Gallery chat

Gallery chat

A Story by Haim Kadman
"

Saved a penny to a penny. Sidovskys words kept echoing in Rotels brain. Couldnt they do something for him?

"

Standing before his gallery’s locked door, Ram Rotel pulled a set of keys out of his pant’s pocket and started to open the heavy door locks, with a set of quick sharp clicks. Having entered he lighted up this darkened cellar, which he has turned into the most prestigious art gallery in town " and hastened to open its windows to ventilate the place, before switching on the air condition system.

While crossing slowly the little hall towards his desk, he scrutinized his walls with a criticising look; having reached his armchair he fell into it with a sigh of relief. Last week he did not rest even one day. On Saturday, last night as a matter of fact, Sidovsky’s exhibition opening took place, a veteran and famous painter. The opening was a smashing event, the guests crowded his gallery up to midnight " luckily enough no damages were done. But he had to postpone the weekend leave he promissed his wife and kids and the exhausting four and a half hours, which he passed last night were still marked on his face. He turned around a bored glance on Sidovsky’s huge paintings, hanging on his walls, no, there isn’t the slightest chance any of those paintings would sell. He summed to himself the matter up. Who would hang in his living room a painting of some seven feet width? ‘No chance’, he muttered aloud. Well at least he would be able to rest during the next two weeks, up to the exhibition’s closure, without the usual headaches, as his gallery won’t be invaded by hords of visitors. Yesterday’s tumult was raised after all, by Sidovsky’s many relatives and friends. They have done their duty and except them nobody would show his face in here " oh, I’ve forgotten to bring a book along. Raising his eyes to his gallery’s entrance he saw Sidovsky’s stooping silhouette, crossing his gallery’s threshold.

‘Good morning to you Mr. Sidovsky.’ He cried out cheerfully. The return for his services was already paid, thus he could amuse himself a bit on Sidovsky’s account. But what is he looking for at this early morning hour? Rotel wondered. He doesn’t expect any buyers, does he? ‘Take a seat’, he told Sidovsky, as the latter reached his desk. ‘What brings you here at that early hour? You aren’t excited as someone who’s exhibiting for the first time in his life, not you?’ Rotel turned to him with a cheerful frame of mind, which the latter’s arrival inspired him with.

‘It may surprise you but I’m really very excited.’ Sidovsky replied rather seriously. ‘As a matter of fact, I haven’t relaxed yet from yesterday’s opening.’ ‘Oh yes, that was some opening,’ Rotel remarked with much pride. ‘I haven’t seen such a crowded opening for quite a while, neither in my gallery nor in others. But I haven’t expected to see you up to next Saturday, or one of next week’s nights.’ ‘I intend to come every day and join your company,’ declared Sidovsky. ‘It won’t bother you I hope.’

‘God forbid, it’s an excellent idea, which might encourage the clients. But these words I’m used to quote to painters at the first stages of their career " not to a painter at your elvated status. I wonder what do you need it for? A painter of your rank keeps a distance, sits in his studio and paints during this time " preparing his next exhibition.’
‘That’s exactly is my problem, I’m not able to paint while an exhibition of mine takes place. I’m simply not able to sit next to my easle and paint.’

‘Why have you then waited fifteen years for your present exhibition? You might have come out with an exhibition every two years, it isn’t an impossible task for an artist of your calibre?’ 

‘No it isn’t, I mean technically it’s feasible.’ Sidovsky hastened to reply. ‘But there’re enough reasons not to, first of all an exhibition shortens my life " that’s true as simple as all that.’ Sidovsky smiled to him, exposing his dentures for the first time. ‘Apart from it where can I exhibit my art? You don’t expect a painter of my status to exhibit in some modest public hall, or some instituition of the same scale. Your gallery is my only option, and in order to exhibit in it I’ve saved the sum needed for it, a penny to a penny these last fifteen years. It doesn’t include all my savings, but I’ve supported my childern marriages, helped them to get an apartment of their own " and was left with the little that sufficed for that exhibition of mine. It isn’t different you know, from anyone’s problems.’ With that short monologue, Sidovsky summed up his financial problems, and they both sat silent for a few moments.

‘Would you have a cup of coffee with me?’ Rotel asked getting to his feet and turning to the small corridor at the hall’s bottom, leading to his kitchenette " Sidovsky’s troubles seemed to have troubled his conscious.

‘Thanks I’ll be glad to,’ replied Sidovsky. Standing before the heap of the kitchen utensils that filled the sink and its surroundings, taking a glimpse at the boxes of empty bottles that crammed his kitchenette, Rotel had feelings of remorse, he could have ordered coffee with one phone call, and save himself the trouble. Never mind, I’ll do the old bloke a gesture. He boiled water, and in about two minutes time poured coffee in two small cups. Saved a penny to a penny. Sidovsky’s words kept echoing in Rotel’s brain. Couldn’t they do something for him, the ministry of art and culture, or all those art associations? That dart penetrated even Rotel’s thick hide. Well I don’t intend to fight for Sidovsky’s sake, and even if I would have wished to, I would have been beaten right at the beginning. He took the two steaming cups and returned to his desk. ‘Sugar or,’ he asked,

‘Two spoons please, thank you.’ While they were drinking their coffee some sloppily attired type entered, and started moving along the walls checking the few paintings hanging there " ignoring both of them. Sidovsky recoiled in his seat, watching the few coffee drops in his cup, while Rotel watched the stranger with much curiosity. Another eccentric painter, he thought. One more of those who can’t afford to join the artists that I represent. ‘Isn’t he a pupil of yours?’ He asked Sidovsky, compelling the latter to raise his head and watch the visitor.

‘No I don’t know him.’ Sidovsky muttered and lowered his head again.

‘This must be the reason that brings you here and would bring you here every day, isn’t it?’

‘That’s right,’ replied Sidovsky. ‘The public’s reaction is very important to me.’

‘The public will react as we’ll dictate it.’ Reminded him Rotel, ‘and thank god the media hasn’t stopped writing about you and your works in the last decade " so what are you worried about?’

‘I’m not worried,’ declared Sidovsky. ‘We are both at the safe side of the barricade. I’ve been teaching before I’d to retire. But there’re those who have their own views, inspite of everything, and in those people I’m interested. I don’t think that I’m allowed to conduct discussions in here, and I don’t have such intentions. I’ll do with their visits. One can draw conclusions from body language, without exchanging a single word.’

The man is full of optimism, Rotel told himself; or mayby he hasn’t hatched out of his ivory tower or rather ivory egg yet. He thought amused. The lone visitor left and Rotel was bored. ‘Do you know that Klibanov has returned, have you heard about it?’

‘You should have said he’s on a short leave here. No I didn’t hear it and he doesn’t interest me.’

‘He’s doing very well out there in Europe. He isn’t an easy type to get along with I agree, particularly after his “drastic U turn”. I was too among those who tried to restrict him, but who can restrict such a success?’ Rotel recalled with quite an amount of sympathy.

Sidovsky was not too eager to discuss that certain success, but he was very careful not to speak ill of him. Nevertheless he thought he should explain his reservations. ‘Why did he have to leave, he was doing very well here too. As far as I know he’d no economic difficulties.’

‘He didn’t leave Mr. Sidovsky, he simply found the way out.’ Rotel remarked with a sarcastic smile. ‘Do know anyone who would miss such a chance, as the one that fell into Klibanov’s hands, you maybe?’ 

 

‘A short while after a late lunch, Rotel phoned Klibanov from his residence. ‘Welcome, listen can I hop over to you tonight, say about nine thirty, right after “Mabat” {channel one newscast}? There’re quite a few things that may interest you, and there are some old paintings of yours that were sold, and a few more things.’ 

At ten oclock that same night Rotel was sitting in Klibanov’s hotel suite’s living room, opposite his host, listening to Klibanov’s tales for a short while; and at the first opportunity revealed to his host the reason why he was so eager to see him. ‘About two months ago I’ve sold one of your old paintings, from your early era, before you made your famous U turn. You can’t imagine what a huge demand there is for these paintings.’

‘Fine, enjoy it.’ Klibanov muttered briskly uninterested.

God almighty, how difficult this man is. Rotel fumed within himself. How do I thow this ice block? ‘Listen I beg you, you’re to stay with us some three more months, do me a favor paint several more paintings just like those old paintings that you used to paint.’

‘You must be joking,’ Klibanov answered without changing his indifferent expression.

‘Just a few paintings,’ Rotel kept begging stubbornly. ‘Do you know how much money it will get us?’

‘The answer is no, absolutely not.’

Good god it isn’t a human being I’m speaking to, it’s a superpower, he might cut off his diplomatic relations with me, if I’ll continue to nag him. ‘Do you know that Sidovsky is exhibiting in my gallery, the opening was yesterday night.’ 

‘Oh, and what does he exhibit?’ Klibanov wondered feigning surprise.

‘Huge canvases, I don’t believe I would manage to sell even one of them.’

‘What subject, is he still hooked to his old ideas?’

‘The same old subject that got hold of his mind, the same old ideas but on a much bigger scale. I don’t believe he’ll ever shake himself of that subject " after all who could have any idea on his existance, if he wouldn’t have continued with that subject of his.’ Rotel added as if was confiding some secret.

‘At his age his problem isn’t the size but the banal subject.’ Klibanov expressed his opinion in the longest sentence, which he muttered up to that moment in that same meeting.

‘Do you think we can find him a client in Europe?’ Rotel asked him with some hope. If he rejected his first request he at least might do this little favor.

‘I do appreciate his persistence and I do like him as a human being. He was among the very few who didn’t take a stand in my case, when it took place. But that subject of his that raised a public controversy not long ago, suites academic discussions but isn’t suitable for sale. Well you’re the authority in that domain, and the fact that even in our country he doesn’t sell is known to anyone.’

‘Would you exchange a painting with him?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous, and don’t you make me harm a colleague indirectly. As for Europe I’ll check and see what can be done, though I can’t promise anything.’ 

 

‘I saw Klibanov yesterday.’ Rotel told Sidovsky, when the latter just crossed the threshold of his gallery. Sidovesky sat down with a sour face, but said nothing; all of a sudden he got nimbly to his feet. ‘Someone stole my morning paper from the box, what do you say to this kind of impudence? I’m going out to buy a paper.’ He added without waiting for Retel’s reply. ‘Shall I fetch you something?’

‘No thanks,’ Rotel replied him. ‘I’ve brought a couple of books with me, I didn’t forget this time.’


© 2011 Haim Kadman



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Added on February 20, 2009
Last Updated on August 13, 2011

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Haim Kadman
Haim Kadman

Petach-Tikva, Israel



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