In my previous post – Every Gift Should Come With An Adventure – I related a mini adventure which came with an early X-mas/Birthday gift given to me by my partner.
The gift was an Art book, which featured many artists, and one of those was my father who was a professional artist.
The artwork of his which was included in the book was definitely his.
However on the page where there were photographs of the artists, the photo above his name was not of him.
It was of someone else… who I used to know, whose face and name are seared into my mind’s eye, and thus I recognised him – my father’s art dealer, who was also one of my father’s enemies throughout his career.
They had a classic “it’s complicated” abusive relationship, with the art dealer as the abuser… although he probably thought he was not that at all. Those in the business side of art often think they’re heroes for putting up with crazy artists – but were those artists crazy before or after they had to deal with the business side of the art world?
The book was also damaged in transit.
So my partner emailed the book distributor to let them know about the two issues.
That all happened on Friday.
We didn’t expect to hear back from them over the weekend. We did not know if we would hear back from them at all… which was part of the mini adventure – would they reply, would they ignore us, if they did reply what would they say, how would they handle the situation?
Since I love to play detective…
A game which comes with the enjoyable risk of discovering just what an inept detective I am (which was made extra funny by the fact that at the time I was watching season 2 of Busted, a Netflix original about a bunch of South Korean celebrities pretending to be genius detectives but actually being bumbling ones instead. It’s hilarious chaos, and the subtitles don’t clarify anything at all).
Upon closer inspection of the artists photo section, I noticed that several of them had two people in the photos. One of those people – a distinctively mustachioed guy in them – was the second person in all of the photos. A quick search online identified him as the curator of the book.
Aha… so he was a fanboy, and had met some of the artists, took selfies with them, and used those. But he hadn’t met all of the artists – from where did he source their pics?
A couple of the other photos looked like ones taken at home, with friends, family – so maybe he contacted people who knew the artist, or the artist themselves if they were still alive, and got some casual pics.
Other pics looked like the kind you find in articles about artists, or in the biographical books of their work and career. There are a couple of those kind of photos in my father’s books – of him in his studio at work, of him with family (eg. me) and friends.
I figured that the curator of the book probably sourced a few of the pics online… like the one which was supposed to be of my father.
It was one of those sort of photos which gets taken at social events, parties, by professional photographers hired to do exactly that, and is used for after event press, in newspapers and magazines. Since it was of the Art dealer, it was most likely taken at the opening night of an art gallery exhibition.
The photo had been cropped. I could see someone else’s shoulder next to the Art dealer, and the chances were high that the rest of the photo had my father in it… and whoever cropped it used the wrong side.
I did a few searches, using my father’s name, then the Art dealer’s name, and their names together, with several different search engines to see if I could locate a copy of the photo which had been used. I did find a couple of similar photos of my father and the Art dealer together – the Art dealer always did the same pose, had the same expression, wore almost the same outfit, he looked a bit like a waxwork.
But that exact photo proved to be elusive… where had the book curator found it!?
Monday morning arrived and we received a long email in reply from the publisher of the book.
He was very apologetic about both issues, and informed us that a replacement copy was being sent to us immediately – he did not ask for us to return the damaged copy.
He had contacted the book curator about the photograph error.
Of course there’s nothing they can do about correcting it in the already printed and sold copies…. but no one would expect them to do that. My mother might, but luckily for all of us she doesn’t seem to have found out about this even though she does scour the internet for mention of my father’s name… or she used to. My father’s long term mistress might too… although she could be quite chill due to being an ex-hippie, and maybe she only did that while he was alive and driving her nuts.
The book curator explained that sourcing photos of the artists whom he had not met personally, especially those who were dead before he decided to do the book (which includes my father), had been difficult. He didn’t know what my father looked like, and had sourced the photo from a book – he didn’t say which book it was.
What puzzles me is that…
Photos of my father in a book would most likely be in a book about my father’s work, and would have other photos of him in it.
And the curator did know that my father was Italian – the Art book only features Italian artists, so surely the guy who looks like an Italian is probably the Italian artist rather than the guy who does not look like an Italian (the Art dealer did not look Italian… not typically Italian, anyway, because he wasn’t).
I guess the book curator’s detective skills are of the bumbling kind. Which is kind of fortunate since the error has led to much fun on several levels.
The publisher mentioned that they do have plans to reprint the book since they’ve had a lot of demand for it, and it is a stunning collection, beautifully put together with high quality reproductions of magnificent artwork of the kind which is no longer being done because of changing times.
And they want to correct the mistake for the reprint.
They were rather excited about having contact with a member of my father’s family… my partner and I now have open invitations to hang out with the publisher and the book curator… and we were asked if we could provide a photo of my father.
That request made it my turn to be awkward and probably left them with things to perhaps puzzle over…
My partner explained that “due to unfortunate circumstances” we didn’t have any photos of my father.
The “unfortunate circumstances” were me and my crazy side (I do have a non-crazy side… or so I tell myself).
Many years ago I got rid of all the photographs of myself, my parents, my life before meeting my partner. It was cathartic to do that. I felt weighed down and hemmed in, trapped, confined, limited by the past and I was going through a letting go of the past to live in the present phase. I needed to do that for myself… I’ve only regretted it a couple of times, but the regret was of the superficial type and soon passed.
When my father died and his mistress contacted me, I did ask her if she had any photographs… my father used to take hundreds and thousands of those, mostly for his work, he used them to inspire his paintings… but apparently he’d destroyed them all in the final years of his life. Like father, like daughter… or she could have been lying, didn’t want me to have those. It’s complicated, always was. Doesn’t matter either way.
Besides, thanks to the internet, if I really want photos of my past, I just have to do an online search.
Speaking of online searches…
While I was doing my weekend detectivery, I accidentally downloaded a pdf catalogue (you know that thing where you click on an image to go to the page it’s on… only you weren’t paying attention to the little bit which said it was a pdf file…) of my father’s work from the gallery of his nemesis Art dealer.
It had some great photographs of my father, one of which was of him when he was very young, which would have been taken around the time he was doing the work featured in the Art book – so we sent that one and a couple of others to the book publisher, informing them of the source then at least they would know what my father looks like. The rest is up to them.
Shortly after getting their email reply on Monday and seeing their request for photos of my father… I decided to check out another pdf catalogue, a more recent one, which the gallery had on their website. As I scrolled through that pdf… AHA!!!… I found the exact photo of the Art dealer which had been used in the Art book.
It was of my father, the gallery manager (who was another of my father’s nemeses – in many ways she was so much worse than the Art dealer, perhaps because she was a female trying to survive in a male dominated business, and old-school females did that by being more bastardly dastardly than the males), and the Art dealer.
I wonder if that catalogue was the “book” the curator got the photo from… it didn’t have the names of those in the photo underneath the pic… but my father was the only one who looked like an Italian and an artist. There were also many other pics in that catalogue identifying my father as being the artist. But hey…
Hey hey… this has been a great mini adventure, and it wouldn’t have been that if the curator hadn’t made the mistake.
Sometimes mistakes make life so much more fun, interesting, stir up stories to live and tell, turn the ordinary into the intriguing.
The best part of this mini adventure is perhaps the fact that the book distributor, the publisher, and the curator all behaved responsibly about the situation.
In fact they went that extra bit beyond just being responsible… they really seem to care about their book, their products, their customers, and more.
They really seem to be passionate about what they do… they may make mistakes, but who doesn’t… isn’t it rather wonderful that they own those and want to make amends, make things right and not play the blame game while doing that.
They explained what happened rather than made excuses… what a novel experience!
Why though… why is that surprising, and rather impressive and exciting because of it?
In the comments on my previous post about this, there was a certain doubtfulness about things working out well on the business end of things.
In my replies to the comments I was more doubtful, cynical and skeptical than you (Do I win that competition!? What do I win???)… I did try to keep my suspicious paranoid levels in check, but that stuff has a way of leaking out of every pore, and they were still very much present and apparent.
It’s rather nice to be wrong sometimes…
In recent years I’ve learned the joy of being wrong, especially about people, particularly when being right would have been painful, whereas being wrong is pleasurable. In many ways I kind of look forward to being wrong… in other ways I don’t so don’t test me on that, or test me and find out what happens.
Melanie asked a slightly rhetorical questions in her comment – Nobody much takes responsibility any longer, do they?
And in my reply I stated:
There are still people and businesses who take responsibility, but when people and businesses are responsible, it doesn’t generate waves or talk-mileage. We’re pleased and when we’re pleased we don’t say as much as when we’re not pleased about people and businesses.
Lots of good things and experiences happen in the world on a daily basis, but the ones which get the most attention, get discussed, shared around, tweeted about, blogged about, etc, are mainly the bad things and experiences. When we’re upset, angry, annoyed we feel the urge to vent, rant, spread the word, but when we’re happy, calm, feeling good we tend to keep quiet about it and just enjoy it. I read a psychological perspective on why that is, and it has been connected with primal instinct – when things go wrong we warn others about the danger, but when things go well there’s no need to react or pass the information on. Hmmm…
What I said is something I’ve been pondering quite a bit lately in various ways, but the pondering has been an undercurrent which never quite surfaces… this mini adventure brought it more to the surface.
This mini adventure has had some intriguing side effects…
Like last night I watched a documentary – I Am Sun Mu – which I wouldn’t have watched if artists and the Art World hadn’t been on my mind.
It’s about a North Korean artist who defected… the tale of his defection was what stood out the most to me. The way he told it sounded like “I went for a walk one day, and then I found my feet just kept going until I was no longer in North Korea, and once I was out I knew I probably couldn’t and wouldn’t go back there, but where would I go?”
He did do some hiding and some swimming… so it wasn’t quite like that, but still there was an element of spur of the moment, spontaneous going with a current, a flow and being willing to just keep going with it even though parts screamed “Go back! Stop! No… Don’t!”
It was a fascinating story…
A very human story…
We’re all fascinating stories within our very human selves…
Although we often view our own story as the least fascinating compared to those of others, or maybe that’s just me, part of my own story… something I was regularly told, indoctrinated with, and made to believe, yet there were clues along the way which suggested that perhaps that wasn’t as true as it told me it was…
The detective bumbled along ignoring the clues…
And yet our own story is the one which never lets us go until we reach the end of it, but the end isn’t always the end.