No not my two Baftas (have I mentioned these before?) but the card from my daughter S on behalf of our lovely grandson E thanking C and I for looking after him over the last 15 months. So nice. S had chosen the card from the Tate collection as she knew I’d like that because of my past connections with the institution. And I do. Love it. It’s so like our daughters to want to say thankyou even though it’s soooo not necessary.
But unknowingly (I think) S had chosen a picture and an artist that meant so much to me. It’s Wine Glasses from Patrick Caulfield, one of our great contemporary artists who broke through in the 60’s. Now I’m bloody sure I’ve written about my connection with Patrick in the past but for the life of me I cannot find it in the blog archive which is slowly creeping towards 900 postings. Such a lot of bulls***.
So I thought it’d be worth repeating or telling for the first time. Whilst at BT I was responsible for taking the company into a sponsorship relationship with Tate, specifically enhancing all their online capability. It was hugely successful marketing-wise and that’s how I ended up with those two bronze faces above (have I mentioned this before? ha!). It gave us scope to do all sorts of things to widen access to art appreciation – to allow people to gain insight into what Tracey Emin and Anthony Gormley et al were intending with their art.
One of the things we came up with was to put some art onto BT’s fleet of vans or at least a selection of them. Not a reproduction but a genuine new piece of work by a signature artist. So we asked Tate and they suggested Patrick Caulfield might be interested. They set up a meeting and off I toddled to his home in north London. I was accompanied by two or three Tate people on the first meeting as they wanted to closely chaperone what we wanted to do in the early days. I found Patrick great company and it wasn’t long before he asked if I fancied a little drink to help the flow of the briefing….
Now many of you will know that I’m a reluctant wine drinker but I agreed for art’s sake. And he and I got on famously over the next couple of hours. He offered me some of his favourite red wines. I loved them all.
We had later meetings and I knew he liked me because I stood at his front door with not a Tate person in tow but a bottle of something close to his heart. He had an appetite for the vine, but he was aged and comfortable with his situation and I absolutely loved his company. He delivered an idea which was very different from his regular pieces but we commissioned it and adopted it onto loads of our vans. They created a striking street scene and lots of interest wherever they went. We had a great day ‘unveiling’ the vehicles outside Tate Modern with Patrick signing each BT van before it was sent off to do engineering stuff and hopefully inspire people with Patrick’s art.
He died a little while afterwards. But that classic image of his Wine Glasses on the front of S’s card is so poignant because of what it means about our grandson Elliott but also my short but hugely enjoyable relationship with Patrick. His artwork lives on.