The Aardvark Blog
Random Thoughts from Lockdown 6
Random Thoughts from Lockdown 6
Last week I sort of cheated in producing a blog as I had had a strange week and couldn't bring myself to think about it again. This week has felt more normal and I am feeling a little better about life. Perhaps my mood has been partially lifted by the prospect of our re-opening to the public on the 6th of July. We have taken a lot of calls from people checking whether we are open yet which leads me to think that people will come out to see us. However spending most of yesterday running through the risk assessment for post-Covid retailing did I confess depress me. We will need to have a limit of 50 people in the shop and some-one will have to police it. In general that should be fine, but the idea of telling people on busy days that they can’t come in is not one that I relish ( I didn't sign up to be the book police.
For the first time since lockdown I successfully bid on a lot of books at auction on Wednesday. An interesting group of art books including a catalogué raisonne of the Carracci family. Seemed like another milestone on the way back to normality. The only bad thing about the auction was the incredibly high prices. Not sure how long they will be sustained but whoever consigned the incomplete set of Dostoevsky in the Garnett translation will have been somewhat stunned to see it go for 6 times lower estimate. Also making a huge price was a charming illustrated letter written by E H Shepard apologising for not being able to go to a children’s birthday party. This lovely but inconsequential letter sent to the son of Marie Stopes - who himself became a doctor - made a hammer price of 15,000. It makes one wonder what a more substantial Shepard item would now make, and I guess Chris Beetle and other dealers will be looking at the prices they charge. You can buy charming Shepard drawings not related to Pooh or Wind in the Willows from £500, although Pooh drawings for publication now go for over £50k.
My reading has continued to be as unsatisfactory as ever but I have spent the week twice working through the wonderful Richard Ingrams book on John Piper - ‘Piper’s Places’. This is a book I have always wanted to own since I saw it in the window of Bebbs art gallery in Ludlow. Bebbs have made a specialty out of selling Piper’s topographical prints and always have one or two in their display. I have long wanted to own one, but in the current economic climate I guess this is a wish that will have to wait a little longer before becoming a reality. Speaking of prints I have also long wanted to acquire another print by the surrealist Andre Masson who is in my opinion one of the most under rated of the 20th century masters. I bought my first Masson print - a large image roughly 65cm by 50cm - back in the nineties and I have been on the lookout for another for the last few years. Every time a Masson print comes up for sale I get an alert but sadly they are never on a par with the one I already own. I think that the time has probably come to admit defeat and move on. One of the things I love about my print which was made towards the end of his career when he was living in the USA , is that it brings together ideas and motifs from throughout his life and even includes references to the work of his friends such as Yves Tanguy. I saw the great Tanguy exhibition at the Pompidou centre in 1982 on what was I think my first trip to Paris. The square in front of the PC was filled with African drummers and their soundscape filled the interior of the building and changed the way I responded to the works. I was a young man then and my knowledge of surrealism was limited mostly to Dali and Magritte. My university friend Noel was interested in the poetry of that period though and introduced me to Tzara, Eluard and their predecessors such as Nerval of lobster fame and Lautreamont. As they say the past is another country.
Also Paris related I have been reading the Art Buchwald memoir ‘I'll always have Paris’. Buchwald is no Alexander Woollcott or Janet Flanner, but he does bring to life the Paris of the immediate post-war period. The left bank intellectuals and the American expats all fancying themselves to be Hemingway or Gertrude Stein ( depending on gender and preferences). I once met some-one in Bristol who had had a UN job in Rome in the sixties and I could hardly contain my envy. But Paris in the fifties would have been even better. Sartre and Camus arguing at Les Deux Magots, all the girls on the left bank looking like Juliette Greco, and an art scene dominated by Dubuffet, Picasso, Nicholas de Stael and by the end of the decade Yves Klein. And Aragon and Breton and Vasarely and late Matisse and Picasso and so much more. And Pierre Soulagés who I discovered from googling how to spell his name is incredibly still with us. On a damp summer’s day in Herefordshire it suddenly seems like the world is alive with possibility.
I now have all three albums by Khruangbin and I have come to believe that together they are the only music that is totally suitable for our new bizarre Covid life. I think my favourite is their second album Con Todo El Munro, but that could just be because it is the one that arrived first and I have therefore listened to it more. Vast intriguing soundscapes with cascading influences that have all been worked through and incorporated into the sound. Just extraordinary and would be an amazing booking for next year’s Glastonbury as headliners on the Other Stage.
So until next week adieu.
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Tough times for the book trade, Amadeus Quartet, Lee Miller Documentary