title:The Babel Museum of Contemporary Art ver.2.4e
by Taro Kimura


An eminent Sung
critic once made a charming confession. Said
he: "In my young days I praised the master
whose pictures I liked, but as my judgment
matured I praised myself for liking what the
masters had chosen to have me like." It is
to be deplored that so few of us really take
pains to study the moods of the masters. In
our stubborn ignorance we refuse to render
them this simple courtesy, and thus often
miss the rich repast of beauty spread before
our very eyes. A master has always some-
thing to offer, while we go hungry solely be-
cause of our own lack of appreciation.


An art critic who had recently been looking
at his work had delivered himself as followed:
"In a way your drawings are very good; tone
and colour, in some of them certainly quite a
feeling for Nature. But, you see, they're so scat-
tered; you'll never get the public to look at them.
Now, if you'd taken a definite subject, such as
'London by Night,' or 'The Crystal Palace in
the Spring,' and made a regular series, the pub-
lic would have known at once what they were
looking at. I can't lay too much stress upon that.
All the men who are making great names in Art,
like Crum Stone or Bleeder, are making them by
avoiding the unexpected; by specializing and
putting their works all in the same pigeon-hole,
so that the public know at once where to go.
And this stands to reason, for if a man's a col-
lector he doesn't want people to smell at the
canvas to find out whom his pictures are by; he
wants them to be able to say at once, 'A capital
Forsyte!' It is all the more important for you
to be careful to choose a subject that they can
lay hold of on the spot, since there's no very
marked originality in your style."
Young Jolyon, standing by the little piano,
where a bowl of dried rose leaves, the only prod-
uce of the garden, was deposited on a bit of
faded damask, listened with his dim smile.
Turning to his wife, who was looking at the
speaker with an angry expression on her thin
face, he said:
"You see, dear?"
"I do not," she answered in her staccato
voice, that still had a little foreign accent;
"your style has originality."

"The work is a remarkable one."
His words were addressed to Swithin, his eyes
smiled slyly at old Joly on; only Soames remained
"Remarkable for what?"
"For its naivete."
The answer was followed by an impressive
silence; Swithin alone was not sure whether a
compliment was intended.


I had met a young pop-artist between twenty-five and thirty
years old, Roy Liechtenstein, whose enormous enlargements of
comic strips made me curious to find out from him what the
'idea' behind his pictures was and how this idea had come into
This is what he told me. His little son's schoolfellows asked
him what his father was. An artist? What kind of artist?
An abstract expressionist! Oh, said the children, somebody who
paints abstracts because he's no good at drawing.
Liechtenstein Junior came home crying and told his father
he couldn't draw. Liechtenstein Senior assured him that this
wasn't true and drew him a great big Mickey Mouse, just like
in the comic strips. This didn't satisfy him: his father had to
prove he could draw people too. So Papa L. drew him a big George
Washington in comic-strip style. That satisfied him!
But the strange thing was that not only L. Junior, but
L. Senior too, liked it. Liechtenstein began to play around with
all sorts of enlargements of comic strips. This gave him a lot of
pleasure, and he began to imitate not only the comics themselves
but even the dots made by the printing process. Friends came
and they found it interesting too... and, lo and behold, L. had
suddenly found his line, a simple, healthy, natural line, which was
really the 'six-year-old's line'-but which made him
'famous' overnight.


A bad copy of
Shishkin's famous picture "Bears in the Forest"
(inevitable adornment of hotel rooms) added a
consoling touch of impermanence. Mottoes of the day
were bung up: "More Bach, less jazz" and "Get
to work on your metabolism."


Portraits and photographs of such great men were
displayed in the regimental library, in the field hospi-
tal, in the recreation hall, in the mess tents, and in the
soldiers' quarters. I had often looked at the faces of
these wise and great men. Many of them were dead.
Some had short, resounding names and long bushy
beards. The last one, however, was still living. His
portraits were larger, brighter, more handsome than
those of the others. It was under his leadership, said
Gavrila, that the Red Army was defeating the Ger-
mans and poor, no exploiters and no exploited, no persecu-
tion of the dark by the fair, no people doomed to gas
chambers. Gavrila, like all the officers and men in the
regiment, owed all he had to this man: education,
rank, home, The library owed all its beautifully
printed and bound books to him. I owed the care of
the army doctors and my recovery to him. Every
Soviet citizen was in debt to his man for everything
he possessed and for all his good fortune.
This man's name was Stalin.


THE idea of the National Gallery had been with her
from the moment of her hearing from Sir Luke Strett
about his hour of coming. It had been in her mind
as a place so meagerly visited, as one of the places
that had seemed at home one of the attractions of
Europe and one of its highest aids to culture, but that
-the old story-the typical frivolous always ended
by sacrificing to vulgar pleasures. She had had per-
fectly, at those whimsical moments on the Brunig, the
half-shamed sense of turning her back on such oppor-
tunities for real improvement as had figured to her,
from of old, in connection with the continental tour,
under the general head of "pictures and things"; and
at last she knew for what she had done so. The plea
had been explicit-she had done so for life as op-
posed to learning; the upshot of which had been that
life was now beautifully provided for. In spite of those
few dips and dashes into the many-coloured stream of
history for which of late Kate croy had helped her to
find time, there were possible great moments she should, save
for to-day, have all but missed. She might still, she had
felt, overtake one or two of them among the Titians
and the Turners; she had been honestly nursing the
hour, and, once she was in the benignant halls, her
faith knew itself justified. It was the air she wanted
and the world she would now exclusively choose; the
quite chambers, nobly overwhelming, rich but slightly
veiled, opened out round her and made her presently
say "If I could lose myself here!" There were peo-
ple, people in plenty, but, admirably, no personal
question. It was immense, outside, the personal
question; but she had blissfully left it outside, and the
nearest it came, for a quarter of an hour, to glimmer-
ing again into view was when she watched for a little
one of the more earnest of the lady-copyists. Two or
three in particular, spectacled, aproned, absorbed,
engaged her sympathy to an absurd extent, seemed to
show her for the time the right way to live. She should
have been a lady-copyist-it met so the case. The
case was the case of escape, of living under water, of
being at once impersonal and firm. Ther it was be-
fore one-one had only to stick and stick.


"I've seen the picture called 'The Toilers,'" continued
Shelgrim, "and of the two, I like the picture better than
the poem."
"The picture is by a master," Presley hastened to
"And for that reason," said Shelgrim, "it leaves noth-
ing more to be said. You might just as well have kept
quiet. There's only one best way to say anything. And
what has made the picture of 'The Toilers' great is that
the artist said in it the best that could be said on the
"I had never looked at it in just that light," observed
Presley. He was confused, all at sea, embarrassed.


I always think that poetry is more terrible than
painting, though painting is a dirtier and a much more
worrying job. And then the painter never says anything,
he holds his tongue, and I like that too.
My dear Theo, when you have seen the crypresses and
the oleanders here, and the sun-and the day will come,
you may be sure-then you will think even
more often of the beautiful "Doux pays" by Puvis de
Chavannes, and many other pictures of his.

More and more it seems to me that the pictures which
must be made so that painting should be wholly itself,
and should raise itself to a height equivalent to the serene
summits which the Greek sculptors, the German musicians,
the writers of French novels reached, are beyond the power
of isolated individual; so they will probably be created by
groups of men combining to execute an idea held in

The artists, who criticize and persecute each other,
fortunately without succeeding annihilating each other.

Ah! my dear comrades, let us crazy ones take delight in
our eyesight in spite of everything, yes, let's!


After him came a man with the following story: On his walks
through the streets-though it was even more exciting when one
rode a trolley-he had for years been in the habit of counting the
number of straight strokes in the big block letters of the shop signs
(there were three strokes in an A, for instance, and four in an M) and
dividing the sum total by the number of letters counted. His average
so far had been consistently two and a half strokes to a letter, but this
was obviously not invariable, since it could changes with every new
street. Now, deviations from the norm could be quite distressing,
while there was great satisfaction every time the numbers came out
right-an effect quite like the chatharsis said to be achieved while
watching classical tragedy on the stage. If you considered the letters
themselves, however-anyone could check this out-divisibility by
three was a rare bit of luck, which is why most inscriptions tended to
leave you with a noticeable sense of frustration, except for those con-
sisting of several letters each composed of four strokes, as in M, E,
W, for instance, which could be depended upon to leave one feeling
remarkably happy. So what to do? the visitor asked. Simply this, an
order issued by the Public Health Office favoring four-stroke letter
series in shop signs and discouraging as far as possible the use of one-
stroke letters, such as O, S, I, C, which lead to poor and therefore
depressing results.

And Agathe understood him. Somehow one has the feeling of
being on a beach. Small insects hum. The air bears a hundred
meadow scents. Thoughts and feelings stroll busily hand in hand. But
before one's eyes lies the unanswering desert of the sea, and what is
important on the shore loses itself in the monotonous motion of the
endless view. She was thinking how all true still lifes can arouse this
happy, insatiable sadness The longer you look at them, the clearer it
becomes that the things they depict seem to stand on the colorful
shore of life, their eyes filled with monstrous things, their tongues
Ulrich responded with another paraphrase. "All still lifes really
paint the world of the sixth day of creation, when God and the world
were still by themselves, with no people!" And to his sister's ques-
tioning smile he said: "So what they arouse in people would probably
be jealousy, secret inquisitiveness, and grief!"

But isn't the strange charm of the still life shadowboxing too? In-
deed, almost an ethereal necrophilia?


But what was William to do? The affair wasn't
so easily settled. In the old days, of course, he
would have taken a taxi off to a decent toy shop
and chosen them something in five minutes. But
nowadays they had Russian toys, French toys, Serb-
ian toys-toys from God knows where. It was
over a year since Isabel had scrapped the old don-
keys and engines and so on because they were so
"dreadfully sentimental" and "so appallingly bad
for the babies' sense of form."
"It's so important,"the new Isabel had explained,
"that they should like the right things from the
very beginning. It saves so much time later on.
Really, if the poor pets have to spend their infant
years staring at these horrors, one can imagine them
growing up and asking to be taken to do the Royal
And she spoke as though a visit to the Royal
Academy was certain immediate death to any


Yesterday we had the painter Bourgweilsdorf to dine
with us. In spite of his frightful name-I really don't
know whether I have spelt it properly-he is neither
a German nor a Jew, but a very worthy young man,
whom Robert has been exceedingly kind to, and who
has chocked up the little Avenue d'Antin flat with a
quantity of quite unsalable pictures, which Robert buys
out of charity, so as to help him without wounding
his pride. I told Robert that I thought it was very
imprudent to encourage such a hopeless failure, and
that it would be better to urge him to do anything in
the world rather than paint; but it appears that the
poor young man is incapable of doing anything else
and, what is more, thinks he is very gifted. Robert
himself, for that matter, persists in saying that he has
"a certain talent," and we had a little quarrel over it,
for really one has only to glance at any one of Bourg-
weilsdorf's horrors to see that he doesn't know his
business and that he hasn't the remotest notion of what
painting ought to be. Then Robert quoted a lot of
painters who have become celebrated and who at first
were considered mere daubers. And as he was getting
a little cross, because I couldn't sincerely succeed in
thinking what he showed me was good, "You may
be sure," he said peremptorily, "that if he were worth-
less I should not care for him." (But, all the same,
Robert doesn't dare hang his frightful things-he keeps
them stuffed away in a big cupboard, where I discov-
ered them, when I was poking around his flat, as he
gave me leave to do.) Robert's tone was so snubbing
(it was the first time he has ever spoken to me like
that) that the tears came into my eyes. He noticed it
and became very tender again at once, kissed me, and
said: "What do you say to making his acquaintance? You
could judge for yourself then whether he is really as
stupid as you think."


Now he felt totally exhausted, certain
that there was nothing salable left in the whole lime works,
nothing to be cashed in for even a trifling amount of money,
and he also remembered that he had broken off his business
dealings with even the Voecklabruck antiquarian, the one
with access to the American market, long since, after finally
catching on to the man's shady practices, and so he sat
down, according to Fro, feeling utterly exhausted, knowing
that he was through financially, sat down in the chair oppo-
site his wife's invalid chair where she usually sat dozing,
half asleep, the way she had been for decades now. Sitting
there looking at her he kept saying to himself, I will not
sell the Francis Bacon, never the Francis Bacon, absolutely
not, I will not sell the Francis Bacon, no I won't, not the
Francis Bacon. If the men from the bank come snooping
around I shall hide it. I had better hide the Francis Bacon,
Konrad kept thinking over and over.


What sums of
money are involved in the building by the State of an
Academy of Arts, or the purchase of ancient and modern
works of art, and the appropriate embellishment of public
galleries, theatres, and museums! But whatever the effect
of such reflections may be upon us, whether ethical or
otherwise, such is, after all, only due to the fact that we are
once more reminded of those very constrains and hard-
ships whose removal is a vital condition of the appearance
of Fine Art. The appropriation of a unique sphere in its
life for the exposition of its artistic treasures, which stands
safe above the stress of that reality to which it contributes
so largely, can therefore only redound to the glory and
supreme honour of any people.