Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road
Sydney NSW 2000
Dear Senior Curator, Alistair Fellows
I fear that there are too many untalented parasites out there, who make a career out of ‘interpreting’ artists’ works and ‘presenting’ them to the public, without ever understanding the stories behind the artworks themselves. They know that the lady’s name is Ivy in the portrait, because they have read it in the title, and they know that she was the sister of the artist’s friend, because that was on public record. But they don’t know if Ivy had woken up nude with the artist that morning, cooked him bacon and eggs, and then picked her teeth at the kitchen table with the plastic wrapping from her cigarette packet. How could they know if they weren’t there? So instead this breed of curators make their living out of finding hidden symbolisms in works, creating parallels with other figures in art history, plotting concocted narratives and conning people into believing that they are an authority about this artist and his works – when in fact they couldn’t possibly know what was in the artist’s head.
I have been following your career closely, and I have chosen you, because I don’t want anyone making up no bullshit about me. This is the most important series of artworks I have ever created, so I don’t want anyone bastardising my journey, padding out their wall text with hearsay and ramping up the word count in their catalogue essay with their idiotic assumptions.
Here within these pages you will find excellent quotes for your interpretive material. You will be so thankful that I have taken the time to compile this excellent resource for you. You will be wishing that all artists would be as considerate, organised, literate and gifted with such excellent foresight as I am.
It is true, I once worked with a Gallery Director and curator, Bernard Fleet. He may have been the great nephew, twice removed of Hans Heysen, but he never delved beneath the surface of an artwork. He would view a work, then he would read some secondary source material about it before he formed his own opinion. And still then, he would write ‘some might say,’ or ‘one could think’, or ‘it is thought’, never ever wanting to own his own opinion and say anything for certain. And then he would airy fairy it on, join the dots to dots about some artist who had been somewhere at one time and may have or may not have had an affair with some other lady, most often the girl of some other artist, who may or may not have been that artist’s muse, and may have had some influence over his work, may have even held the paintbrush, painted a stroke or two, but no one really knows, because no one was there to record it.
That won’t be me. Because I’m going to record all the facts about the journey that resulted in this series of works, currently named Searching for Von Honningsbergs. And I’m going to write about this journey simply and clearly, without all that fluff that some people of your ilk soil their pants over. You see, I want my potential appreciators to see my works for what they are, not what someone else with a post doctorate in art history and first class honours in crapping on says that they are.
I believe that you are different to your contemporaries and will do justice to my works, as well as make fair decisions about their future. You have done a lot of good work on Von Honningsberg’s later period and know of the sensitivities surrounding his estate. And I see that you work hard at discovering the stories behind the artworks in the shows that you curate. You are not one of those curators who are too busy showing off their fancy vocabulary and what they do know, whilst glossing over all the things that they don’t know.
So where do I start? I know that when you begin work on an exhibition, the first thing you do is determine the structure of the exhibition. Do you organise it in date order? Or by theme? Well, I’m going to organise my notes for you by country, in chronological order of when I visited those places and in the order that I met certain people. Latvia, China, Brazil, China, Australia. This is not in the order that I painted these works, however. I hope that this is not too confusing for you, but this was the most logical way for me to write about the series. See Appendix 3 for the full list of works, including dates and see colour copies of all the works that I talk about in Appendix 2. Unfortunately, I am not happy with the colours in some of these reproductions. If possible, I think it would be best for you to refer to the original works. See Appendix 1 for the location of these.
Let me just set the scene for you. In 1996 I was working as the registrar at the small but egotistical public gallery – Yarra Gallery, in the City of Yarra. (This gallery is now defunct, having been mis-managed by a whole series of inept Directors and was finally turned into three indoor basketball courts, which, according to the CEO of the council at the time, was what the residents really needed in the area.) Bernard was curating a retrospective exhibition of Kurt Von Honningsberg’s Sorrento 1965-1970 series. When Bernard failed to manage his time effectively, which was one of a number of his carefully protected shortcomings, I was asked to pick up the pieces and was sent overseas to locate and retrieve the final three paintings for the show. This was a cunning plan of Bernard’s, if I failed; then he would have someone to blame, if I succeeded; then he would have his grubby little hands on those three works.
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