Having a gallery not far from home is a commodity I came to appreciate. It’s a good place to stop by, meet art people, learn and eventually grab any opportunity to buy your favourite pieces.
Artists are real people, with real needs. If by chance you live next to a gallery try to convince the assistant: ‘I like so much … (name of the artist you admire)! Call me if by chance you have something not so prohibitively expensive from him.’ Chances are that one day you will receive a call stating that your beloved artist wants to sell fast and you have a chance in a million to buy his work.
There are a few other advantages but for me the main was counting with the help of the gallery carpenter. I started by requesting his services to hang pictures on the wall and soon he was doing most of my wood jobs. And when the gallery closed, Mark (let’s call him this way) kept faithfully (both sides were) materializing my needs and ideas, until George, little by little, got the post with merit and honors. That was in recent times, because last year I still called Mark à propos of this and that.
A couple of months after the gallery closed its doors, Mark showed up and asked me to buy a couple of miniature pictures from a well-known local artist. I didn’t like the idea but he explained the following: ‘The owner of the gallery is broken. He stopped paying salaries months ago. As he doesn’t have cash, he gave us art to sell. It’ll mean a lot to me if you buy these pictures.’
It wasn’t the first case I’ve seen or heard about, so after some consideration I decided to help. How could I not trust Mark? He was working for me for a decade. He was head of a local church and a good family man!
Months passed. Then I heard a friend describe the shock she suffered because of Mark. Just like me, she got a picture from him. She displayed it on her best wall. One day someone entered her house and claimed the picture was his. He had left it at the gallery to be framed and he never saw it again. Overwhelmed by the evidence and covered in shame and sorrow, my friend was compelled to give back her treasured art work.
After some investigation I concluded that: 1) The gallery employees were several salaries behind. 2) Some of them decided they had rights over any existing art within the gallery premises and acted accordingly.
Now you see my moral dilemma! I recognize that they have done very wrong, but at the same time I know they acted out of despair, with families to feed and bills to pay. I’ve been divided since then. One thing is for sure, after my friend’s description of the embarrassing situation Mark had put her through I decided to keep those miniatures far from strangers’ eyes. It’s not that I love them. In fact, I would give them back without a single hesitation. It’s a sense of shame and guilt for trusting too much, softened by the idea of Mark’s large family and not really knowing the rightful owner – if there’s an owner at all.
Besides, there’s a Portuguese say stating that if you wear something that doesn’t belong to you, you risk finding yourself naked in the middle of a public square. In short, I just don’t want to find myself in such awkward position!