Saturday, 25 August 2012

Pride & Perseverance

Magdalena Abakanowicz is one of Poland's most important living artist.
On a rainy day in the early 90's, my parents were to meet her. My father, an amateur collector who doesn't believe in galleries, had found the artist's number in the telephone book and called her up to look at some drawings.

Abakan admired (Tate Modern). Woven from mostly found objects such as harbour ropes

They arrived early at the given address. This suburb of Wrocław was calm and green, and they decided to go for a walk rather than wait around. They held hands and gazed at decaying villas, built by Germans when the city was still called Breslau.

And so, they arrived late. Abakanowicz greeted them with aristocratic coldness at the studio door. She had to be somewhere soon, she said brusquely to the strangers who had made her wait. My father inspected the drawings with inexorable calm while my mother, enraged by the reception, paced around the studio. Arms crossed in front of her shoulder-padded jacket, the strut of her pumps sent echoes through the room like sharp reproaches.
"We're not buying from her", she hissed when the artist turned her back. My father, impossible to offend, had found some works he liked. But desire to keep domestic peace won over Saatchiist ambition. The couple left without a purchase. One with a smile of regret, the other with eyes full of spite. 

Cecyna Flower, 1999 (MoMA collection)
I gasped when my father told me the story almost twenty years later. These days, Abakanowicz's work is found in all important collections in the world, public and private. Gone are the prices of barely post-communist Poland (£100...).

Agora, 106 iron figures in Chicago's Grant Park, 2004-2006

I didn't think I would ever forgive my mother for her pride, until my dad told me last week that he had found two Abakanowicz sculptures on eBay. For a laughable price. Photos were sent to Warsaw galleries to confirm authenticity, emails exchanged with the seller, a discount granted. The thing seemed too good to be true.

And then, my mother said no. No. And again, my father backed down. What was this sabotage, I wondered. And this caving in. Could she still be holding a grudge? I wanted confessions, a catharsis of hurt egos.

Instead, I bought the sculptures myself.  And I am sending one home.  

Embryology at the Venice Biennale 1980
Burlap, cotton gauze, hemp rope, nylon and sisal - approximately 800 pieces

No comments:

Post a Comment