In April, shortly after I returned from Rome, Theo and I travelled to Barcelona for a few days en route to our place in the Pyrenees. We ate with my friends Judy and Mike each evening and spent the day as flaneurs. We had lunch on Sant Miquel beach, overlooking the brilliant blue-green Med and, strolling aimlessly, came upon the Picasso Museum with no queue outside and so were able to walk straight in. Even El Quatre Gats was half empty. I love Barcelona, there is such a contrast in the architecture with every street and alley filled with buildings of interest. I’d love to spend a season there, as Allen Ginsberg used to call his sojourns of six-months to a year in a foreign country. Rosemary and I always stayed in a different hotel in different parts of the El Gotic and El Raval barrios when we visited in order to get to know all parts of the old town.
From Spain we moved on to our place in the Pyrenees where our friend Valerie came to visit. I had recently stayed with her in Rome. Valerie enjoys rustique cooking. We had talked about it many times before but I had finally realized her enthusiasm when I cooked a rabbit for her in London one time and she carefully pried the brains out of its head, declaring them the most toothsome part of the animal. Both Theo and I love escargots but those she cooked for us in France were the real thing, not the trimmed morsels in a green garlic sauce you get in Waitrose. Valerie’s snails were serious.
In June my God-daughter Sara visited from New York. As usual she had a tight schedule, visiting as many people as possible in a short time, but Theo and I managed to have her to dinner and catch up. Born in London to American parents and brought up a Brooklynite, she brought all that New York energy with her. I only wish she visited more often.
I paid several visits to the Piet Mondrian and Hima af Klint show at Tate Modern but ultimately found it unsatisfactory. The pairing of Mondrian and Klint was artificial. Its true that they were both early abstractionists, with Klint possibly the first artist to paint large abstract canvases, and they were both involved in the spiritualist movement, but they were unaware of each other’s work and the formal similarities of their work was not that great. A better pairing, if you have to have one – it seems to be a fad these days – would have been with Kandinsky whose position as the first abstract easel painter Klint has taken. They were both Spiritualists and believed that emotions and spiritual states could be expressed formally in shapes and colours. I was very impressed by Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art when I first read it at art school back in 1960. Ultimately the fact is that Klint is not as good as either of them so a pairing is almost invidious. Plus there were two many Klints and nowhere near enough Mondrians, presumably because insurance and shipping are so expensive. Many of my friends liked it though.
In June my friend Camila came to stay, en route to a William Blake conference in Bradford. We made the rounds of the galleries, had lunch at the Academy Club and visited St. James’s, Piccadilly, where William Blake was Christened. I remembered how emotional Allen Ginsberg had become when he gave a reading there in 1991 or ’92. Blake remained his great love. I have always loved the Grinling Gibbons’ 1694 Reredos but had never fully examined the font before. Here it is with Camila looking into it.
On June 26, Luzius Martin and his wife Sairung came to dinner alongside Terry Wilson. Both Luzius and Terry have a great interest in William Burroughs, who is our usual subject of conversation. Terry wrote Here To Go: Planet R-101 with Brion Gysin, the best exposition of Gysin’s ideas there is. Sairung runs the Thai restaurant that she and Luzius own in Basel. Anxious that my food might not be hot enough, she brought along her own fiercely hot chillies.
Summer was here. I picnicked on Hampstead Heath with Suzy Treister and Richard Grayson, attended a Christie’s pre-view with Egyptologist Tom Hardwick, with whom Rosemary and I stayed in Cairo, cooked more rabbit for Valerie and saw the Anselm Kiefer show at White Cube, Bermondsey, with Jill. Though called Finnegan’s Wake, it consisted of the usual piles of rubble, twisted iron and building-site detritus. Many of the collections of objects displayed on shelves I had seen before in other installations. I usually love Kiefer’s work but much of this one seemed knocked together by assistants and, despite the hundreds of James Joyce quotes slapped onto the objects, it seemed ill-thought-out and rushed, and one got the feeling that the viewers carefully examining each pile of broken concrete had looked at it more closely than Kiefer himself had ever done.
My tickets to the Yoyai Kusama show had been cancelled as the gallery closed for emergency repairs, presumably the flashing lights and spacial disorientation had freaked out a viewer enough for them to cause significant damage in trying to get out. However, a new date was provided and Camila and I went. The installations were great, though not of great significance. I think I preferred the first Tate show some years back. But it is a very popular show and everyone seemed to be enjoying it immensely.
My son Theo lives with me and in July we were joined by his girlfriend Minako, which makes for a much more lively and enjoyable household.
On July 26 I boarded Eurostar and left Britain for the South. The first guests to arrive were Yuri and Pauline. Yuri is from Dodge City, Kansas, and I first met him at the William Burroughs compound in Lawrence, Kansas, where he was organizing exhibitions of Burroughs’s artwork in various cities. He helped me enormously when I catalogued Burroughs’ archive there in 2014. In the course of his job he met Pauline in Paris. She is from the Loire Valley and also works in the art business. They got together, married, bought a small house in Paris and now have a 22 month old son, Gus. Here’s Yuri, wearing a real Stetson. And here they are in my friend Martha’s swimming pond.
Camila was next to arrive, just in time for the village Sardinade. Many of my old friends had already arrived for their summer sojourns: Martha Stevns, who build a beautiful swimming pond that is the envy of the whole valley; Roslyn and Gordon, who were so kind and supportive when Rosemary died, as well as permanent residents like Paul and Polly Timberlake, whom I’ve known for more than 30 years. Here’s Martha, Camila and Roslyn at the Sardinade, followed by a picture of the locals dancing the Macarena. They love a line dance, and have been dancing the Macarena ever since it was first released in 1995. You have to know when to jump and turn 45 degrees.
Camila’s friend Nora came to join us after a few days and the two of them practiced a few songs. It was delightful to sit out on the terrace at night under the stars and listen to them sing.
On August 13 Richard Grayson and Suzy Treister arrived, bringing with them the art critic Adrian Dannatt. We had a full house. Both Richard and Adrian were in good form, with plenty of art world gossip, flashes of wit and cynicism and Camila and Nora serenaded us. Clearly it was like this when Andre Breton’s friends visited him at Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.
Richard, Suzy and Adrian left and were replaced by Nora’s boyfriend Antoine and her sister Ella. We had a day at the beach at Canet Plage, having lunch at NBC, my favourite beach-bar. Rosemary and I loved the place, which is reconstructed in a different configuration each year. I once went to the toilet there and returned to find Rosemary surrounded by the entire Catalans Dragons Rugby Team, not that she knew anything about Rugby. That was not the point. Here I am with Camila.
I hated to see them all go, but no sooner had I replaced the sheets, than Ken Weaver and Maxine arrived. I’ve known Ken since 1967 when I first visited New York and stayed with him and Betsy in the Lower East Side. We stood on the fire escape and watched a knife fight in the street that was only broken up when a prowl car arrived, and everyone fled. Ken was the drummer with Fugs and wrote several of their greatest hits including ‘Slum Goddess’ and ‘I Couldn’t Get High’. Paul Timberlake and Polly came over for dinner with them. I’d driven with them to have lunch with Ken and Maxine a couple of days after I first arrived but trouble with the car made it into a long drive. Theo came down from London for a week, purposely overlapping with Ken who he has known since he was at primary school.