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10 August 2012
Some art galleries are just for "show" - the Louvre in Paris is an example. They don't sell works to anyone. It is so humiliating to casually stroll in being cool: "I'll just take that Mona painting... Oh it's not is it?... When might you sell it?" The answer is always "never" - they speak perfect English in the Louvre when you either want to buy a painting or steal one, you ask where the toilet is and you're on your own.
The gallery I am going to today in Paris is the kind where you can buy anything on display. Most of it is simply junk. I decide upon a nice work of a farmhouse by an artist called Serge Gainsbourg. I have a sneaking suspicion they have merely lifted the name from the well-known french singer of the 60's and 70's. I inquire as to the name? "It is a true Gainsbourg original", the gallery owner insists. I'm not quite sure whether to believe him, until he points out there is a couple in the picture, having sex in the wheat field next to the farmhouse. A plume of Gauloises cigarette smoke rises into the air and according to the gallery owner: "It is possibly himself making love to his lover, smoking at the same time like he always did. I know cigarette smoke in any painting - that is Gauloises"
My interest is stirred, I am a fan of the singer, he was a visionary and strangely charismatic. How can I prove it is really his work? Did he even paint? For this question to be answered, I would have to call Jill, my secretary. With a bit of journalist magic, I get through to Jane Birkin in London. Jane was Serge's partner in music and love for many years, their most famous collaboration was the immensely sexy song, Je T'Aime. Her voice is still sweet as sugar as she delivers a gentle "hello, Jane here". I ask her if she ever 'did it' in a field with Serge next to a farmhouse? "Which field are you referring to? Lots of them in France?", she replies with honesty. I explain where I am and about the painting - "Serge painted many pictures and placed us in them somewhere, I have many of them still. If you've found one then well done. There are maybe a dozen more in France somewhere. The other thing to notice is that he always placed plumes of smoke somewhere in the painting. He never signed his pictures either." I ask her what cigarettes he smoked? "Marlboro Red", she answers immediately. I say thank you to Jane and promise to interview her in London. Sweet girl.
Turning my attention back to the painting, I ask the gallery owner what the cigarette smoke is again? "Marlboro red", he has good ears. I think, "what the heck you Frenchman", I decide to take it. It isn't a huge picture so I am able to take it as hand luggage on the flight back to London.
Arriving back at my office, I find a fax from Jane! She has identified the field and painting by going through her own collection of his paintings. She explains in the fax that: "Serge was a man you never forgot a moment with. There were twelve fields we made love in during our time together - I won't say other types of locations! - I have 10 of those pictures, set in a field and Serge destroyed one of them while smoking and using white spirit. You must have the last one. To know for sure, take the picture out of the frame and see what is on the other side of the canvas, Jane."
My excitement builds as I gingerly remove the painting. Sure enough, a magical find! On the back of the canvas, I find another painting; a dark painting of a woman with big breasts. Underneath, the words: "Fuck Mona... I make my own". Serge has attempted to paint his own Mona Lisa! With boobs! I can't contain my glee as I phone Jane. She explains that Serge always put a dirty version of a famous painting on the back out of frustration, frustration that he can't have the original. Wow, I want to agree with his logic! The version of Mona with her tits out is BETTER than the original. She hangs in my office now, she is my prized possession. She does indeed smile in this version too, she's smoking Marlborough red - Marlboro country makes Mona happy. Finally, there is a farmhouse in the distance and if you really squint, you see a tiny plume of smoke in a field.
This is a contented art collector for UnNews.