In Tate Britain this morning I was interested to read the explanations that accompany the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century paintings with now multiple referencing to the slave trader and colonialist backgrounds of the sitters for the portraits. The Tate is of course constructed on the basis of the sugar industry and its connections with slavery, so it needs to broach the issues openly. One approves, of course, but at the same time at the back of ones mind one feels that what art should really be doing is posting up a set of portraits of the modern aristocracy, the celebrities and multi-millionaires accompanied by some deconstructive surgery on their exploitations of others, their cosying up to big business and big money, their hypocrisies on the environment, their embodiment of contemporary western hegemonies. This can’t be done, I suppose, because of their lawyers. The analysis of 18th and 19th Century colonialism in British portraiture is a safe place to tuck away your radicalism. The real debate isn’t happening that much.
Monthly Archives: October 2022
October 25: 450,000 lira
I was between books the other day, so I picked one off the shelf that had been hanging around for a bit. When I opened it up a bookmark fell out. It was a hotel bill for the Hotel des Artistes in Rome for 450.00 lira for April 9 2001, twenty one years ago. I knew immediatley what day that had been, apart from it being the last time I had tried to read Les Celibataires by Henri de Montherlant. I had arrived in Rome a little before my then partner, who, it turned out, had bumped into a relative at the Rome airport and gone back to spend the night with family. This was before we had mobile phones, so I was at the hotel, not knowing where she was. It was a miserable evening as I had a severe attack of sciatica. That was 9 April. On 10 April my partner turned up. When we got back to the hotel in the evening of 10 April there was a message left for me at the reception: would I call my brother in Manchester? This was odd, as my brother did not even know I was in Rome. I called and he broke the news that my mum had died the night before. Les Celibataires by Henri de Montherlant had been the book I had taken with me to Rome. My brother had phoned my job and heard I was in Rome in a hotel near the station, as I had informed a colleague at the time. My brother had rung round and tracked me down. So when the ricuveta per camera 508 fell out of Les Celibataires and fluttered to the ground the other day those events came flooding back to me. Strangely, the sciatica disappeared the next day and has never really come back again. I cannot believe it was a mysterious case of tele-empathy with what happened in Manchester, but it was an odd coincidence.