This week I met a man with whom I wanted to sit down and have a cup of tea.  As I’ve said, I don’t really drink tea, so it’s really the conversation I wanted.  When I walked into his house, I almost forgot that I was there to fix his toilet and paint his gate.

I was distracted by his décor.  Forgive me.  The word ‘décor’ insults what was essentially a museum.  Nearly every available wall space was occupied by an original, framed work of art.  There were nudes, landscapes, animals, nautical pieces, portraits, religious images, abstracts and a host of unique posters.  They were done in every imaginable media:  oils, watercolours, prints, etchings, reliefs, tapestries, photographs, drawings, ceramic, string, paper cut-outs and pastels.  I think I even spotted some velvet.  And that was just on the ground floor.  I found out, just in passing, that he is most certainly a collector.  Quite possibly he’s a dealer too, but I didn’t get that far.  In fact when I arrived, he was on the phone with his insurer discussing a scheme for the transportation of one of his paintings, so he said.  He might very well be in the business, but I’m not in the business so I couldn’t recognise the symptoms.

I fixed his toilet, under the watchful eyes of ‘Him’ and ‘Her’, two abstract oils over his bath.  After which I wanted nothing more than to tour the gallery that had invaded his home.  And I got the chance.  He went out.  As is common, I was trusted to stay in the house alone.  Alone with his priceless collection of art.

I explored.  I didn’t snoop, it should be stressed.  I didn’t enter any room whose door was closed.  I didn’t touch anything.  I just wanted to take in the exhibition as I would in any gallery.

What stood out among his collection was not the prettiest picture, the biggest name, the largest canvas or the most ostentatious piece.  It was a pillow.  Just a throw pillow, about one-foot square, resting against the arm of a recently reupholstered antique Chippendale settee.  On the pillow had been printed a photograph, like you might find offered by any on-line photo processing site.  It was a picture of my employer-du-jour with his arm around Jennifer Lopez.

Imagine a coffee mug with a picture of your Auntie Loretta’s out-of-focus face on it, perched on a plinth in the middle of the Louvre.  That’s the impression it made.

Now, I’m not here to malign celebrities whose claim on the public consciousness is of questionable repute, but I couldn’t figure out why this pillow rested among the oil canvases in a place of such prominence. If he’d had his arm around Tracey Emin in the photo I might understand.  At least she’s in the visual arts.  Or Mother Theresa.  Or perhaps his wife.  So he met JLo.  Big deal.  I once met Kiefer Sutherland’s twin sister, you don’t see me plastering her image all over my soft furnishings.

My point is you never know what’s going to be consequential to people whose life, from the outside, appears to be full of significant consequence.

Having said that, I’m willing to concede that maybe he was just being ironic.

Advertisements