Every profession has its own opportunities for erotic encounters. There are plenty of stories about doctors, gynaecologists, window-cleaners, postmen. Let me add art dealers to the list.
It was twenty years ago. I’d never expected anything like it to happen to me – especially not at the Brussels art fair. Later I realised the place was no accident. Claudia had only recently swapped her celebrated illusionist for an art dealer, who wanted to show her off at the opening. So she wasn’t there incognito – she was there for all to see.
I was in our stand holding a glass of champagne, shaking hands and distributing kisses. Suddenly the sounds faded, people fell silent. Claudia was walking cautiously, as if her neck was fragile and her head might drop off her body at any moment. She was letting her proudly beaming lover lead her around like a blind woman. They were within ten metres of our stand, five metres, one metre. When she reached our stand she suddenly let go of her boyfriend’s hand and came inside. She looked at one of our artworks: the Israeli artist Uri Tzaig’s Trance game. I said ‘Claudia, sit down’, and took a seat opposite her.
Claudia and I played Trance, with the silicone board in between us – a bubbly surface with twenty marbles in various types and colours. I told Claudia to choose ten marbles and put them wherever she liked on the board. I said there were no rules to the game. You’re supposed to take turns moving a marble and put it where you think will be right. She looked at me suspiciously for a moment, but my smile inspired trust in her. Rubbing her hands and throwing back her hair, she picked up a small red marble and placed it at the edge on my side. I picked up a large metal marble and put it next to her small red one. ‘This is fun!’ she cried, putting another marble on the board. Each time she took hold of a marble with her long fingers I had the feeling she was stroking my balls. At the same time I was thinking ‘There’s a deal here’. The Trance installation cost 12,500 dollars.
Claudia stood up and looked at the other artworks. She said she collected paintings of cats. ‘We don’t sell paintings of cats’, I said proudly. I pointed to the Richard Billingham photograph on the wall, but it was only of a scruffy-looking puppy. Claudia raised an eyebrow. Then it occurred to me that I had another photograph for sale. I showed her the same photographer’s catalogue. We sat down together on the wooden bench. I placed the book in her lap.
She thought it was a really nice, sweet little kitten, how old was it, one week, two? But who was the fat woman with yellow teeth who was feeding the animal from a syringe? She had pimples on her chin and a moustache. I said she was the photographer’s mother. ‘Really?’ said Claudia in disbelief. Her boyfriend entered the stand and said ‘Come on now’.
The German art dealer opposite us said Claudia was such a philistine, but of course he was disappointed that only her boyfriend had come into his stand, and I certainly didn’t think she was shallow – but unreal, as if she’d just arrived by e-mail. All kinds of people came up to me, wanting to know what she’d bought and said. Some came to congratulate me that I’d played Trance with such a celebrity.
The next day she came back, her hair in a pony-tail, and without make-up. She was wearing a long raincoat. She mumbled that she hadn’t slept well. For a fashion model that’s almost as bad as dying. I suggested showing her the best piece of work at the fair. We’d hung it up outside the fair – almost invisibly – so that it would only be noticed by the people we pointed it out to. We want to make our collectors feel they are select. Claudia followed me obediently. We walked outside via the car park. In the middle of the bridge outside the fair I stopped, and pointed upwards. Claudia looked at the blue sky with a shriek. Hanging a few metres above us was Honoré d’O’s black plastic box. No, not hanging, floating. Claudia’s jaw dropped. She wanted to know how the box could be floating there above her head. She begged me to explain. I said ‘Look, this isn’t about technique, it’s about enchantment’. She liked that. ‘I think you’re fun’, she said with a promising smile. I told her she could buy the floating box from us. She repeated what she’d said the day before – she only collected paintings of cats. How limited.
Claudia looked at the box, she was enchanted, she took my hand and folded it over hers. I felt I could do what I liked with her, and vice versa. We walked through the car park past my car, and I imagined myself lifting the rear hatch, lying down on the bubble-wrap we packed our artworks in and pulling her on top of me, with her whispering ‘good and hard’, and the bubbles popping under us one by one.
She had stopped, and said she wanted to look at the floating box again. I could see from her eyes that she was looking for something you might call supernatural. When we’d got back to the bridge her boyfriend arrived. ‘There’s a little black box floating a few metres above you’, Claudia said dreamily. He looked at us as if we were taking the mickey. ‘It’s a work by a young artist,’ I said. ‘I hate David Copperfield,’ he snarled viciously. Claudia looked at me with damp eyes and turned away. I could see her walking off arm in arm with her boyfriend towards a Mercedes sports car. If he let go of her she would float away, she was so light.
I returned to the fair where my assistant was just selling the Trance game to a stunningly beautiful collector with cat-like eyes. While she was trying to seduce him, he was trying to sell her something. I suddenly had the feeling that everything I do is meaningless. I was reminded of my father, who had said that now he was over seventy-five he felt a lot better, because his libido had calmed down and he could restrict himself to his new girlfriend, a young gym teacher who was always on the go.