Around 1981, when I was living in New York City, I was sitting on the steps in front of my apartment building one day when I was approached by a disheveled-looking stranger.
To be honest, I probably looked a little dishevelled myself.
The man asked me, “Hey, Buddy–do you know anything about art?’
“Yeah,” I said. “Art is a bunch of shit.”
He chuckled and nodded in agreement.
I saw that he was carrying a large drawing under his arm. It was about 18 X 24 and in a wooden frame. It was rather dirty-looking.
He held it out for me to look at and asked me, “Do you think this is worth anything?’ It was behind glass and very dirty and he explained that he had just pulled it out of a dumpster at the end of the street. Apparently an old building was being renovated and the workmen had tossed it out. The drawing was non-representational and resembled a large fishing net. It was in reddish-brown ink on a faded yellow paper or board. I looked down into the corner and it was signed. “Bourgeois.”
Having the benefit of an art education, I recognized the name.
“Yes!” I told him. “I think that it could be quite valuable. Louise Bourgeois is a famous artist. “
I invited him inside with the crazy idea of calling up Ms. Bourgeois on the telephone. She was actually listed in the directory so I dialed the number. A woman answered the phone after a few rings.
“Hello, Ms. Bourgeois….you don’t know me, but I am an artist and a man just approached me with a drawing of yours that he found on the street.”
I guess I was expecting her to thank me or invite me up to her studio– or something.
No such luck.
In fact she seemed suspicious of me and was like, “Why are you bothering me—call my dealer!! “.
And then she hung up.
Rather rudely, too, I might add.
I told the man what she had said and suggested that he try and find out who her dealer was. He looked at me and for a second or two I thought he was going to offer the drawing to me for fifty dollars. But he didn’t. He just turned and walked slowly out the door with the dusty drawing under his arm. I sat back down on the steps and watched as he rounded the corner of Thompson and Grand.
I’ll bet he sold it to the next person he met for twenty bucks.