Bruce Chatwin

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The Morality of Things

‘Bruce Chatwin — author of Anatomy of Restleness, In Patagonia, The Songlines — was an international art appraiser who became disillusioned with how the Western World overvalued objects. He gave up a brilliant career devoted to art objects spending the rest of his brief but rich life travelling around the globe. He viewed art auctions as having the quality of an arcane ceremony of mystic love. An altar and a pulpit, the missals of service, the priest, his acolytes, the sacrament proffered, the complex relationship between the priest-lover and the suitors, the esoteric numerology — all were to him elements of contemporary auctions: a stage, the auctioneer, the costumers, the sacred object of art, the number/ price.

Here lies the power of objects providing intimations of immortality disguising loss under a veneer of eternal value. Of course, there is something ironic in the fact that most objects will survive its owner, from gold rings, to a pair boots, or even a 2-cent plastic non-biodegradable supermarket bag. Chatwin also wrote: “I have often noticed that in the really great collections the best objects congregate like a host of guardians angels around the bed, and the bed itself is pitifully narrow. The true collector houses a corps of inanimate lovers...”’

Hat Tip: Buenos Aires Herald