My husband, Ryan, says belief is the key to success, but most of the time I feel like a donkey chasing a carrot on a stick. And not only is the carrot out of reach – it also seems to disappear.
A few years ago, we were expecting an important visitor at our artist studio, someone I thought was the most important curator in the world. I don’t actually think there is such a thing, but that’s how many would describe him.
With much excitement and most of our money, Ryan and I rented out a 450sqm former billiard hall at Kottbusser Tor. Ryan worked non-stop to prepare for his arrival. The paintings were huge.
Someone once told me that simply making art is no longer enough to impress anyone. Especially in a city like Berlin, where almost everyone makes art. So, I made some preparations myself: I organised 10 “human sculptures” (and several opera singers) to give the curator who had seen everything an unforgettable Gesamtkunstwerk experience. I arranged sushi and caviar on male and female models to satisfy any decadent demands.
We had met The Most Important Curator in the World at a cocktail party. When it came to art events, he was the shit. His omniscient, intellectual eyes were framed by colourful horn-rimmed glasses. Sometimes he just stopped talking in the middle of a conversation, leaving you to sweat in the silence.
Business cards filled the pockets of his bespoke linen jacket – the left pocket contained cards with comprehensive contact details, the right only his name and website. As a rule, The Most Important Curator in the World was protected by an impenetrable barrier – his elite art clique – who shielded him from the ordinary art world audience. By the ordinary art world audience, I mean art lovers without deep pockets and creatives not yet sufficiently famous.
It seemed as though the right-pocket business cards were drawn in self-defence when confronted with an interloper from beyond the shield.
On the evening we met him at the cocktail party, only a few art world heavyweights were present. Ryan and I had the good fortune to be introduced directly to him. He said he knew and appreciated Ryan’s work and handed us, with ringed fingers, one of his coveted business cards.
“This is the possibility train, rushing by!” Ryan said after the meeting, simulating said train with a sweeping movement in the air. “This possibility train passes once or twice in a lifetime. Either you jump on, or it passes straight by. We have to stay in Berlin!”
I had resisted settling in Berlin where I was born and had grown up. For many young artists, Berlin is a mecca. For me feels like a pair of greasy, washed-out jeans I had worn for 20 years.
I wanted to go to Los Angeles, where people said “amazing” and “wonderful” at every turn. “That’s where the money is!” I told my New York City-born husband. Despite Ryan’s preference for Berlin, we had been saving up to move to LA with some friends – until the fateful train arrived.
To decide on our whereabouts once and for all, Ryan suggested I write to the curator and ask when he would visit us. “If he answers by tonight, we stay in Berlin. If not, we move to Los Angeles. OK?” Not wishing to jeopardise Ryan’s career opportunities, I agreed.
Five minutes later, the curator replied: “See you in your studio mid-September.”
But, as we waited for him billiard hall by Kottbusser Tor, he never showed up.
While I ate the sushi myself, I began to ask myself why had the curator promised us his visit? Why had he kept up the conversation with us all these months? And, most importantly, why had he not excused his absence?
“Aren’t you angry the curator let us down like that?” I asked.
“Oh, baby, I’ve been kicked in the teeth so many times – and look..,” he said, pointing to the huge paintings prepared in anticipation. “Without expecting his visit, we would hardly have worked so much.”
Should I embrace the longing? Maybe I’ll focus on an oasis of dangling carrots, just beyond the horizon: big, juicy carrots we will never taste, but might lead to a masterpiece instead.