In his late years the
Norwegian artist Edvard Munch was arrested breaking into peoples houses and
stealing art. What makes this this strange but simple thing so fascinating
is the fact that he was attempting to steal back his own paintings that
had been done years earlier. He told the police he was trying to rescue
I love that story. It drives home the fact to me that regardless of how we
create our art, we always have a place in our heart for it. I used to look
through books of art and see that many really big artists still owned works that
had been done by them decades ago. It didn't seem possible that a really
great Rauschenberg or Rosenquist hadn't found a buyer through a gallery.
My guess was that they were holding onto them till their own prices went up and
they could sell them for more. Warhol remarked in his diaries that he was
particularly bitter about a high sale value at Sotheby's for one of his works
when he had originally sold it for only a fraction of the price it fetched
later. And of course, he didn't get any of that money.
I think Munch was right. Artworks are our children, and it is difficult to
let them go sometimes. There is a tremendous investment of time and energy
and passion in creating something like that.
For those of you who don't know, I was recently signed by a gallery here in
Houston. It is the first time I have ever been represented by a gallery
and I am both excited and a little nervous. They have already scheduled my
first solo show there for November. When I went there for the
"interview" with about ten paintings I was fully expecting supportive
words and possibly even another meeting somewhere down the road after they had
seen my work in person. I was bowled over when the contract was pulled out
so quickly. I really didn't see that coming at all.
When I was getting ready to leave, I asked if they wanted me to leave anything
with them. They wanted me to leave nine of the ten canvases. So I
did. But driving home, through the haze of excitement, I felt a real pang
of loss. One of the canvases I left had hung in my home for about 8 years.
Not because I couldn't sell it, but because it's one of my favorite pieces.
Our favorite works are usually not our best. Sometimes an accident on
canvas that becomes something special can delight our artistic sensibilities
more than the one that we slave over to bring into being. If you visit an
artist's studio, you'll see the good works, but chances are the works that the
artist loves the most will be hanging over their own bed. We keep those
children close to us.
Those are the works that in time truly inspire us. They are the ones that
we brought into this world, and then they surprised us by showing us something we
didn't see before. They teach us.
Nowadays I don't think Rauschenberg and Rosenquist kept certain works for
financial reasons. I do however take more time looking at works marked
"collection of the artist." There's more to these works. A
deeper, more profound something.
Edvard Munch never got punished for his breaking and entering, even though it
happened several times. I imagine I wouldn't press charges if Damien Hirst
or Jasper Johns broke into my house for their own art. After all,
children like to see their parents from time to time too.