The Museum of Unpainted Paintings
My dearest Margaret,
You must be quite surprised to see a letter from your mentor this time of year. I am indeed on my usual vacation and I assure it’s the news of the merriest kind that draw me from the picturesque coast of St.Bernograd’s harbor to the ink-stained desk of my little hotel room. A few days ago, bored with the beauties of nature, I ventured into this small resort town to discover a surprise of a rather artistic kind. You know me well, managing a metropolitan gallery through the year always leaves me yearning for a scenery devout of anything vaguely meaningful. True, few first days of my vacation I managed to see a few traces of post-modern semiotics in every other tree or sidewalk, yet these artistic delusions shortly loosened their grip on my weary mind and let me enjoy some simple well-deserved rest in the countryside. Sorry for the awfully long prelude, but I do want you to imagine just how singularly unreceptive to art I was when I stumbled upon the Gallery of Unpainted Paintings.
Boris here. Thanks for the letters, glad that brothers are doing good in the city, say hi and whatnot. Please don’t mention every time you write that I’m the last man in the family without the whole wife/job thing going on. I know that, okays. You left me in this dump, all jobs are either entertaining tourists (old farts who’d rather stare at trees and whatnot than hear a joke) or prostitution. I can’t do the latter, all our womans will starve to death. And I’ll have no wife. But don’t be sad, living in St.Bernograd gave me time and time is the most precious thing in the world. Maybe after money and gold (is it still valuable, no?)
Anyway, I used time to think and I think I came up with several good thoughts. In fact, prepare to be surprised, because your Boris just got the most genius idea in the world. One looks, what kind of entertainment we have in the town? A run-down cafe, old Maurie’s grocery and an abandoned windmill. Now, if there’s one thing that is missing from the picture of a lively holiday resort, it’s art. I gathered my friends (with a help of some beer drink) and we sat to make arts. Old Maurie drew a painting in the modern genre of “fantasy realism”. I couldn’t tell what it was, but Jackie there said the only thing realistic about it is that it looks like vomit. Jackie himself did a rather crap job drawing some sort of woman whose breasts looked nothing like I imagine them to be. I pointed that out and he called me a virgin and said my painting looks like vomit too. Anyway, we all had another beer and decided that none of us can paint any good. So, we had a few more beers, you know how it goes and I said “who cares if we have paintings or not! We’re going to open the gallery anyway!” Jackie, the cynical bastard of course said “Oh yes, and how are you going to call it? The gallery of unpainted paintings, no?” “Exactly,” I said and off we went.
Margaret was indeed surprised to see a letter from Mr.Brome and such an ecstatic one too. Rarely could she witness his emotions exhibit themselves in a gesture more dramatic than a slight raise of the left eyebrow or a seldom twitch on the heraldically opposite side on his well-fed visage.
Pascal Brome was not an easy man to impress. If he stumbled upon Picasso and Shakespeare painting each others fingernails he’d probably calmly ask for a couple of autographs and take his leave, luscious images of ebay profits obscuring the mundane before his eyes.
That in mind, Margaret got ready in an hour and caught the first train to the countryside. She bought a bag of snacks and tried to satisfy her curiosity with fried peas. As industrious as she was, the peas only inspired stronger curiosity and a hint of allergy.
She took out her microscopic phone the moment her feet landed on the station and called Mr.Brome. Even before she managed to complete the elegant switch of dialing position into a full-blown conversational stance the familiar voice condensed the following information into three or four rapid and furious verbal blasts:
“13, Potbrew street, 10 minutes from the station, hurry”
The taxi driver was most surprised to see someone anxious in these parts. Last time that happened, it was Mr.Brome himself a year ago, upon his departure from the countryside. It seemed he was to anxious to get bored.
There he was in flesh and tweed tapping nervously before what seemed to be a rather unremarkable gallery.
“Margaret, dear, finally!”
“This is the future of art, the gallery of unpainted paintings! All credited to this brilliant young man.”
Margaret stared at a small hallway littered with discarded canvases, then at the brilliant young man, whose expression was slightly less distinct than that of the paintings and then at her mentor, whose smile stretched his pursy mask to limits unknown to Pascal Bromes.
“But, there’s nothing there..” She said.
“Well, we couldn’t find a painter in the village and I already paid for the room, so um, I kinda decided to go with it anyway and yeah.. sort of.. sorry” the brilliant young man replied clumsily, scratching his coarse chin with his plain brutish fingernails leaving dark foiling from whatever met his fingers throughout the day. “I’m Boris by the way.”
Pascal patted Margaret on the head, gave her a condescending grin, waited a few moments to add a couple of tons to the silence and finally spoke:
“Before you, dear Margaret, is the first collection of post-post-modern paintings. Art that transcended art and then transcended art that transcended art again! It is of course a shock to you, in the same way cubism left Hitler uninspired, but you’ll grow accustomed to the highest art form along with the rest of our troubled world.”
Margaret felt a bit uncomfortable for being compared to Hitler, after all she found Hitler very unpleasant and wouldn’t want to be like him in any way possible. So, to further shield herself from the her growing naziness she looked at the pictures again.
“Well, now that you mention it...”
“Exactly! - Brome exclaimed, I knew it wouldn’t take you long to see it. Of course we must buy the entire exhibit and move it downtown right away. These commoners can not appreciate the genius they bore. Do you know what Boris’s cousin said about these pictures? No? Boris, tell her!”
“Well, he didn’t say anything, he just punched me in me face.”
“We are once again in an era of violence, once again it’s brute force against poetry and once again it shall be poetry that remains and lives on in the hearts of men.”
“But doesn’t brute force live on too, surely more people know how to fight rather than how too.. um... do banquet stuff.”
“Well, quite. Enough of that. Margaret, you do you work. I need to take a break.”
Pascal and Boris went to the wine merchant and bought the most expensive bottle of wine in the store. They walked along the shores and Pascal told Boris a lot of wonderful and frightening things about art. He spoke of posts and isms and what was kitsch and what was delightfully kitsch. Boris felt quite nauseous from the wine and mostly from the talk of higher matters. He felt as if Pascal held him in his tight grip over the river by the ears. It was only Boris’s full attention that could keep him afloat, the moment his big fat ears let their muscles flutter in the wind the river would crash into his able body and devour it whole.
So Boris strained himself harder than he possibly could and instantly died of brain hemorrhage.
“No one goes to art shows to look at art. People go there because they are too old to visit a discotheque. With this fine exhibition of unpainted paintings, our visitors no longer need to pretend they’re in it for the art. They can stroll along passing flirtations and drinking cheap wine in the finest traditions of modern day art shows.”
Pascal read the statement several times, his face stale as this metaphor: “still as a still photograph of a still rock unwashed by waters, unfeathered by wind.”
“No, too direct. People don’t like directions in art.”
“You thought black square was post-modern?!”
“No, no, no. It’s an art show, it must have class.”
A black bird landed on his shoulders and plucked cherries from his ears. They must’ve tasted sour because the bird coughed up a gooey brown mass on Pascal’s shirt and hovered to the nearest tree.
“Oh you damn flying animal!”
Pascal had to call several times, because Margaret was not accustomed to washing shirts at 4am. While she was performing her duties as a gallery assistant, Pascal gazed motionlessly at the vile bird. The vile bird gazed motionlessly at Pascal. The mysterious powers of Brome’s gaze had no effect on the little blackbird and it kept sitting there staring back at the most important art curator in our country.
“That bird, he said. It’s upsetting me.”
Margaret wept sweat from her forehead and sighed. “It’s because you have cherries growing on you, Mr.Brome”
“Surely, it must be my fault. See, right here is a difference between our paintings and this ugly bird. The paintings don’t exist per se, yet they are beautiful and vibrant in our minds, they live! This bird merely exists, it serves no purpose and if I had a gun I’d be most delighted to shoot it.”
Finishing his tirade with a loud knock on the table, Pascal lifted his crooked little body and leaked towards the bedroom mumbling words of hate on his way.
Margaret looked up the tree and saw the bird carefully arranging its nest. It seemed to be paying no attention to the scene anymore.
“You do seem to have a reason for existing. If it wasn’t for your intrusion, this cretin would be still here talking of his rotten art show.”
Her hatred for Brome suddenly skipped over the fence to the vast fields of sympathy a few yards missing the lovebench. She felt sorry for Boris whom she haven’t seen since afternoon and the bird and the taxi driver and everyone else in the countryside. Even the discarded canvases, lovingly arranged into a ridiculous non-existent art show by someone whose desperation and naivety were blown into a monstrous beast through the thick spectacles of one exceedingly artistic mind.