The Magic Carpet
Digby swung the van into one of Bethnal Green's less salubrious back streets and slowed to a crawl as he scanned each building.
'It's got to be on here somewhere Jazza, it's an old warehouse I think that's been taken over by a group of artists.'
Jazza looked up from his newspaper, scanned the view through the windscreenand grinned.
'What a shithole, are you sure this is the right place?'
'This is it, number twenty three. Doesn't look very promising,' said Digby as he pulled up outside a drab black door set into a graffiti covered wall.
He switched off the engine and snatched his clipboard from the cluttered dash.
'We've got to find some bird called Tracey Emin and collect her entry for this year's Turner Prize, so it must be something a bit special. Simple enough job my young friend, so put the paper down and get your arse into gear.'
They found the artists' studio on the second floor, a vast shell of a
space cluttered with what appeared to be dozens of half finished
projects and reeking of turpentine, paint and stale sweat. A
painfully thin girl with lank hair, pale skin and a cigarette
dangling from her mouth stood daubing a canvas with a large six inch paintbrush.
'Oh! Hello guys, you found us alright?' she asked, without removing the cigarette.
'We're here to collect a painting from a Tracey Emin,' said Digby holding up his clipboard as his badge of authority. Is she about?'
Tracey dropped the paintbrush onto a bench and set off towards the far end of the vast space.
'Follow me boys and be the first to see this year's Turner Prize winner.'
Against a whitewashed rear wall stood a bed with crumpled bedding and a worn blue carpet at its side. On the carpet were piled the sad detritus of someone's acute depression; a snapshot of helplessness frozen in time.
'That looks like my sister's room,' laughed Jazza. 'She hasn't moved in here has she?'
Tracey ignored the remark and picked up a pile of clear plastic bags from a nearby table.
'Right boys, all of the items on the floor need to be bagged up separately and packed carefully into a box. The bedding needs to be in a separate box and then you can finally load the mattress, carpet and the divan and deliver it all safely to Tate Modern.'
The two boys stood for some seconds in stunned silence, staring at the unfinished stage set of a sixties hippy squat.
'I don't understand,' said Digby, 'I thought we were here to collect a picture. Are you saying that this bed and all this other stuff by the side of it is your entry into the competition?'
'I am indeed,' replied Tracey confidently. 'This boys, is my magic
carpet and it will transport me to fame and fortune.'
It took the boys just over an hour to carry out the instructions and after a paint stained mug of weak tea, they were finally back in the cab of the Luton van. Neither spoke as Digby fired up the engine and set off at a gentle pace towards the river and Tate Modern.
'Well I can safely say that that was the most disgusting job I've ever had Diggers. I nearly puked when I saw those filthy sheets and stained knickers. Absolutely bloody revolting. There were even condoms and a pregnancy testing kit there.'
Digby drove on in silence, still shell shocked at the morning's experience. Suddenly, he could contain himself no longer.
'That cheeky cow said that it was a homage to Turner, that the stained sheets and soiled blue knickers were like his seascapes and cloud formations. Never heard such bollocks in my life. She seems to think that inviting the world into your midden ranks alongside the great work of a genius.'
The cab fell silent again as they negotiated heavy traffic heading across Tower Bridge.
'Will she ever be able to sell something like that Diggers, I mean artists have to sell their stuff to live don't they, so who's going to buy a festering pile like that?'
'I'm not sure whether she's stark staring mad or inspired,' replied Digby as he crunched the van into third gear. 'If those nutters at the Tate have accepted this rubbish as an entry, then she must feel she's got one foot on the ladder and there's absolutely no doubt that when the press see this, they'll plaster the image on front pages all over the world.'
'Maybe,' said Jazza thoughtfully, 'but what would you do with it, I mean you can't hang it on the wall can you, you'd have to have a whole room just to hide it in.'
Digby was deep in thought as he eased the van onto the south bank. He suddenly smiled and looked across at his young assistant.
'Charles Saatchi Jazza,' he said triumphantly, 'Charles bloody Saatchi buys stuff like this and a whole sequence of events follows, like a gold rush in Alaska.'
'Who the hell is Charles Saatchi?' asked Jazza sliding a strip of gum into his mouth and lifting one foot onto the dash.
'He's a rich guy Jazza, an expert in publicity with a nose for good
investment potential. He buys stuff by modern artists, gets maximum publicity for his collection, lends them out to galleries all over the world free of charge and then puts them into storage in a warehouse somewhere. All this means that his pieces become known in all sorts of circles and become accepted by the establishment as modern art.'
'And I suppose,' said Jazza as the penny slowly dropped, 'that means that they also increase in value, because everyone thinks they must be good because the toffs are buying them.'
'Exactly young Jazza. Take our bed for example, it will appear on the front pages with captions saying its a cry for help or a living
illustration of despair and desperation. It will become the talk of
the so called art establishment as this Tracey Emin nonsense about it reflecting a Turner seascape gets churned out. Eventually, somebody like Saatchi or some wealthy Yank will pay a hundred and fifty grand for it, knowing that in ten years time some nerdy internet billionaire will pay millions for it.
Jazza chewed thoughtfully on his spearmint gum as they progressed to within sight of their destination.
'So does that mean that art is only good if the toffs say it is Diggers?'
'If you don't know any better it does Jazza and even if you do, it's
often impossible to fly into a prevailing wind.'
Jazza thought about this for a moment as they approached the rear entrance of the Tate Modern.
'Not impossible if you have a magic carpet Diggers,' he grinned.