Herald Sets Agenda, Loses Mind

Art Life Mar 08, 2004 No Comments

You may recall last week’s discussion on The Art Life about the story of John Opit and his claims of owning a hitherto unknown painting by Paul Cezanne which he additionally claimed was worth $50 million and that it had be ‘stolen’ by ‘thieves’.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran the story on the front page of their February 27-28 edition with a picture of Opit looking as though he’s seen too much, man, under the headline Off with the Butterflies – his prized Cezanne.

The SMH played it for laughs and we all had a good chuckle. Then the Herald started to think that perhaps it had gone too far. For some obscure reason known only to themselves, the editors decided to lecture their readers by way of the Editorial in the March 6-7 edition:

In the rush to judge a painting few have seen, other elements jostle the real and reasonable doubts. Academics are rarely pleased by the idea that somebody may know something that they don’t. They do not see Mr. Opit as someone with the credibility in the world of art attribution. He would like the painting to be worth $50 million, but he also says he sees art as something more than tradable commodities. What’s more, he is a 53-year-old man who lives outside the city, throws three-day parties and whose ex-partner has written a book about bunyips. He is an outsider. Like Albert Camus‘s Meursault, whose failure to cry at his mother’s funeral convinced the court of his guilt in the murder of an unnamed Arab, Mr. Opit’s differences from the norm mark him off from much of the art world.

The Art Life knows that there are more than a few writers at the SMH who like to break up their days with a long, liquid lunch at the pub or sneak a crafty joint on the roof garden during breaks. Thus we are wondering in reference to these startling comparisons to Albert Camus and the fictional character of Meursault (the last time we looked we thought John Opit was real) – what are the authors of this editorial on? It’s like being at some pretentious dinner party where your host starts quoting some book they read in University ( or worse, just the movie or, ugh, the song by The Cure) when someone mentions some current event, that maybe, tangentially relates to the topic, and draws some very heavy and portentous meaning from the allusion.

We are left to wonder what the SMH is getting at. Perhaps by this unexpected literary reference they are seeking to imply that like Meursault, Opit is being judged on appearances rather than on the facts. But for anyone who has actually read the book, you would know that Meursault did actually shoot the Arab in question. So although he was guilty, he was judged so for the wrong reasons? Like Opit is guilty of… what exactly? The Sydney Morning Herald is twisting our melons… Man, this shit is strong!

More crucially, however, the SMH seemed to forget that they were the ones who started all the farcing on Opit in the first place. Maybe someone pointed out they were being bastards?

Andrew Frost

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