An unsigned Malaiavitz came up for auction at Christie’s. I had always wanted one of his works, but certainly could not have been able to afford it.
It was typical of his oeuvre, yet, in its way, unique.
In a viewing at the auction house I thought it to be about a foot square and having the general appearance and colour of driftwood.
The frame was probably made from the drip at the base of a painted door.
The colours, faded as if being washed by sea waves over time, were mellow.
The design of the work within the frame was indistinct. But in its abstract kind of way it was quite delightful. I wanted to bid for it.
Now, Malaiavitz’s work sells generally from between fifty thousand pounds to five hundred thousand pounds. So I had no real hope of acquiring it unless it was a fake – a “wrong-un”. And a fake most dealers and collectors clearly thought it to be – except Christie’s.
The auction house had done their research, and so had I. We both knew that Malaiavitz had been on a ship in the war that had been torpedoed in the tropics. And we knew that he had survived and lived as best he could as a sort of Man Friday on jungle fruit and vegetables. Saved by sailors on a passing ship as skin and bone, he died not long afterwards.
An artist of his reputation and merit would not have spent all his waking hours in searching for food on the island but would have created more than a shelter for himself out of branches and palm fronds. He would have created art.
This particular work had almost certainly been made from a once colourfully painted driftwood door. I had a very good look at it on the wall at Christie’s – even asking if I could take it down for further examination. No modern saw marks were to be seen. Its construction was somewhat crude. There was more than a bit of primitive art to it. And it was lovely.
Christie’s catalogue mentioned the shipwreck and Malaiavitz’s time on the desert island.
I suppose because of its rather vague provenance there were, most fortunately, only two bidders – myself and another man. He dropped out, and I got it for the ridiculously low price of five thousand pounds.
I might mention that this was of my own doing, Margreet keeping well out of the matter – possibly disapproving of my extravagance.
Anyhow, I got my Malaiavitz and put it up on the wall of our staircase where it looks lovely but not at all like other pictures around it. It glows in a way that ancient masterpieces can do.
Then Christie’s came back to me and apologised for selling the picture as genuine when, in their newly considered opinion, it was not.
I could keep the work and they would refund the money that I had spent on it.
I now had my delightful (and free) Malaiavitz. And if it is not a genuine one it is still lovely. And should someone have been responsible for faking it, he or she was as good an artist as Malaiawitz himself.
And then I woke up. It was all a dream.