It’s so simple and trite to say ‘use the money for dialysis machines’ but…

Boris Johnson has been made the Conservative’s shadow minister for the arts.

Now, nobody with any sense buys Boris’s bumbling idiot act. But the fact is that he’s a clever chap with a genuinely popular touch. Should he get the opportunity, it’s unlikely that he’ll be too swayed by establishment interests, nor pour cash into quick populist stuff that has no intrinsic worth.

And seeing that Charles Kennedy’s people have yet to contact me regarding my proposals for the constitution, I don’t feel too bad about putting forward some common-sense no-nonsense advice to the other opposition lot. As this might go on a bit, I think I’ll split it over two days.

(Note to CK – I do use a dial-up connection, so am engaged a lot – try email. Cheers – JB)

I suppose I should establish some credentials as a serious art-lover.

My first experience of contemporary art was back in the very late eighties, when I woz young. It was the first freebie junket that I’d ever been to.

A champagne reception at the ‘Pop Art Show’, courtesy of The Independent newspaper, held at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly. Proper invitations and all that, with gold writing.

My boss couldn’t go, so I inherited the tickets and went posing as him. He was encouraging about this – he had a very paternalistic way about him, and wanted his staff to experience culture. As long as we were reasonably discreet.

Given that he was forty years older than me, well-known to everybody at The Independent, and Welsh, passing myself off as him might have been optimistic. Not as optimistic as Volvo Man (then known as Renault Boy), who accompanied me, as my boss’s girlfriend.

We had a couple of pints first. Dutch courage. But we got in easily. Nobody seemed to mind or notice that we weren’t an elderly Welsh couple.

I vividly recall the initial impression. We walked in to the first room, somebody thrust a glass of champagne at me and I saw a shoe nailed to the wall.

Underneath this was a terrifically serious plaque reading (something like): “Shoe Nailed to the Wall”.

There was the famous piece with the bricks on the floor, and some Lichtensteins. But if I’m honest, it was the free champagne that we both paid the most attention to.

It was everywhere. New glasses carried round on trays, arriving as top-ups straight from the bottle, ferreted away from shelves as soon as it had been put down by an unsuspecting guest.

I chatted enthusiastically to various people for a couple of hours, brilliantly deconstructing the zeitgeist and things. Then, no doubt overwhelmed by all the artistry around me, I went out and was sick on the steps.

On the way back to Liverpool Street we had to drop in at my office to pick up some stuff. Small office, nobody there, I had a key.

We walked in and I immediately knocked over a huge pot plant. The carpet was liberally doused with earth, which I then fell in and went to sleep.

Meanwhile, Volvo Man/Renault Boy was vomiting in, and over, the toilets.

For reasons best known to himself, he then defecated on the floor.

I didn’t realise this until I turned up for work the next day, to find our clearing up efforts had truly been token.

The subsequent recriminations really overshadowed any debate I might have had with myself about the nature and function of contemporary art.

But I was young and immature then.

Continued tomorrow.

Comments are closed