The scent of money - the scent of sulfur - the value of art
I just returned from a brief chat with a friend. Clemens is an artist of whom you will hear by the end of this year - a lot. I was sipping a beer in his crammed east-berlin soviet-era mini-flat, 'inhaling' as much of his wonderful paintings as possible; the intensity of his life beaming of every square-inch of color- and text-plastered canvas. He shares his last bottle of beer with me - because he wants to celebrate the occasion: his art just attracted the serious attention of a very, very important public figure, who already decorates his office with one painting by him (smack between a work by Immendorf and one by Lüpertz). That guy has a plan for a major coup d'etat involving Clemens' art - and it will benefit both.
Up to now Clemens lives from collected bottles, some paintings he sells at insanely low prices and petty crime.
Now he is about to jump into major league.
His paintings have the expressive power that makes collectors nervous and renders some pieces of modern art so invaluable. He just can't not paint - even if he has to go steal the paint and snatch the brushes. He is driven. He often has to chose between eating or painting. And painting almost always wins. But now he gets the backing of a major player in the markets. And this will change the price-tag on his work. It would have changed the price-tag on any mediocre scribble of many a non-talented would-be artist. And this is the scary part: one shark decides to promote an artist. And the ailing artist survives. If he decides to drop him, he is gone again.
As I leave, he grabs a plastic-bag and stuffs three oil-paintings inside - a present for me: "you will love those! You shall have them!" He never had a sense for commerce. I hope he survives the devilish love of his new-found promoter.
And long after I left I still smell the scent of sulfur that seemed to be lingering in the flat.