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Spring windup and the persistence of The persistence of memory…

Yesterday…

As is predictable for an English bank holiday Monday, it is now grey and raining outside, but the rest of the weekend has been very pleasant indeed, not least because we had an unexpected guest on Thursday evening.

Old friend and co-star of my Wales watching… posts, (about our pilgrimage to Portmeirion, the home of psychedelic, spy-paranoia fixated cult TV show, The Prisoner) Trevor arrived on the doorstep not long after I got home from work, ostensibly on a short break to try his hand at some fishing on the rocky North Devon shoreline, but as with many weekends that I’ve spent with Trev, plans tend to be rather elastic.

While I went off to work on Friday morning, after a late-ish night of catching up and reminiscing, Trev went in search of a suitable fishing spot and somewhere to pitch his specially purchased tent.
When I returned home at lunchtime however, Elaine had already put him to work in the garden and there were a few more jobs lined up for us too.

Obviously there were some memories to be mulled over, some bollocks to be talked, some cider to be drunk and some pool to be played along the way, so what with buying and fitting a replacement for our suddenly defunct electric shower, fitting a new ceiling light in the bathroom, drinking some more cider, laying a couple of paving slabs, making and consuming a pan of,..ahem..herbally enhanced Hyena Soup, (enabling you to make a “laughing stock” of yourself) repairing our front door, reading all the e-mails and blogs I’ve got behind with, and drinking some more cider, I haven’t had a lot of time to do any blogging.

And Trevor never did go fishing.

The upshot of which is, this post is like one of those cheap-to-make TV episodes which recap a character’s back-story for no discernible reason.

Except this is really interesting.

Honest.

Ok, now I’m worried I’ve built it up too much.
All I was going to do was give you a bit of an update really, nothing earth-shattering.

{Note to self: comparing posts to crap tv show formatting is not sensible or effective blog promotion}

Back in February I had a bit of a rant about the rise of stupid nomination challenges on social media and how it would be nice if people used the same communication technology for doing something positive for a change, suggesting BlogNominate as the way forward.
As with a lot of these things, there was plenty of support for the idea but I’ll be honest, I hadn’t really considered all the logistics of the plan and it kind of fizzled out.
But not before two friends at work had rebranded the idea as EggNominate, the idea being that people would contribute either cash or Easter eggs to the appeal, to eventually be distributed among the residents of Little Bridge House children’s hospice and the local children’s cancer ward.
The final total was over 150 chocolate eggs, which were delivered personally to the children, and nearly £200 in cash to be donated to the hospice.

But one event I probably can shoehorn into the “Random act of kindness” category is the fundraiser we held at work, whereby myself and the two erstwhile EggNominators, Mike and Shane, challenged ourselves to raise the modest sum of £45 between us on the Friday of Breast Cancer Awareness week.
There was a catch however; should we reach our target in the two hours or so before our morning break, we would allow a couple of our female colleagues to give us a makeover (our version of the “make-up-on selfie” that became a popular male response to the campaign of women posting photos of themselves without make-up on social media to promote breast cancer awareness) which we would wear for the remainder of the working day.

It seems as though there is an unhealthy urge for people to see grown men made up like the world’s least convincing transvestites, (although a disturbing number of people told me how good I looked as a woman) because by ten o’clock we had raised nearly £130.

Ok then, let the plastering begin…

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Me, getting a bit of slap on, courtesy of Gemma, one of our volunteer artistes.

…and yes, apparently I have to let my hair down..

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That “Cher / Max Wall hybrid” look in full.

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“The Sugarblokes” – Shane, Mike and I, with our make-up artistes Gemma and Naomi.

Possibly the most worrying part of the day was, having driven back from work in full make-up, with my hair by now a tangled mess, I stopped at our local shop on the way home and……nobody batted an eyelid.
Which only struck me as strange until I remembered that over the past few years I’ve walked in there dressed as a cowboy, Elvis, a native American chief and a pirate, amongst other things, so perhaps it wasn’t that strange after all.

(additional makeover photography by Vernon Smith, cheers Vern)

And finally in this random round-up of stuff that’s occurred to me this Spring, I have a puzzle for you;

What is the connection between a 1931 surrealist masterpiece by Salvador Dali and a blog post about the horrors of war?

Well, this is The Persistence of Memory, a painting by Salvador Dali…

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..and this is The Persistence Of Memory, a blog post by dalecooper57.

I pinched Dali’s title because it went with the theme of remembrance and the importance of keeping memories of terrible events alive for future generations to learn from.
I was pleased with the post and I got some good feedback from it.
Ok. Happy with that.

(At this point I should say that my previous best day’s traffic on the whole blog was 269 hits, and that was on a day I posted three times. Very rarely do I get anything like those numbers, especially on a day that I haven’t posted anything)

So imagine my surprise when, over a week after publishing the post, which got a respectable 100+ hits on the day, I suddenly got 385 hits on that post alone, ending the day on an astounding 409!
Now this was amazing enough a month ago, but ever since then the same post has been getting many more hits than any other, to the point that on one platform alone it’s passed the 2,000 mark, something I doubt anything else I’ve written has come close to.

All of which would be fine except for one thing.
No comments.

Not that I’m saying nobody commented on the post originally, several of my lovely readers made valuable contributions via that little box at the bottom of the post (the one so many of you seem scared of. Come on in, I won’t bite) but after the avalanche of traffic began I haven’t had one single word of feedback and that does strike me as odd. And not just because I’ve had a lot of spam get past my filter recently either.
(Note: Before you ask, none of the search terms for the post were mistaken searches for Dali’s painting)

So if you’re one of the allegedly thousands of people who have read The persistence of memory… in the last couple of weeks, let me know.
Because much as I’d like to think that it was a moving, heartfelt, brilliantly researched and potentially award-winning piece of journalism, therefore attracting inordinate numbers of (very shy) new readers, I can’t help thinking that something maybe amiss.

Please feel free to prove me wrong.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of new readers, I’d like to welcome the flurry of new followers I’ve been honoured to receive in recent weeks (Diary of an Internet Nobody now has 320, thank you all) I shall attempt to justify your interest in my continuing total failure to find a theme.

Since I began writing this post yesterday, I think that I should now wind-up my Spring clean of the odds and sods from the blog and I shall leave you with two views of another fabulous Devon sunset from the weekend, along with the rainbow and ethereal clouds that appeared opposite it.

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{See, that was better than a flashback episode of Star Trek wasn’t it?}

 

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Forging ahead…

When it comes to self-deprecating turns of phrase, there’s one I don’t know if I like.

“When it comes to art, I don’t know much, but I know what I like” has always seemed a perfectly honourable way of decrying any special knowledge, without simultaneously declaring total antipathy toward art in general.
But I can’t help thinking that certain species of art snob will always mentally insert “..and I only like what I know.” into that sentence, presuming that we – the uninitiated – couldn’t possibly get our heads round something as cerebral as “Art” and should stick to our airbrushed fantasy posters and Jack Vettriano prints instead.
Like most clichés and truisms however, the statement is largely true of most of us, although I’d like to think that those of us that who appreciate art in a more “casual” way still go to the trouble of discovering some background to our favourite artists and get some idea of how they work, at the same time remaining open to new genres and media we have yet to stumble upon.

I personally love the work of Jack Vettriano, the Scottish artist’s strikingly real yet somehow dreamlike works, ranging from bright and airy beachscapes to dark and sensual bedroom scenes, are easily accessible and populist so of course the art cognoscenti look down their collective disdainful nose at him.

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Vettriano’s Dance me to the end of love – “Who are you calling populist darling?”

But that doesn’t mean I can’t also be a massive fan of child prodigy, genius draughtsman and artistic perspective mangler, M.C. Escher, whose extraordinarily complex drawings, wood and lino cuts have fascinated me from an early age…

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Escher’s Print Gallery, not somewhere to go with a hangover.

…or indeed be continually astounded by the surreal, hallucinatory visions of Salvador Dali, the one-of-a-kind mad scientist of the art world, his paintings loaded with Freudian innuendo, mystical symbology and double meanings, both visual and philosophical.

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Dali, by himself, in more ways than one.

I know what I like and I like to know about what I like, but I’m unburdened by the expectation of expertise, unlike the art establishment who are meant to know what they’re on about.
So it’s rather nice when someone comes along and spectacularly takes them for a ride.

Born in Germany in 1951, the son of an art restorer and muralist, Wolfgang Fischer was already painting at the age of 14, lived the bohemian lifestyle in the ’60s, experimenting with both LSD and opium, and by the early eighties was the owner of an art gallery.
After a falling out with his business partner however, Fischer began work on probably the most audacious art forgery scam ever.

Leonardo Da Vinci lookalike and self-styled “world’s greatest art forger”, Wolfgang teamed up with two others for the scheme, his friend Otto and future wife Helene, (whose surname he would take, giving him the now-infamous name, Wolfgang Beltracchi) which involved forging not only supposedly “lost” paintings of up to 50 different artists, including French and German Expressionists such as Max Ernst, Andre Derain and most famously, Heinrich Campendonk, but also faking the various documents required for provenance and authentication.

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Wolfgang Beltracchi – Da Vinci’s “look” was clearly an influence.

At one point in the elaborate ruse, Helene actually dressed up as her own grandmother, posing in front of a number of her husband’s fakes for a photograph that was then artificially aged to give added credibility to the story.

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They even set up fictitious art collections, in which the miraculously unearthed masterpieces had supposedly been buried all these years.
Otto claimed to have had a grandfather called Knops who had bequeathed him a large collection of artwork that had previously been hidden away during Nazi rule and Helene’s grandfather was also implicated in providing a front for their fraudulent business venture.

Maybe it was the high profile nature of some of the gang’s victims that was their downfall though, Hollywood star and comedian Steve Martin being a prime example.
In 2004 Martin bought a Heinrich Campendonk painting entitled “Landscape with horses” for €700,000.

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Or did he ?

Apparently not, and when he came to sell it on just two years later, he took a hefty loss, only raising €500,000.
The painting is now known to have been one of Beltracchi’s copies and Martin is currently awaiting compensation.

In fact it was another Campendonk forgery that sealed the fate of Wolfgang’s multi million pound cottage industry.
In 2008 a previously unquestioned work from 1914 by the relatively obscure German expressionist (originally sold by the gang for €2.88m) came up for auction at Christies, an auction house whose rigorous vetting procedures had confirmed other Campendonk’s as genuine in the past, and was made the subject of considerable scientific analysis.
What the art-boffins found was an almost immaculate early twentieth century lost masterpiece called “Red picture with horses”

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almost immaculate being the operative words in this case.

What the analysts found when they peered at the paint through their high-tech gizmos was pretty much what they’d expect to find in a sample from a hundred years ago.
Except Titanium White.

That particular pigment wouldn’t have been available to Heinrich, back at the start of the first world war, therefore the painting couldn’t possibly be genuine.

QED.

Uh-oh. Busted.

The estimated losses to collectors, auction houses, galleries and museums who were duped by Beltracchi and his cohorts (including subsequent “good faith” sales) runs to somewhere in the region of €34.1m, and that’s only the 14 paintings that he’s admitted to.
There could be literally hundreds of “confirmed originals” out there, hung on gallery walls or locked away in strongrooms, but one thing’s for sure; Wolfgang isn’t saying a word.

Indeed, part of the deal (the same one that keeps him in a low-security open prison, free to visit a studio in which to continue his work, 50% of the proceeds of which will go towards his €8m and rising damages bill) requires him to remain silent on a variety of subjects, including the secretive world of the art trade itself.

Wolfgang Beltracchi says part of his work has always been “Showing a mirror to the art world”, but when drawn on what he has been asked to keep quite about he will only laugh and say;
“Sure, I know secrets, I worked in that world for a long time. Everybody who works in that business has secrets”

And if he did it again, would he do anything differently?
A twinkle in his eye, he says;
“One thing is for sure, I never take the titanium white”

But for now he seems reasonably happy with his lot, creating “new” masterpieces by day and retiring to his comfortable cell at night (he got 6 years, his wife 4 and Otto 5) and his star seems set to to carry on rising, as his work, both original Beltracchi’s and his “reimaginings” of paintings that “fill the gaps” in artists’ fictional back-catalogues, are now selling for thousands of euros.

So when he’s finished paying off his legal obligations, The World’s Greatest Art Forger could find he’s finally got his first proper job…

{All artwork naughtily pinched from Google images}

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Arts, Blogging, Humour, News, Personal anecdote

 

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