I went to the Victoria Miro gallery in Mayfair. They represent both Celia Paul and Peter Doig, (the fifth highest selling international artist at auction in 2014), both of whom paint in watercolour, some of the time.
There is no welcoming entrance or purposeful windows to this swanky gallery, just an intimidating buzzer. I walk round the building to see if there is another entrance, but secretly to build up courage. About to give up, I think of the journey I have had, physically and metaphorically to get this close. I suddenly turn back, take a deep breath and press the buzzer. I am allowed into a white holding chamber 2 x 4 ft to await my fate. Moments later the wall slides away and the gallery is revealed. It is unexpectedly small and the four viewers of the Chantal Joffe exhibition create a welcome crowd.
Heartened and emboldened, I approach the high reception protection which reminds me of the inner sanctum of Crawley police station, but that is another story. Two heads ignore me. How have they determined that I am not here with wallet bulging? There must be a camera. I wait in my hard-to-ignore lime green coat.
Finally I am allowed to explain the reason for my visit and ask my question, ‘Is there a price differential between oils and watercolours, and if so why?’ ‘Good question!’ replies the lady, ‘Chantal’s work comes is smaller sizes.’ replies the man, in sales mode. I probe a bit harder. ‘Its the cost of materials.’ replies the lady, ‘The difference would be about 50%. A typical Paul oil would sell for about £16,000.’ ‘That’s an awful lot for materials.’ I reply, clearly my A level in Pure Maths has not been wasted. ‘It’s the time it takes to complete an oil, whereas a watercolour doesn’t take as much effort.’ She suggests hopefully, showing me a Paul watercolour on her ipad. ‘Could it be historic?’ I suggest, sensing I am getting nowhere. ‘Yes.’ she said, adding ‘If you do find a reason could you let us know.’
Being bold has its advantages. I might try it again!