I’m sitting on the top deck of an 88 bus having had to rush back to one of the offices where I freelance in order to pick up a memory stick I had accidentally left on the desk there. It’s a handy device when you find yourself working on a variety of computers in a working week, but it's also handy to misplace and the idea of losing it is not one to contemplate; most of the information on it is backed up in other places, but there would always be that lingering feeling that I’d lost something irreplaceable if it did go awol.
The files that I was most concerned about not losing were a handful of images I’d been working on that I was due to be emailing on to someone. I had the original drawn versions safely at home, but I’d been grappling with IT problems and I’d invested a lot of time in getting the images to the state they were. Was I feeling a bit foolish about losing something so important to me? As I’m musing on this, the bus passes the Home Office in Marsham Street, a department with a history of losing vital data that put things into perspective.
Hopping off the bus in Regent Street, I nipped over to Sotheby’s to see Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, the show of work by Damien Hirst set for auction, sidestepping the usual route of selling through galleries and heading straight for the buyer instead. This is another chance to get things into perspective. The sale rooms are buzzing, from the foyer where we all get our bags checked, to the many rooms overflowing with spin paintings, preserved assorted livestock, bling in cabinets, and collaged butterflies.
To fill the space with a lifetime’s work would be an achievement, but everything I see is dated 2008. Then again, he does have a team of workers making the work for him. And after regularly seeing estimates of £2.5m to £3m for some of the works, it doesn’t take long for the £20,000 estimate for small butterfly works to look rather, well, cheap. It doesn’t take long, either, to see everything in terms of its price tag rather than the quality of the work. That, and managing to keep prices high as well as bring so many to the market, seems a particularly Hirstian achievement.
A couple of days later – the auction is spread across two days to the accompaniment of meltdown in the financial markets – and the 223 lots have gone for a total of £111million. Financial crisis, what financial crisis? Where do I fit into all this? Where do any of us fit into it? I email my images, now backed up, and have interest from another gallery to show my work. Life, somehow, goes on.