Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Take pride in your mistakes


I just heard (most of) the last Grayson Perry Reith lecture, and I defy anyone who may have previously been a little hostile toward him not to have warmed after listening to it.

The first was good, the second not as good, and the third was good again, I think. He ended with the beginning, talking about the Art School environment - in the Art School environment of St Martins.

Having said that - if taking a wrong turn on the road - you can easily end up in Kansas and not Oz, he ended the lecture in the hope that he had left the young audience with 'a little more courage, a little more brain and a little more heart' when entering the Art world for possibly the first time, and that was the clincher for most of the audience, some of whom were moved to tears. What a charmer!

His greatest asset is his humour, I think. Toward the end of the lecture, he said that he felt sorry for artists who - at their own exhibitions - wear something like a T-shirt, and go unrecognised as the author of the work. At his openings, he is dressed in outrageous drag - like Dorothy above - so everyone knows who to approach on the night. What a marketeer!

H.I. is going to hate me for telling you this, and I hope she never finds out that I did - I am trembling in fear at the prospect already. When she was at college in London, Frank Auerbach was her tutor and they have remained distant friends for all these years after.

A few years ago, we were invited up to a London showing of his latest stuff, and H.I. looked forward to meeting him again after a long break in communication.

Of course, being the most famous painter alive in Britain today, he is instantly recognisable, even if you have never met him, and even if he wasn't surrounded by about 20 well-dressed people all looking for an audience. He is a shy man, but perfectly at ease - even in the discomfort of a contractual public appearance organised by the gallery.

We wandered around the gallery looking at the pictures while we waited for a hole in the crowd which had gathered around him, and went into a back room where there was some drawings hanging on the walls which were very different from Auerbach's usual style - much harder and less worked than his famous pencil drawings.

After a while, we went up to Frank and when he asked H.I. how her ex was (who he also taught), she told him that they had been divorced for many years since, and introduced him to me. I had just bought my first pair of Crockett and Jones boots, and could think of little else as I looked down to see the polished chestnut toes peeping out from beneath my Armani trousers. Frank didn't even seem to notice.

After a brief period of inconsequential chat, H.I. remarked that she really liked his new drawings in the back room, and Frank had to inform her that they were not his, but done by a different artist who happened to be sharing the same gallery as him on the same night.

I have never seen H.I. go red before, and for about 2 years afterwards, all I had to do to send her into a paroxysm of embarrassed remorse was mention the faux pas. I am cruel enough to keep it in my arsenal of weapons for when she gets a bit uppity with me about some smaller, much less significant gaff that I occasionally make. Actually, regularly make.

The only difference is that I would not have minded so much about it. I once, when having tea at a cafe with Peter Gabriel who I did not recognise at the time, asked him what he did for a living. I'm quite proud of that.

23 comments:

  1. It must be nice for famous people not to be recognised and to have a normal conversation with a stranger.
    I took a British writer for a long drive through the country to a beautiful inlet, where we swam and had some lunch. It was only later that I read his book and realised that, had I read his book first, I would have been way too intimidated to have such a lovely, relaxed day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah; famous people HATE not to be recognised!

      Delete
    2. That's the good thing about writers. Usually (unless they are Will Self - about 6' 6" and a face like Noserfatu) they can go unnoticed, but in these days of instagrams I would recognise Sarah immediately if I ran into her on the street.

      I think that what irks famous people more is being mistaken for someone else.

      Delete
  2. how funny. its best when people aren't all "don't you know who I am?".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always want to say that, but I know what the answer would be.

      Delete
    2. "Don't you know who I am?"
      "Someone call a doctor! This man doesn't know who he is."

      Must be the best answer to that line I've heard.

      Delete
    3. AH HA! Oblique misuse of an apostrophe! It makes more sense if the person says, 'DO you know who I am? (nya nya)

      Delete
  3. I fully agree with your remarks about the divine Mr. Perry. I admire him greatly and have enjoyed these lectures; Tuesday mornings might never be the same.

    Poor H.I - I shall never mention it...

    ReplyDelete
  4. In case anyone is wondering why so few people comment on my posts, well I have to tell you that I keep a strict control over comments that I disapprove of, so most of them get thrown in the bin.

    If I publish yours, it is because I REALLY like it, so you should be as proud of your mistakes as I am.

    Today I binned about 50 or so. Honest. No, really.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lying toad. ( About the 50 binned comments.)

    I arrived back from Australia at 5am and don't know day from night.Or today from yesterday.

    Wine is so expensive in Sydney. So happy to be back quaffing a £5 bottle from Tesco. BTW what was your blog post about?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I listened to GP's every word... the power of humour.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think that H.I. was forgiven by the artist - I mean: they know each other, and you were there to honour his work, and then: why would he allow another one to be part of his exhibition? He will have the magnitude to accept it - being himself that great.
    As to clothes: yes, for marketing (even if not being an artist) it is very important to be recognizable. The good heart alone would not work :-) (Maybe you will erase my comment because of the smiley - well, well..)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even though I am not famous, I still get recognised (6' 3" and a face like Nosferatu) - mainly by the police.

      Delete
    2. OMG ..... the film Nosferatu is more scary than any horror film I have ever seen ..... it gives me the heebie-jeebies !! XXXX

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    4. Jack@ - What is 'Nosferatu', if it is not a horror film?

      Delete
  8. Britta - I have only deleted your comment for the use of real names. Nothing to do with smileys. Sorry.

    ReplyDelete