Where there's art, there's canapés and crime

Man does not live by bread alone; he needs food for the soul. If he can get both, he's quids in
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The Independent Online

Instead of the automatic bread-making machine I was hoping to get for my birthday this year, my husband gave me a picture. It's by a Scottish artist - no, not Jack Vettriano, we aren't in that league yet - called John Lowrie Morrison, popularly known as Joe Lomo, whose wild, vivid, tactile oil paintings of crofts, haystacks, fields and long winding roads make you want to climb into the frame and join in the general glow.

Instead of the automatic bread-making machine I was hoping to get for my birthday this year, my husband gave me a picture. It's by a Scottish artist - no, not Jack Vettriano, we aren't in that league yet - called John Lowrie Morrison, popularly known as Joe Lomo, whose wild, vivid, tactile oil paintings of crofts, haystacks, fields and long winding roads make you want to climb into the frame and join in the general glow.

So now, rather than spend my free time making wholemeal sun-dried tomato baps, I sit staring at the small oasis of colour on my large white wall depicting cottages in Berneray, the Hebridean island where Prince Charles went to chill when he was going through a bad patch. Besides, what's wrong with Mother's Pride medium sliced white? Like the fella said, man does not live by bread alone; he needs food for the soul. He needs art.

And then again, if he can get both simultaneously he's quids in, as we discovered last Sunday night, returning to London from our annual summer stint in the Inner Hebrides. Checking into a Perthshire hotel famous for its three golf courses (the male members of my family are golf nerds) we found ourselves among a throng of well-heeled guests queuing for the private view with champagne and superior canapés of a forthcoming Sotheby's auction featuring the Scottish colourists, a few Joe Lomos and an entire section devoted to Jack Vettriano's fashionable, over-priced, atmospheric studies of 1930s weirdos.

A quick digression here about canapés. I've had some pretty superior canapés in my life, but these were something else. Little pillars of layered mouth-watering delights, all colours and shapes. Although, possibly, they weren't as good as the Savoy canapés, which are served on glass trays that flash forked lightning whenever you take one. Yes, you've guessed, we gatecrashed.

"See that man in pink trousers," said my husband. "That's Anthony Tennant, you know, the former director of Christie's who was involved in that price-fixing scam in New York along with Sotheby's four years ago. He's lucky not to be in jail. The director of Sotheby's, Alfred Taubman, went down for a year.''

From what I know of Perth, Sir Anthony Tennant was equally lucky not to be arrested for wearing pink trousers last Sunday night. But it was neither his pants nor his peccadilloes (Christie's and Sotheby's were jointly fined $510m by the US court) that preoccupied me just then. It was a weird feeling of déjà vu.

Well-heeled people drinking champagne, eating canapés, looking at pictures, and my husband saying, "See that fellow whose just gone past? That's Gerald Ronson, the businessman who went to prison over the Guinness share scandal." We'd done it all before. Except that instead of an art auction in Perth, it was a Liberal Democrat cocktail party in an art gallery off the Strand last May, hosted by Charles Kennedy.

Here's something else. I've just had a postcard from an artist friend in South Africa inviting me to her autumn exhibition of wildlife sketches. She lives in Cape Town, her son goes to the same school as Lady Thatcher's grandson, and her husband plays golf regularly with Sir Mark Thatcher, though I'm not sure it will be quite as regular right now.

I wasn't planning to go to Cape Town this autumn, but it might be worth it just to hear my husband say: "See that man in the crocodile loafers? That's Mark Thatcher, who's just been awarded 20 million rand in damages for wrongful arrest, malicious libel and post-traumatic stress disorder.''

Three down, one to go. Back in the Eighties, a friend's client, who had just moved from Toronto to London and whose journalist wife, now ex-wife, wanted to know how to get into Fleet Street, asked my advice. I advised. Last time I saw Barbara Amiel, now Lady Black, she had just taken delivery of some terracotta statues from Xian which she was planning to feature in a fundraising art gala.

If she does, and my ever eagle-eyed husband alerts me to the presence of Lord Black, possibly dressed as Fagin, I might just ask the former newspaper proprietor about the evidently magnetic relationship between art and crime, sorry, alleged crime. And then again I might not. If there is any justice in the world, he'll be somewhere else.

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