Excerpt Chapter 2: Breakfast With The Queen
…Growing up, I had a huge crush on the crown princess, Beatrix. When I heard she had started dating someone—a German prince, no less—I was not pleased at all. In fact, I was outraged. Admittedly, there was a substantial age difference between us, some twenty years, which doesn’t count in your favor if you’re a ten-year-old boy. If only she would have been patient and waited a few years, I could have been her most loving and devoted husband.
But no one seemed to care about my feelings, and the doomed day of her matrimony soon approached. The only help I received in sabotaging her wedding came in the form of some punks who were disgruntled with the entire royal family. Following an old Dutch tradition, they caused a good number of street disturbances that brought out the water cannons and police in riot gear, while just blocks away the young, seemingly happy couple were seen waving from their carriage as they traveled from city hall to the church. The majority of the country was glued to their TV sets while these ceremonies took place, but I had seen enough. I took my dog out for a long, sulking walk to console myself.
On a grey, drizzling Saturday morning some fifteen years later, my friend Cornelius and I stepped out of a squatted home whose host had treated us generously the entire night with many rounds of his new water pipe, stuffed to the rim with a wide variety of exotic imports. For a few weeks now, we had been working tirelessly on the renovation of an old theater closed down by city officials to make way for a new development. We left the scaffolding and boarded up windows in place and opened up one of the back doors to let ourselves inside. Our idea was to renovate the theater from the inside out, and at night we visited one of the city’s unguarded construction sites and loaded our bicycles with as many materials as we could carry.
The official opening ceremony would consist of removing all of the building materials on the outside, throwing open the heavy oak entrance doors and voilà! --the party would begin. Cornelius and I brainstormed ways to make the opening of the squatted theater the biggest success possible. I had already suggested a few weeks earlier that it might be fun to invite the queen for the opening and have her say a few words. My letter and invitation had spoken of Her Majesty, Queen Juliana, as our Big, Reigning Friend, whom the people of Amsterdam would love to welcome as one of their own.
I was not pleased with the lack of response from the palace, especially in light of her daughter’s earlier rejection. Princess Beatrix had at this point been married to her German prince for quite some time, and I read regular reports in the papers about his paralyzing depressions that suggested her increased loneliness and isolation came as a result. I couldn’t say I felt too sorry or was too surprised.
That particular Saturday morning, we were sizzling with energy and not at all ready to call it a night. We stood on the doorstep for a while, taking in the scene as the rain fell on the black asphalt and the traffic lights turned green-orange-red in their slow, monotonous cycle. I don’t know who came up with the idea first, but suddenly we were staring at each other with wide, stupid grins plastered on our faces.
“Breakfast with the queen?” Cornelius asked, incredulous.
“Why not?” I replied, “She hasn’t responded to our letter and this would be a good way to invite her personally.”
We looked out over the silent, empty street as we mulled over the notion of breaking bread with Her Majesty. “I think it’s an excellent idea,” Cornelius finally said. “Do you think we need to do some shopping on the way, or will she have breakfast stuff in the house? Or, I guess I should say, palace?”
“We’ll whip up something in the kitchen, don’t worry,” I replied, and we set off toward the car…
Excerpt Chapter 10: A Very Important Person
…As I continued to fine-tune a method for the sale of my paintings, I realized that the model of gallery representation that I had set up could be copied and multiplied. I started seeing myself not just as an artist, looking for one art dealer to save and take care of me, and so I turned the model around. I was the manufacturer, so to speak, and my galleries were my distribution network. I modified my catalogs, postcards and brochures to create a space for galleries to put in their own address labels to help them to create a market for my work. After a year or two, I had built up an impressive network of galleries spread out over enough of the country for each to have their own geographical territory and not compete with each other.
One area I felt was missing was Florida, so I did some research and decided to fly to Miami for a fieldtrip. Walking around in the design district, I stumbled upon a gallery that can only be described as a wondrous art palace: large windows; milky white walls; beautiful marble floors; a worn but gracefully aged Rolls Royce parked by the sidewalk like an old guard dog. Walking into the space, one was not greeted with a coldly polite stare from an eighteen-year-old receptionist, as in so many other galleries, but by an authentic and courteous Latin-American elegance, itself a remnant adopted from Europe’s fin de siècle.
The tall gentleman wore a bespoke linen suit and thin metal eyeglasses planted halfway on the bridge of his nose, looking for all the world like he had just stepped out of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. He greeted me with a warm smile, and introduced himself as Enrique. As if it should be the very first order of the day, Enrique offered me an espresso. “If it’s not too much trouble,” I replied, feeling slightly uncomfortable with all the attention and wondering what would happen to this delightfully welcoming mood the moment he found out I was an artist, not an art collector. But when I told him I was a painter looking for a gallery to represent my work, his cordial demeanor only grew.
“That’s wonderful,” he said. “We’ve been looking to get more artists into the gallery. Can you show me some of your work?”…
Excerpt Epilogue: Why the Next Renaissance May Be Around the Corner
…The world is changing rapidly before our eyes, and we’re still walking around with concepts that are completely outdated. An educational system that favors the intellectual, rational part of the brain over the intuitive, creative side—even in art schools—may have been a good reflection of the times during the Industrial Revolution, but we have now entered the Information Age, where requirements for successful participation are dramatically different.
Easy access to information and creative tools available through electronic and online media means we now live in a time in which clear boundaries between the “creative mind” and “business mind” are blurring further and further. Identifying individuals biologically, with terms such as right brain thinker (one who uses the intuitive, creative part) and left brain thinker (traditionally called the more rational operator) has become increasingly obsolete. In the new world, a creative mind is the winner in every environment, whether it be scientific research, the arts, or in the business world. Unfortunately, the current educational system is not equipped to deal with curiosity as an asset instead of a nuisance. And creativity loves empirical experience; not textbooks that explain them. Yet, when you think of the positive consequences of dealing with life itself in a less fixed, more flexible way, one might wonder whether billions of dollars could be saved and used in more constructive ways. A company like General Motors might be in a lot better shape today if more innovative thinking had been adopted early on.
When discussing this with my collector, the former financial analyst, he explained that in his experience, the corporation that encourages experimentation and, on a controlled and limited scale, views failure as a valuable lesson from which to learn, is the corporation that is able to adapt, stay competitive and enjoy success in the long term. The monolithic conglomerates that use their R&D departments to design better locks on their doors, meanwhile, will eventually crumble and bite the dust.
Another interesting perspective on the times we live in, and its requirements for survival and success, is offered by the authors Alvin and Heidi Toffler in their recent book, Revolutionary Wealth. They argue that in every organized society, from the first agricultural communities to the highly organized Industrial Age, economies were based on finite resources. As resources grow scarcer, prices rise, and ultimately, as M. King Hubbert argued in 1956 with his coined phrase peak oil, society reaches its crescendo and then plummets until nothing but interesting artifacts remain for curious archeologists to dig up centuries later.
In his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond provides numerous examples of what seems to be an almost iron law of rise and fall. It is an interesting coincidence that the new economies, with a giant like Google being a pointed example, are driven by information, and that the new fuel—the gold of the future—is found in natural resources: sun, wind and water. These natural resources have an important trait in common with the new capital resource of information: both are a much more fluid and flexible material, and therefore very different in substance from their predecessors. After use, oil and coal have nothing but waste to offer; they endanger rather than enrich the planet. Information however, as the Tofflers reason, begets more information and leaves no pollution in its wake.
But are we ready to deal with this radical change? Are we ready to consider that it is no longer efficient to use the brain’s memory bank to store fixed data; we should instead use it for navigation and creative thinking, as we can now Google any question and access any data we seek? Surrounded by undeniable evidence that our visit to this planet is, in evolutionary terms, nothing more than the overnight stay in a bed & breakfast, why do we insist in setting up shop as if we are here to stay indefinitely?...
16 stories and essays by the artist
80 color plates as a survey of twenty years of painting in the U.S.
Foreword by Art-Critic, Senior Museum Curator Peter Frank