Lovelorn artist sells his all to heal heartbreak

Jasper Joffe exhibition to clear out 'emotional clutter' so he can start his life afresh
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The Independent Culture

What can an artist do while struggling to pick himself up amid the burning embers of a failed romance? Jasper Joffe, whose work has been bought by the likes of Charles Saatchi, has decided to expunge his grief by selling all his worldly possessions in an exhibition.

Joffe, 33, said he hit upon the idea to sell everything he has ever owned – from his paint-brushes, to his teddy bear collection – after Rose, his girlfriend of five years, walked out.

Every significant material possession will line the walls of Idea Generation Gallery in east London for his show "The Sale of a Lifetime" from 29 July, installed in 33 different lots, all for sale for £3,333 each.

Visitors can browse through his personal sketchbooks, diaries, and old family photographs as well as buy his 800-book collection or 100 paintings.

His inventory of thousands of objects ranges from kitchen appliances such as his Kitchenaid Mixer bought at a closing-down sale in Kensington to precious keepsakes such as a piece of South African amethyst given to him by his mother when he was a child. It also includes "a long black leather Armani coat bought in Rome when the artist sold a painting to a dentist", "A Tracey Emin monoprint which the artist queued up overnight in the freezing cold to buy at the postcard sale at the Royal College of Art", and "A collaged portrait of [the artist] Peter Doig by the artist's sister, Chantal Joffe".

He said the decision to sell everything was a response to the break-up of his relationship in December and his hope that he could salvage it after this daring gesture.

"She split up with me around Christmas after five years. When something like that happens, it's a time to reconsider your whole life. A big event like that makes you think 'What am I doing with my life?' and I wanted to get rid of everything as a means to starting again with a blank slate, a bit as I do with my art. It feels liberating and nerve-wracking at the same time, to put everything up for sale apart from my glasses and the clothes on my back.

"Maybe if the show goes well, I hope we can get back together. If you change, then perhaps things can change for you. There's an element of emotional clutter that builds in a relationship. I want to clear up the clutter and start again."

But the catharsis of selling all his personal effects for a grand total of £100,000 has been met by consternation by some members of his family. "Hopefully, it will be cathartic but it's an experiment," he said. "When I wake up in the mornings, I think 'Oh my god'. My mother and father are worried. I'm sure they'd buy everything and give it back to me if they could afford it."

Joffe, who lives in London, founded the Free Art Fair in 2007, during Frieze Week, and he sold a candy-coloured portrait of Heinrich Himmler to Saatchi, last year. A version of this portrait will be on sale, as well as paintings made in the past few months and large-scale canvases.

The exhibition ends on 2 August.

When love breaks down: Extreme reactions

*Sophie Calle asked 100 women to respond to an email in which her boyfriend dumped her. She used the responses for her exhibition at the French Pavilion in 2007.

*Artist Michael Landy shredded or granulated all of his possessions for his Break Down exhibition in 2001.

*Rachel Marsden, the ex-girlfriend of Wikipedia co-founder, Jimmy Wales, dug out a shirt and jumper of his and put them up for sale on eBay when she discovered – on Wikipedia – that she had been dumped.