London. The girl across the hall has a
new personal trainer. He makes house calls. She says he's ex-Airborne.
Ronnie says he makes crash landings. She says she shared a cab with him
and the meter hadn't rolled before his hand was on her knee.
Connie's handled more sensational passes than even the 570 her all-time
hero Brett Favre threw in that great Packers season of '95 - and she's
old enough to have seen most of them. Connie may be right. I mean how
many pilates classes break at 4am for donuts and skinny latte?
says she saw the girl across the hall at Confession. She wasn't in
very long. I suppose one subject covers all. We're sort of friends. We
shared the only spare table at the Edvard Munch show at the Royal
Academy seven years back. Then I saw her at the Musee d'Orsay one
morning last October and she said she was coming back to London. She's
from Dijon. Connie says that makes sense. "Looks creamy but no real
taste you can put your finger on." Anyway, I told her when the apartment
across the hall was vacant and that was that, neighbors.
this morning, looking the worse for wear (or just maybe, better for it)
she collapsed on my second best chesterfield as Anne Hathaway would
have called it and started talking The Scream. Why not? That's
when our hardly beautiful friendship began. She wants to know why it's
so great and why could it fetch $80million when it comes up at Sotheby's
New York .
Fabulous? She thought Not. Just
crayons that worked on the day. There are many versions. Obsessive? She
thought Yes. Could be. But that's was Munch. Look at his
self-portraits. Can't fail to get more than a sense he must have lived
his life preparing for death.
Was there ever a
painter who did so many self-portraits? Well, ye ma'am. Rembrandt did
90. Van Gogh more than 30, Munch, maybe 70. That's a lot of self
examination about age and a painter's human condition, which is what
self-portraits are. Munch said it was a confession. So Connie asks the
girl across the hall if she does self portraits. She has one of those
fake slow smiles and slightly shakes her head. When she does her whole
upper body moves. That's pilates for you.
Number One Fan says artists do what novellists do: it's all about
themselves. He said ever since Jan Van Eyck in the 15th century did
maybe the first surviving self-portrait Portrait of a Man in A Turban,
painters have been coursing their own decline to death. So where's he
getting this? He must have read that somewhere because he knows nothing
about painting. He confesses. He's quoting one of my columns. There's
too much of that going on.
So what do we make of The Scream
coming up? I think we should make $80million of it. It's Petter
Olsen, a son of the famous Fred Olsen Line shipping company, who is
selling the painting. He says its time for others to see it on regular
display. Okay Petter. What happens if it's bought by another private
art patron and tucked away on the bulkhead of an air-con superyacht? I
supposed Petter may be disappointed but he can use the $80million to
invest in a hotel and shrine at Munch's old Norwegian playground,
Hvisten - just in time to cash in on the 150th anniversary of the
painter's birth in 2013.
The girl across the
hall smells money - more than personal trainers make. She asks how old
Petter is. Connie says he's Norwegian so nobody knows. She's smiling
that smile again and whispers off to get quality time pilates. Personal
trainers are at least good time keepers. Mind you, maybe she's got
something about The Scream. Could it be that it's just famous?
Just iconic? Maybe it's not so good after all. Sotheby's are selling it
in New York on May 2. I can hear Simon Shaw in the York Avenue
boardroom chuckling. Not a masterpiece? He can give 80,000,000 reasons why
In my art I have tried to explain life and its meaning to myself. - Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait in Bergen, above right.