Friday, November 22, 2013


Size 48"x58", charcoal and oil on canvas c1985. Whereabouts unknown. 
I’ve got an attic full of paintings; most of them have never been shown. “Don’t you want to sell your work?” I’m frequently asked. “Not at the moment,” I reply. “Well, how are you going to become rich/famous if you don’t sell your work?” “It’s the other way around” I try to explain,  “I’m never going to become rich/famous if I do sell my work because it’s my best work that people will buy and then disappear with it.” And since I don’t “have a name,” they are not willing to pay me very much - and the work is gone (often forever). I like to exhibit my work (feedback is important), but not to sell it.

"Shore Leave", c.1985, oil on canvas. Whereabouts unknown.
I once heard a famous antiques collector complain that he “only regretted the things he didn’t buy.” Well, my line is, “I only regret the things I sold” Case in point: two of my best paintings were bought by people who have since “vanished.”.Dead? Moved to Canada? Retired to Mexico? Who knows? Another favorite piece was on long-term loan to a friend in New York City who had it taken from his apartment “by mistake”and sold at auction. Since it’s now officially stolen property, no one will admit to having bought it. I have tried to recreate these pieces from photographs, but without success. Don’t I want the money from selling my work? Sure, but since I’m Mrs. Nobody in the art world, we’re talking a pittance and so far, the wolf has not appeared at the door. There’s a story that Mark Rothko (already famous) advised his friend, Clyfford Still (not yet famous), not to sell his huge abstract-expressionist canvases. Still appears to have agreed and for much of his career, avoided selling his work. (he was a little eccentric, however)

A few years ago, my friend Ann had an uptight suitor who had just bought a condo apartment she was helping him decorate. She decided the apartment was “drab,” (like the suitor) and needed one of my paintings over the sofa to liven it up. She brought him to my house and ordered him to go up to the attic and pick out a painting. He came down with a huge “party” (to be polite) scene, the last thing in the world I would have expected him to choose. I said “no,” he couldn’t have that one (it was one of my best) but he had fallen madly in love with one of the half-naked dancing girls and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  He reached into his pocket and brought out a “wad (literally) of cash” that he had just won at blackjack in Las Vegas (he was a math teacher) and I caved in. Off he went with the painting, which did look terrific over his sofa; in fact it was the only thing in the apartment that had any life in it. Fast forward three or four years; he and my friend have long parted and he has a new woman in his life. She hates the painting and insists he get rid of it (too much competition?). She will not move in with him until the painting is gone. He calls me up and says he is (reluctantly) returning it, but doesn’t want his money back. “Consider it a rental,” he says (which is very nice of him.) I was thrilled to get the painting back; It’s a knockout, one of my best and, who knows? Someday, it might be the one that makes me rich/famous.

Renee Kahn, November 22, 2013

1 comment:

  1. Yes. That's the one. Look for Renee Kahn's work in museums across the country!