Dick French: On The Town – July 2017

I heard on the wireless that Cornelia Fluff has just been appointed ‘Official Sculptor’ for the General Election. What can this mean? She’s obviously a bit of a Leftie so maybe she could run up a big bronze statue of Compo on his bicycle for Islington Green.

Mr Serota has left the Billabong and moved uptown to a new job where he’s in charge of absolutely everything. Talk about ‘Once a Jolly Swagman’. I’ve always thought of him as Moriarty ‘The Napoleon of Art Crime’:

“He sits motionless at the centre of his web, but that web has many radiations and he knows well every quiver of each of these. He does little himself, he only plans, but his agents are numerous and splendidly organised.” (Conan Doyle)

Talking to Long John in The Salisbury I noticed two tickets sticking out of his shirt pocket. I enquired about them and he proudly handed them over the bar. A pair of tickets for Lord’s at £85 each. He’d just been to Locks of St James’s and spent £300 on a Panama hat. He takes his cricket seriously does Long John. When I was at school I got hit on the head by a cricket ball and have no time for it. And time is what you need for cricket.

The chap next to me started talking about cricket and then football, but when he realised I had no interest in either he suggested we talk about golf. I think he’d been on a course. I warmed to him because he seemed rather lonely. He was wearing a syrup – not bad, quite well fitted, what used to be known as a ‘Beatle Wig’. I managed to get away and strolled down to the National Gallery. On the way I had an altercation with a street performer who was blocking the path along the south wall with a semi-circle of onlookers. I hate street theatre. You can still hear the buggers as you link climb the staircase inside the gallery.

Chrysophilus has been given his own room to display his latest efforts. He’s done a large tapestry, or rather a factory has run it up for him, based on a series of watercolours which are also on display. Enlarging such exiguous material is of course disastrous. As well as the tapestry the gallery is decked out from floor to ceiling with grisaille hangings of dusky maidens doing the hokey cokey. He didn’t even do these himself. The whole business is unspeakable so I won’t, except to observe that forty-odd years ago it would have been considered rather “girly”. Oops!

Going past Fortnums I always get a cheery wave from the Irish millionaire who holds the door open. I was on my way to White Cube in Mason’s Yard which is conveniently just behind The Chequers on Duke Street – a pub worth visiting if only for the splendid Spanish barmaids. The WC is showing the work of Wayne Thiebaud, an artist I’ve admired since the ’60s when he was associated with Pop Art. Thiebaud is mostly a still life painter. One of the many things that distinguished him from the Pop artists was his delight in the sensual properties of paint. His cakes and pies look delicious and cakes, pies and ice creams are his favourite theme. His palette is that of the cake shop and ice cream parlour. Later on he managed to translate this into landscapes, oddly enough both rural and urban.

Sometimes Thiebaud paints people and they’re