On a cool October afternoon I ran into a Swedish art dealer in Mayfair. We hadn’t seen each other in years. Sven invited me to his gallery. Judging from his size and paintings of the walls business was booming in London.

Over a cup of tea we spoke about old times and cleared up why a Henry Moore deal in Florida had ended in failure.

“The executors of the estate never intended to sell to us.”

“We were manipulated to get a higher price from the final buyer.”

“It happens.” Sven had been in the business for ages.

“Yeah, right.” My normal metier was diamonds. What we say we will do, we will do.

“Did you lose any money?”


“Well, I flew my client from Hong Kong to see the sculpture in Florida. He had four-star tastes. Room service at the Breakers had run into the thousands, so stop your crying. For you it was merely a waste of time.”

“You got that right.” I had a long fuse, but when lit it stayed lit at a low simmer. I changed the subject and mentioned a desire to view the David Hockney’s THE BIGGER PICTURE.

“I belonged to Royal Art Academy. Would you care to go?”


We threw on our coats and walked through the heavy foot traffic of Picadilly. Sven smoked two cigarettes on the way and, as we entered the cobble-stoned courtyard, he said, “I was here for the opening. I counted twelve celebrities. After thirty I came out for a cigarette and ran into the artist.”


“He bummed a cigarette. We spoke for several minutes and he said that he didn’t trust anyone who didn’t smoke.”

“My grandfather said, “Never trust anyone who puts ketchup on his hot dog.”” He came from Maine. People from that state trusted in tradition.

“Hot dogs.” Sven had lived a long time in America. “They are so evil.”

“But great at a baseball game with a cold beer.” I was a devoted Red Sox fan. Fenway Franks are manna to the faithful.

“Disgusting.” Sven shivered with disgust and stubbed out his cigarette, as we threaded between three tightly packed queues of ticket-seekers. He flashed his membership card and a security person opened the ropes for our entrance. Inside the crowded lobby young blonde girl handed us two tickets and we strolled into the exhibition without a guide book or headset.

“You know this won’t take long.”

“Why so?”

I explained how in the early 80s that the bartender from the Studio of Rue du Temple and I toured the Louvre in less than fifteen minutes. Tony came up with the idea that the painting should be looking at us. “He thought that we could absorb the art through osmosis like molecules moving through fluids. We kept our heads down and if one of us looked at a painting, then he would have to pay for dinner. We ended our visits at the Mona Lisa.”

“And you’d looked at her.” Sven knew the museums of Europe inside and out. Research was his forte.

“No, we turned our heads to the left to admire l’Hermaphordite and then caressed its cold marble skin.”

“That is not art.”

“No, it’s something else.”

Sven shook his head.

For him art existed on a higher plane than our mortal lives.

A guard punched our tickets and we joined the horde of Hockney admirers.

His work surrounded us.

Sven said that there were over 150 tableaus dedicated to the change of season in his birthplace. The vibrant colors stolen from a harlequin clown’s suit were strangers to Yorkshire, unless its famed pudding was made from Jello. Sven further informed me, “These aren’t even paintings. He did them with an iPad. Take a look. There are no brush strokes. These are prints. He can make millions of them.”

“I wouldn’t mind one.” I stopped at the Grand Canyon works. They looked nothing like the real thing, but captured the majesty of the desert chasm.

A row of purple logs portrayed a demented forests and Woldgate Woods evoked the need to light a fire in autumn.

After thirty minutes Sven asked, “You’ve seen enough.”

“Of this crowd.” I had been bumped a dozen times. “Yes.”

We fled outside into the crisp evening air.

Sven lit a cigarette and I wondered how he survived trans-oceanic plane flights.

I looked back at the thickening lines before the entrance.

“Back in the 60s and 70s no one went to museums. That was the only way Tony and I could walk through the Louvre that fast.”

I reflected back on the empty galleries. The dust devils on the wooden floors were the size of rats. The air smelled of the ancien regime. Those days were long gone and I shrugged off the years.

The Worseley was across the street.

“Let’s go get a beer.”

“I don’t drink beer.” Sven puffed on his nail.

“And I don’t put ketchup on hot dogs.”

Like I said it was a tradition same as letting art look at you and not all exhibitions are meant for everyone.

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