Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
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.