Monday morning – 9:3O A.M.
“Um, okay. You want to film this?”
“Yes, Dr. Lerner,” the producer said. “We’re taping for Oprah. She’d like you to show the painting and tell us how you found it.”
“Okay, yeah, I got a call last night,” Adam Lerner said. A trim, handsome man, he looked more like a rock climber than a curator of the Lab at the Denver Museum of Art.
“Can you stand next to the painting?” the camera man asked.
“Um, sure.” Adam moved next to an oil painting.
“Okay, go ahead,” the camera man said.
“It’s a funny kind of thing,” Adam said. “Museum curators can make their entire careers by finding a great painting. I’m pretty young to be a curator. And I’ve been a curator for a long time. Finding a great work of art, like this, would solidify my career. Not that I’m unhappy in my career.”
“You’re doing great,” the producer said. “Just tell us the story.”
“At the same time, artists want their work to hang in museums. Most artists believe they’ve created great works of art.”
“When they haven’t?”
“Mostly? No. You can see there’s this collision of forces. The artist and the museum curator act in this kind of dance… of greatness.”
Adam took a breath. Over the last five years, he prepared for what he would say when someone finally asked and Mike was ready to tell. He hoped he didn’t screw it up.
“Anyway, I received a call from Senator Patrick Hargreaves about a painting. Usually, I don’t respond to ‘come see my painting’ requests because…”
“There are so many?”
“Well, yeah. And we don’t have a permanent collection at the Lab. They got my name from someone who knew me or met me. Anyway, the Senator said the painting was a gift from a local artist and he felt it was too important to keep in one collection. He wanted to donate it to the museum. Would I come for dinner? Please bring your wife. Oh, and the artist would like to remain anonymous. Of course, I was suspicious. But can you really say no to a Senator who invites you to his house for dinner? I couldn’t.”
Adam shook his head.
“I know they fed me dinner, and I’m certain it was wonderful. My wife went with me. I remember that. But honestly, when I saw this painting… I don’t really remember anything else. I wanted to hide it, protect it… like a naked child in the freezing rain…”
“No one could believe we had what we had. We did all the tests – paint, x-ray, whatever. Was it a copy of a masterpiece? A fake? No, it was a new painter. This painting is a huge find. A real masterpiece. Then we asked to meet the artist. We had to force their hand as the artist didn’t want to talk to us.”
“If you say so,” Adam said. “All I can tell you is that a really amazing human being painted this piece and gifted it to the museum… through me. It’s considered to be one of America’s great masterpieces. We’ve received offers to buy it from major museums – New York, Smithsonian… There’s no way we’re selling it. This painting belongs to the people of Denver and their Museum.”
“Is there anything else you can tell us?”
“He’s painted others.”
The retelling of Celia’s Puppies, Denver Cereal Volume 2, continues tomorrow…
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