The Art of New Orleans

17 December 2017

We stood out as tourists today because the only people braving the rain were either wearing jerseys because they were going to the game (NFL: New Orleans Saints vs New York Jets) or were like us, with just one day to explore the streets of New Orleans. We selected our route based on the number of art galleries presented by Google Maps. Griffin was very patient as we wandered in, around and out of numerous galleries.  

The first few marketed themselves as fine art and mainly stocked the classics: Matisse, Renoir, Picasso and so on. Nope. Not on our budget. 

Then we discovered a pair of galleries that showed local artists. There is a possibility that we will buy a print of the Red Jazz Quartet, similar to the picture on the business card below.

At another gallery, I commented that a particular artist’s work felt underdeveloped but then fell in love with a smaller piece he had done (not pictured on the website). Turns out it wasn’t for sale and we could only buy a print, prices starting at $900. That wasn’t going to happen. Griffin preferred the dog series at this gallery. [Addendum: Turns out when Griffin said he liked “the dog in a pram”, he didn’t mean a painting, he meant a real dog in a real pram]

The advantage of the wet day meant we had the full attention of staff, but that also came back to bite us. I liked a few paintings at one particular gallery: a dark and stormy night at sea, the work of Denis Lebeq and Matthew Peck’s Questions of Forgiveness. I asked for a business card in relation to this last picture but retracted because I hadn’t asked the price first. Turned out it was $6500. I still asked for a card so then our new friend, Collette, thought we were dead keen. This was only her second day at the gallery so she was very willing to strike a deal. With her colleague they hung the painting in a different area to highlight the features of it in dimming light and offered to throw in a framed poster of the exhibition in which it featured. We smiled politely and said we’d think about it, leaving our details. A few hours later Collette phoned and offered us 30% off. “I hope to see you later this afternoon”. I replied, “I hope you do too,” firmly shifting the blame to John when we didn’t buy.

Later, we walked into a tiny space and I asked the salesman if he could tell us something about the artist. “I am the artist,” he replied. And then we noticed his studio in the back. We bought a small original painting.

Lunch was at The Royal House Oyster Bar where we watched the Saints finish the Jets off triumphantly on the big screen. 

Dinner was at Galatoires which was recommended by our hotel. We turned up at the restaurant on Bourbon Street, John and Griffin in their best jeans and t-shirts (I wore a skirt) to find they expected dress shirt and jackets. “Not required for you, sir”, was the reply to John’s query, “we have you dining out the back”. Out the back had a shorter menu and a waiter who did not like to be asked questions or go beyond what was exactly required of him. The food was excellent except cheese was excessively poured over everything.

We wanted to wander down Bourbon Street further but roadworks and football celebrations made it overly crowded so we sensibly returned to our hotel. Pondering over our time at New Orleans as the end closes in, I’m thinking it has a tough job to mix such a wide variety of people and cultures together. We have seen extreme poverty with bodies curled up in shopfronts trying to avoid the pelting rain and the snobbery of grand houses and fine dining where known customers barge through the queue waiting to be served. It would be easy to take in the lights and music and happy revellers on the streets as a sign that all is good. Yet, there seems to be a dark undercurrent that is the divide between the rich and poor, and the ‘other’ and the white. There are also struggles to recognise the past in a way that is respectful for all concerned, as seen in the controversy over keeping or demolishing monuments to slave owners.

Still, there appears to be a certain hope and happiness around the place, but then again Christmas is only a week away. We leave for New York tomorrow. Emma will join us there and that’s where we will celebrate Christmas and John’s birthday.


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