.

When at school I cut some tokens out of the newspaper and sent off for a free Picasso print – Still Life with Bust, Bowl and Palette (pictured).


I did this primarily because I thought that having it on my bedroom wall would make me look offbeat and cool. I didn’t really appreciate it as a piece of art; if anything it was a bit of a joke. When I went to university I put it in a wooden frame which I acquired by buying an extremely cheap picture of approximately the same size from a charity shop and discarding whatever piece of (probably rare and priceless) tat was in there. I displayed the picture on my wall for much the same reasons as before but gradually I came to appreciate that there was something inexpressibly pleasing about the way the shapes were put together. Then as I became more aware of Picasso I realised that, in fact, Bust Bowl and Palette was by some distance one of the least interesting and pleasing of his innumerable works. Nonetheless it was the only one I had and I felt an obscure loyalty to it. When I became a bit more solvent I invested in a proper frame and transferred the print to it. While other artworks have come and gone, Bust Bowl and Palette has adorned the walls of all of my abodes. Now, I realise when looking at the picture, any aesthetic appreciation I might once have felt for it has retreated to irrelevance; its appeal is almost entirely based on comfort and familiarity. Never, ever, til the day I die, shall I willingly get rid of Picasso’s Still Life with Bust, Bowl and Palette. And where is the picture now, you ask? Reader, it’s in the attic, waiting until we have a bigger house, because my wife doesn’t like it.

22 comments:

worm said...

ahaaha I know the feeling well! I too have lots of lithographs in expensive frames that my partner doesn't like which are now gathering dust in the attic until I own a house with a large shed in the garden that I can turn into britains' smallest art gallery.

In the meantime, the unfettered proliferation of endless photographs of my partners family and friends continues apace around the house

Gaw said...

Wimps. Pull yourselves together.

Brit said...

... he said, bravely.

worm said...

I compromised on the pictures in order to outflank her in the war over soft furnishings

Gaw said...

You should follow my example. I've just forced the wife to accept we move to smoked bacon having spent fifteen years eating her preference, non-smoked. And I'm going to absolutely insist on my full fifteen years worth of smoked. So there.

Brit said...

Just the fifteen years of unsmoked, Gaw? That's swift and decisive work indeed.

I get Sky Sports. This uses up a great many of my bargaining chips.

malty said...

Bargaining chips Brit, you have bargaining chips? you mean you think that you have them. Let me offer Mrs Brit my undying admiration, fait accompli in record time.

Bargaining chips, yeah, right.

Think yourselves lucky gentlemen, lucky that you don't have a wife who collects furniture, as in lots of, if I complain, out it comes, the time eight years ago that I totaled her pride and joy.
We have a Richter print hanging up, in the bog. Nothing to do with me, I am allowed my vintage Le Man posters, in the garage. 'proper place for them' as I was instructed.

Sophie King said...

My husband has appalling taste in pictures, furniture and cushions. It is the one area of our lives in which I am totally dominant. Any attempts at subversion are quickly dealt with. He might offer up the occasional whimper about the scratchiness of the kelim cushion covers and I allow him this. But nothing else.

Brit said...

I wonder if Mr King's take on the picture and soft-furnishing arrangements in Sophie's household would carry a similar tone to Malty's comment.

Peter Burnet said...

Gaw:

Imagine hearing the following small talk at a gathering of friends:

Your wife: "Gaw forces me to eat smoked bacon even though it makes me ill."

Sophie's husband: "My wife forces me to sit on scratchy cushions."

I give you three months with the bacon. Sophie's husband, on the other hand, had just better suck it up.

Sophie King said...

You are a perceptive man, Peter.

Gaw said...

I'm sure my impending defeat (re-defeat?) can be clearly read between the lines. Non-smoked isn't so bad you know.

malty said...

I am on a diet, translates to we are on a diet.
Gaw, you will know when you know your place, the day the subject of building a yurt comes up, and you offer no resistance.

Gaw said...

In my relationship, Malty, I would be the one who would suggest building a yurt, an idea that would be crushed beneath a mountain of disbelieving ridicule. But I have to admit, that is just what I need at times.

Brit said...

Let it all out, guys, let it all out.

(Gaw - the thing to do might be to convince yourself that unsmoked bacon is actually tastier, and then, in a couple of weeks, suggesting that you switch to it. That way you'll win.)

Brit said...

By which I mean, you'll 'win'.

malty said...

Oh well Gaw. here's the site for you.
Sophie, leave the plans on the pillow and bark like Amon Goethe at the man working the press "make me a yurt"

Sophie King said...

I'm with Mrs Gaw on the subject of yurts, Malty. Disbelieving ridicule doesn't even begin to describe it. They're so Wiltshire.

Gaw said...

I've just remembered I did actually once suggest buying a yurt, and, yes it was dismissed. She began 'I'm sure you'll be very happy in it...'

worm said...

Gaw, why not offer to eat unsmoked bacon, on the understanding that a compromise can be reached by you being able to smoke a cigarette whilst eating it?

malty said...

Eminently practical Gaw, yurts are designed to allow the smoking of bacon.
Or yak, horse, or Western tourists with Billingham bags

Gadjo Dilo said...

I was also a Picasso fan from quite an early age and collected a few prints which I've had framed, but, like you, the wife doesn’t like them! (Though she objects more to my Munch's Yellow Madonna, but that's 'cos she thinks it's porn.)