The Force

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Personal / Stories / pk by Age / Art Publisher /

The Force: In Magic, in Salesmanship

A note in my piece on Fakes goes:

When I first formed PK Fine Arts, Ltd. I called the ex-manager of a successful Arts International gallery in Boston and asked her if she wanted to wholesale my stuff to New England for me. I made Boston my first destination for a sales trip so I could meet with her. She’d made a welcome impression on the phone when she’d told me of a time when she’d noticed that one of the paintings at Arts International wasn’t signed. She reported it to the home office. When Bob, then supervisor out of New York, formerly framer and go-fer in that same Boston gallery, next visited, he was about to leave when she reminded him that there was a painting that was missing a signature. “It would have to be returned to the artist.” Bob took the painting into the back room. He brought it back out a minute later. Guess what, folks: a miracle: it was signed! (the paint still fresh).

My good impression, no doubt spurred by my self-suggestible anxiousness to have good help, didn’t survive direct experience with this flake. Her ambition seemed to be to smoke a lot of cannabis and to fuck guys who wore velvet: fatherless daughters springing from every corner of her apartment. But I’d already told her that she would accompany me to Newbury Street and see the line as I showed it to prospects. Outside the first of my stops that day I paused and bade her peek into my 30″ x 40″ portfolio. I paged to a 40″ vertical mezzotint by Gatja Rothe, $400 retail. “See this one? Watch me.”

The gallery was upside down, the owner all withershins. Either business is good, she’s changing for a show, or, she (the owner proving to be female) doesn’t know what she’s doing. I secure her invitation to show the line, lay the portfolio on the floor, and turn the graphics one by one, improvising a patter on each: some comment on the composition, the subject, a little story about the artist … I’m feeling good despite the unpromising atmosphere I’m finding in the gallery’s chaos. I’m confident that neither the owner nor my companion can guess that this is my first ever wholesale presentation: I’m a sales veteran of one year, but a wholesale virgin. My acolyte quickly looses interest and wanders off. I’d told her to watch; she’s confirming my suspicion that she has the attention span of a fruit fly.

I’m talking and turning; the owner is not asking for me to put anything aside. I put a little gentle pressure on her. She asks if I’ll consign. No, cash or check on the barrel head: 50% net. Well, she’s planning a color catalogue: all her capital is going into the printing. Now if she selects something, and I’ll leave it with her, she’ll promote it via the catalogue. No, I need cash. But, since I’m there, I’ll flip through the rest, and she’ll have an idea what to pounce on next time.

Next time? I don’t ever intend to return. But maybe she’ll spend after all. I alter my patter: Now this is a new edition, this will still be available; but “this one is the last of it’s kind. Today’s your last chance.”

The ex-manager of Arts International rejoins me as I’m turning the last print. I pull the portfolio erect and start gently jostling the graphics so their edges will line up and I can safely zip back up. The owner says, “Wait a minute … There was something … back up a few prints. No, further.” She stops me at the Rothe 40″ ballet mezzotint I’d said was the last in the edition. “You won’t consign that?” No. First person to write me a check gets it. “I’ll get my checkbook,” she says.

Once back on the pavement I ask, “Did you notice which one she bought?” Of course she hadn’t. “No, I …” and her face expands and freezes: “Why, it … How did you do that?

I sure needed a salesman, but not her. Never. She’d never know. I’d told her to watch, and she’d wandered off: a person for whom life would always be a mystery.

How I wished that she had been someone capable of learning the force.

PS: My steering the prospect to that particulr mezzotint (the most expensive item I’d brought with me) involved I asssure you far more than mentioning that it was the last in the edition. I doubt if I myself was aware at the time of everything that I did to suggest it to her: body language, facial expression, cadence … The prospect wasn’t supposed to see it: hypnotism doesn’t work if the subject sees himself being hypnotized against his own interests. But my job candidate was supposed to pick up at least a couple of hints. She saw none of it.

The magician can’t make a pacifist commit murder, but can trigger a murderer to kill.

@ K. 2003 09 09

Stories by Age

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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