The Emperor’s New Clothes – Part.I.

Bobby McLean at the Watch House Gallery, Enniscorthy.

I wrote this piece a couple of years ago and never got round to submitting it for publication and am using it here as the first in a series on Art collecting.

We were recently invited by friends to the opening of an exhibition of paintings by Glaswegian painter, Bobby McLean at the Watch House Gallery in Enniscorthy. Not being a great lover of art exhibitions, I went along to keep my wife company safe in the knowledge that at least it was an excuse to have a few drinks afterwards.

I should have brought my sunglasses. A cursory look around the garish collection of landscapes (?) crudely daubed in oils confirmed my opinions on contemporary art and I was looking for the way out. This art is best viewed in a dark room, it is for laying down and avoiding! If it weren’t for the outrageous prices which varied from €450 to €2,500 I would say don’t give up the day job, but if he can fetch these prices perhaps it is I that should change jobs. This artist cannot paint, although this shouldn’t deter him as many others from the primitive school such as Jack B Yeats command huge prices, but they generally have to be dead first. Out of the twenty eight pictures on view no fewer than fourteen were imaginatively titled “Landscape in Red”! At the bottom of the price list a note stated ‘Art may be purchased in installments’ – enough said.

My friend and I slipped away before the opening speeches, leaving our wives behind with strict instructions not to buy anything. As we savoured our pints of Guinness in a nearby hostelry we hoped that they would not waiver but we needn’t have worried as they joined us as soon as was polite after the speeches. They had learnt that the artist was a ‘colourist’ – that much even I could see but what is obsession with badly drawn electricity pylons?

My advice to anyone thinking of investing in a Bobby McLean painting is don’t! Save your money and nip down to your local Euro shop instead and pick up a nice cheap print that your family and friends will at least understand. If I am not very much mistaken in a few years time it will be worth as much as any of the paintings on view. If this is ‘art’ I will eat not just my hat but my entire wardrobe!

Next up Sean Scully.


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