Long-term Loans, Bow Ties and a Lady in Green
July 15th, 2013 by Willem Jan Renders
Yes, there is a reader who encourages me to continue writing! Thanks for your comment Leonard! Good to hear from you. Indeed there seem to be many parallels between what Trotsky writes and the themes in Kabakovs work. I didn’t know that.
Much encouragement is not needed to go on writing, because I am beginning to like it. And there are still a few more stories to tell about my stay in St. Petersburg, although I can already announce that I did not get as far as Fortress Totleben. I know this will disappoint many readers, but at the risk of losing them I continue.
After the opening of the exhibition Charles and I went back to Kempinski to discuss a few long-term loans with some collectors over lunch. It is always a compliment if a collector wants to convey works of art to a museum, but it is very important to ask about the conditions first. To know exactly what the owner wants you to do and not to do with his works of art prevents many misunderstandings. In this case there was a lot to discuss because the owner wants us to do extensive research. But I think we came to a good agreement and we will go on and draw up a contract. And the lunch was good too.
It was still very hot when Charles and I went out to look for a black tie. I had brought my smoking and a black tie, but the day before after many attempts I still failed to follow the instructions of the internet course ‘How to Tie a Bow Tie’ (A Gentleman’s Guide to Evening Wear). I just could not do it. The last time I wore my smoking must have been at least ten years ago and I wondered if I could tie this tie then. Charles did not have a bow tie at all, so there we went along Nevski Prospekt looking for a pair of pre-tied ties, ones that you do not have to tie. A very expensive shop had some, not black though. But we did not want to look any further, so we bought a tie with little blue flowers for Charles and one in camouflage colors for me.
I liked my camouflage tie because of its absurdity. Dressing in camouflage clothes is already very strange when you are in a city. These clothes only provide camouflage in the woods. They make you stand out in any other surrounding. But a tie in camouflage colors can never provide any camouflage at all. The original function is totally gone and there is not the slightest possibility for hiding anywhere anymore
We took a cab and went to our hotel to take a shower, a nap and to dress up or the gala evening. An early meeting, a press preview, an opening, long term loans and a gala: it’s all in a day’s job! But I was rather tired and fell asleep immediately. A short very deep and refreshing sleep, a power nap to keep me going the rest of the evening. After dressing up in camouflage I tried to get some money for Charles from the machine in the hotel lobby but my card was refused. It’s the second time this happened to me in Russia so I took a private card with me also and got some money after all.
We walked with Ilya and Emilia from Kempinski to the entrance of the White Nights Gala. Expensive cars went of and on. The rich and the beautiful made their entrée. Photographers were everywhere (for photos see for instance: http://sobaka.ru/photo/photo/17383). Of course it was not very hard to distinguish who was rich and who was beautiful. In most cases it’s either one or the other; these properties seldom unite in one person.
Speaking of beautiful: one lady immediately caught my eye and continued to catch it at several moments during the rest of the evening. I called her The Lady in Green. She had a natural grace that was surprising, receiving all the admiring glances with a remarkable smile and self-evident charm. There was not a trace of arrogance on her face. La Bella Principessa by Leonardo da Vinci would fade in her presence. On the internet I found a photograph of her at the Jordan staircase. I cannot enlarge it and that is precisely how it should be; she’s very far away now in time and place. But in real time she was ravishing! Of course I remembered the words that a guard in an Italian museum once said to me: “Si vede, ma non si tocca!”
The gala was inspired by a costume ball held by the tsar in 1903 and after the music and dance performances in the theatre (I never knew there was one in the Hermitage!) a photo had to be taken of the guests from exactly the same spot as one hundred and ten years ago. Charles murmured something like: “Fourteen more years to go to the Revolution.” After the photo (The Lady in Green is on the bottom right) we went for a bite to eat: five courses of delicious food served to some hundred and fifty guests sitting at twenty tables. There was enough wodka to fill the Fontanka but I decided to stick to white wine. That was a good decision but I should not have smoked the cigarettes that were offered to me outside. The next morning they gave me a soar throat…
After the dinner there was a dance and after that there were more drinks outside. It was already twelve o’clock when I saw Ilya and Emilia coming out of the palace. They walked together across the courtyard to the main entrance: two tiny people in this huge baroque pomposity. Tomorrow they would fly to their next project in Graz. They always work. There is no time for holidays in their lives…