contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Monday, January 12, 2009

Consolation Prize; A Story

We were in Vancouver a year ago. On the last day as we worked our way out of town, we spied one more gallery, and Kurt was kind enough to stop so I could go in. On the short walk there, he saw a non-descript door with the name “Art Emporium” on it, and stairs leading to an upper story. I was going to pass it by, but Kurt thought we ought to go have a look. Well, what a find! It was chock full of paintings, leaning against one another on the floor, up the stairs and on the walls, and everywhere. This was in contrast to every other gallery, with gleaming glass doors, lots of clean wall space and paintings hung very importantly with a lot of space around them, even though the paintings were sort of mediocre and conceited in a way. Once up the stairs, I started looking through the paintings; almost all were objective and in a variety of styles of the first half of the twentieth century; not my usual cup of tea. The paintings could be touched and flipped through. A woman came from in back and started to wait on us. At that moment I spied a drawing/painting, sort of Picasso like. I asked her about it, and she hustled to the back to get “him.” Well, here came this older gentleman. He fussed over us bit, and started to “educate me.” What I was looking at was a print, one of 50 (#36 I recall) from a painter named Marino, an Italian painter and sculptor (1901 – 1980). Meanwhile, they are looking the painter up on line to give me more info, and I am falling for the print. I am given permission to take a photo of it. I am told the price is $2,500.00 please, American or Canadian funds, my choice. The gentleman, Torben Kristiansen, was a peach. He looked the works up and said it was worth about $4,500.00. He said if my banker wanted to sell me stocks and bonds, all I would get would be a piece of paper, but with art I got something of supreme value. And, he reminded me, there is no recession going on in the art market. He talked about his vast collection; he has been in the gallery business over 50 years. Currently, he told me, he had paintings running from $700.00 to 3 million. Wow, I thought. He pointed out the 3 million dollar painting; by a contemporary of Pollack’s. The painters name is Jean Paul Riopelle. The painting was very big, perhaps more than 6 feet tall, and maybe 7 feet long, very colorful, and busy to the point of being frenetic. He told us the story of moving it from Florida where he had purchased it, and shipping it on a plane bigger than a 747, so there was head room enough so it could fly standing up. I was amused and charmed and I continued to look about the slightly run down place, bulging with paintings. Soon, he said quietly, from behind me, “I have three Andrew Wyeths”. Oh my, but I wheeled around and said “where?!” He laughed. He took Kurt and I into the inner sanctum, pointing out works all the way; first through the back room with virtually every square inch of space hung with paintings, then through the cluttered office where his assistants worked, and then on into his office. I gasped! There were two Emily Carr’s in bright, beautiful shape, leaning against chairs, sitting on the floor and a painting from every person in the Canadian Group of Seven! And other famous works he pointed out (which were not so well know to me, a person who has self taught my own art appreciation class) and there were the three Wyeths. I have a real deep love for Wyeth; his neutral colors, his use of a lot of white space, his capture of the everyday farm life in all the seasons. Torben explained he had had an exhibition of Wyeths there at the gallery years ago; he had been to the studio of Wyeth and knew the artist himself. I stood with my nose nearly on the glass and saw the x marks scraped out of one side of the tree trunk, and painted on the other side. Wow. I would never see that in a photo of the painting. I never asked the price, but I know it was between $700.00 and 3 million! I also saw 2 paintings of a French artist, Alexandre Jacob. I loved those little paintings. Exquisite. What a gift that experience was. Alas, all the paintings and prints are still in the possession of Mr. Torben Kristiansen of the Art Emporium.


  1. Lovely story, terrific drawing and a great blog. I have decided to follow.

  2. I absolutely loved this lovely story and can so relate the the thrill of the experience.

    Hey, are you ready for your interview questions this week?

  3. Thank you Dave. I took a peek at your blog as well, enjoying the richness of your posts on poetry, the written word, and your digital doodles. I look forward to reading more.

    Hi Willow: Yes, the Art Emporium visit was rich. I love discoveries of wonderful gems like that! And yes, I am ready for my interview questions. Fun!

  4. fabulous adventure! new camera looks yummy - but doesn't look like you can just throw it in your handbag - is it an SLR?

  5. Not one but three Andrew Wyeth originals! Sounds like an amazing experience. I love the Marino print.

    Congratulations to Rambling Rose. Lucky girl!

  6. Love the story Leslie...The unexpected experiences seem to always be the best!
    I love the "inner sanctum" part...sounds similar to my fathers, who is a collecter of art also.
    The print is interesting too!
    Enjoy the new looks great!

  7. Dear Leslie,

    Thank you for your care and all the visits in my blog.
    I use to express my respect, affection and admiration for you and for your work. Contemplating the painting is for me a moment of great pleasure and satisfaction.
    Due to your question here is a new post.

    José Brito

  8. The Marino print would have caught my eye too. I too, first thought of Picasso upon seeing the photo. I have seen "Christina's World" at MOMA in NYC. A wonderful, thought provoking painting. I am enjoying your blog and I will be back to visit.

  9. Leslie, do you go back there often to see what else he may have amassed? You really found a treasure. And this interview I'm reading about. . . where? when? I want to read it.

  10. Great story. Sometimes the most amazing things are found in the most unlikely of places. Leslie..could you email me? I have a question for you. Thanks, Seth

  11. This story was a wonderful consolation prize! Serendipity works for me too...Have you ever been to the Wyeth museum in the Berkshires in Massachusetts? A wonderful museum and the whole area is full of great museums and fun things to do...

  12. My husband and I have a Donald Flather painting and the gallery you went to is trying to get us to sell it to him. I'm in England...and this guy kind of gives me the creeps!!!!


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