On a recent visit to the Netherlands and with that naturally my parents, I made a trip with my father to collect two of his sculptures at a gallery in Brabant. Two hours of busy Dutch highway brought us to a small village on the Maas river which was beautiful in all its Dutch typicalities: small houses built from the red brick that I've become to miss so much. The gallery was situated in the main street and appeared closed. Some minutes later we were let in and were offered coffee. My father talked business and I looked around in the one room.
(one of the sculptures my father, Jan Pater, made)
Galleries have always given me the impression of a kind of sanctuary, rooms in which a special behavior was asked for. Churches for art. "This is Art, this has to be Appreciated in Silence and Solemnity." Slow steps from one work to another in upper concentration. Festive vernissages seem to serve the purpose of allowing and thereby evicting the last laughter, the excess before the silence is started.
I had never gotten a 'behind the screens of an art gallery', and my first experience was a revelation. I came to frown as soon as I made my entrance. On one of the sculptures there was a jacket hanging. It confused me: was the jacket part of the work of art? The size of the jacket and the sweating gallery man in his shirt told me otherwise. The gallery man and my father were carrying the rather heavy sculptures into the car, an activity which made the gallery man -who would best be described by some euphemisms- sweat, upon which he must have taken his jacket off. A gallery is not a place which has hooks for jackets, he took the most convenient object closeby. Now the art had become an ordinary coat hanger and I felt on a secret mission, looking for other signs of gallery blasphemy. Soon I found another indication: in the yard, where some more sculptures were exposed, lay a carefully placed piece of shit on the little white stones. There were some ambiguities in it which any artist would be jealous of: art or need? Sign of approval or disapproval? This time, two bowls on the floor in the kitchen made the revelation. To complete my search, a third transcendence of gallery standards I found when behaving like a good daughter, chitchatting with both gentlemen, sitting on the antique sofa. The sculpture next to it was demystified by putting a recharging mobile phone on it; we all know mobile phones are unworthy to be put on the floor to gain new energies and thus we should use the nearest object to save them from such unworthiness.
Seeing all this, I felt like when watching Benjamin in the final scene of The Graduate, swinging the big cross to block the church doors through which he escaped with his beloved Eileen. Yes, dramatic, but isn't art supposed to be?