15th July

Found Art

‘Have you noticed how these people are always “interested in exploring”?’ Alex Mather said. ‘In another age would they have been up the Zambezi with Livingstone or crossing the frozen wastes of Antarctica with Scott? I think not.’

‘You’re being a bit hard,’ Jill Mather said. ‘They’re only kids.’

She was walking round a sculpture made of bits of old bicycle. It was called Recycle. Was it a man or a machine? She couldn’t decide.

‘Aye, but where are they getting their cues from? The modern art galleries. Their own teachers. They may be kids but this is their degree show, their passing-out parade. The future of culture is in their hands, God help us.’

‘What about this?’ Jill said. ‘This is clever, don’t you think?’

‘ “Clever” – that’s another weasel word. It’s what you say to a toddler when you can’t make out what the mess they’ve painted is supposed to be. “Aren’t you clever?” When I look at a piece of art, I want to say, “This is beautiful, this is brilliantly crafted, this is aesthetically unimpeachable.” Do you actually like it, isn’t that the point?’

‘Yes,’ she said, coming round to stand beside him. ‘Yes, I think I do.’

‘You think?’ he said. ‘But why? What’s good about it? It’s just a feeble pun. That Marcel Duchamp has a lot to answer for. He was having a laugh, and now the whole art world’s taking the piss.’

Jill said, as she often did, ‘I’m not arguing with you, Alex. You’re being deliberately obtuse. But you don’t fool me. I saw you at that young lad’s paintings over there. I could tell you liked them.’

He can draw,’ Alex said loudly. ‘He can paint. And he hasn’t come up with any excuses either. He hasn’t explained his work. It speaks for itself. Poor bugger. I predict destitution, starvation and total neglect.’

‘You could help by buying one of his paintings.’

‘I’d only be postponing the inevitable. Who is Alex Mather against the mass of the art establishment? He is nobody. See that air-conditioning unit up there? If I stuck a label on that someone would snap it up. Where can we get a drink?’

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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