Image: Brijesh Patel
April 02 2011
I have lost my Damien Hirst. And before you wonder (a) how I could lose a large pickled animal and (b) what I am doing with one in the first place, allow me to explain.
A few years ago I was in the restaurant Quo Vadis when I saw, if I remember correctly and I don’t always, Annie Lennox having dinner with Mr Hirst. I naturally went over and started serenading Ms Lennox with one of her ballads (I forget whether it was Sweet Dreams or Angel). Anyway, they were so delighted with my impromptu performance that Mr Hirst whipped out a menu, scribbled the words “There’s nowt so queer as Foulkes” (at the time there was a TV series called Queer as Folk) and presented me with it.
Naturally I was thrilled (almost as thrilled as I daresay they were to get shot of me) and of course what I should have done was to have gone home, framed it, put it on the wall and then, when the time came (around the sale of the artist’s work at the time of the Lehmans’ collapse), sell it for a huge amount of money and live the rest of my days in splendour. Of course I forgot where I put it. From time to time I am reminded of my loss, most recently when I read of the court case to determine whether Picasso gave a cache of drawings to an electrician to recognise his good work.
At the heart of this appears to be a question about Picasso’s meanness. Picasso’s heirs believe that he was so parsimonious that he would never give anything away. However, might not another view be that instead of shelling out hard cash for things, handing over a few doodles was a more cost-effective way of settling one’s debts?
I think it is one of the truest indicators of talent that you can walk into a restaurant, enjoy a “slap-up” meal, with all the “trimmings”, “washed down with” the finest wines known to man (or in my case a Coke Zero frappé) and then pay for it with a minute or two’s work with a biro on the tablecloth. I suppose the difficulty lies in establishing what a fair rate may be: and that varies immensely. The Colombe d’Or, for example, seems to have been decorated entirely by world-famous artists who were paying off their bills. But perhaps the best deal was brokered by Ludwig Bemelmans, who lived with his family at the Carlyle for 18 months while doing the murals in what is now Bemelmans Bar.