Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
In the last few years I’ve managed to ascend from a low-level employee of a back end of nowhere Auction House to a high-end buyer for one of the most renowned collectors in the world. How did I get to this position? Do I deserve my current state of success? Well – that depends on your stance on morality…
The Art World is a competitive one. Its cutthroat, really, a savage playground of battling egos and lithe liars, where one person’s opinion can turn a worthless canvas into a priceless heirloom. No one rises in this business without getting a leg up off someone else’s misfortune, occasionally that ‘misfortune’ must be orchestrated somewhat. That’s how I got to where I was today and the story of how I succeeded is one that will probably lead you to decide that I’m not a good person – but if you want your work commissioned in the future, you better make sure that I’m not aware of that.
As I write this, I’m travelling at hundreds of miles per hour, over 30,000 kilometres above the ground. I’m in a Business Class seat, paid for with my benefactors money, looking back over the short meteoric rise that brought me to where I am today. The champagne I’m sipping is piss poor. I know that I’ve tasted better because I just spent a week in Champagne. You’d be surprised how quickly you get used to ‘the high life’, as I used to refer to it as. You start out starstruck by the shining cutlery, crystal glassware and silver service – but it soon grows ordinary. Eat enough meals in Michelin Starred Restaurants, and you’ll start seeing the smudges on the white cotton and the blemishes on the plates.
Before you know it, instead of booking airport parking from Heathrow, you’re calling limousines to pick you up and complaining when there’s no ice for your complimentary whiskey. Where once you would be meekly passing through security, you are now confidently striding and causing a scene when the TSA take issue with the 800-year old Scimitar that you’re selling to the VA.
Whereas some would see this change in personality as a slippery slope, I prefer to look at it as a steady ascension, from snivelling prole to corporate elite.
I understand how this sounds. Surely, you must be able to tell that there’s a certain level of irony present in the tone of my discourse. There’s a latent dose of sarcasm that you should be detecting. I’m aware of the abhorrent beast I’ve become. I didn’t always use to be like this, you see. When I started out, I was a mild-mannered Arts graduate just looking to get full-time employment, let alone any real kind of wage. I would beg for interviews, send open letters to any and all that would take it. Would you like to know where that got me? Absolutely nowhere.
Thousands of graduates leave their safe little academic bubbles every year to go out and search for a job that won’t completely destroy their sense of self. I was one of them, but realised soon enough that I would have to resort to devious strategies if I wanted to get my foot in the door. That’s why there were so many unexplained data breaches in the Art community, leading up to my hiring. That’s why so many of my fellow prospective interviewees arrived hours later than they were supposed to. That’s why I’m glad I taught myself to code whilst other Graduates struggled to say sober for a single 24 hours period.
And they told me that it was all about ‘who you know’…