An Evening At Shane MacGowan’s Art Exhibition : ‘The Eternal Buzz and A Crock Of Gold’
On Tuesday morning I got a call from an old friend inviting me to an art exhibition. My knowledge of, and interest in modern art is somewhat basic, and I had no real appetite to spend an evening in an art gallery, surrounded by turtle neck-wearing tax evaders. However, I was assured I would enjoy it, so reluctantly I agreed.
We met in a pub in South Ken for a couple of scoops, and then pottered down the road to the Andipa Gallery. My friend explained we were seeing a private viewing of Shane MacGowan’s art exhibition, the Eternal Buzz and the Crock of Gold. Shane is Irish, grew up in London, and is a prolific writer. I am Irish, grew up in London, and hope to one day have my writing called prolific. Shane has been an idol of mine since I was about six and a half, taking the top spot over Hazel O’Connor and JJ Burnel. My friend was quite correct, I was indeed going to enjoy myself.
I’ve never been on a red carpet before, and was very excited for my five seconds of fame. Unfortunately the Daily Mail photographers neglected to picture me on account of the blonde bombshell I arrived with (an old friend whom I have become accustomed to playing second fiddle with). The venue was small and rammed full of people. A-listers and young up and comers shouldered each other to get to the open bar. Among the younger crowd was Oscar Dunbar, who was playing the following Thursday at Gaz’s Rockin Blues, and I promised to go. Gaz I knew through his near legend status around Ladbroke Grove, where I spent much of my youth. His pin striped suit and wide brimmed hat are an archetypal part of the Notting Hill Carnival. We got chatting through mutual acquaintances, and I began to relax in the intimidating room.
I have not actually had too much experience with the ever elusive open bar, save for the odd wedding or funeral, and I am ashamed to say my self control was left at the door. The art was interesting. From ‘Woman With Bottle’, an impressive sketch of the female nude, to cruder, more abstract scribbling that seem to represent the inner workings of MacGowan’s creative process. I enjoyed seeing the brilliant mind of Ireland’s greatest songwriter in art form. My favourite was a sketch of Bono by Shane. MacGowan and his partner, the journalist Victoria May Clarke, lived in Bono’s Martello Tower in Dublin after he was dropped from the Pogues, and a friendship blossomed. As much as I liked the work, and revered the Pogues and Popes frontman, they were slightly outside the price range of myself, the occasional freelance writer and general Wandering Aengus.
At one point in the night as I eyeballed a particularly thought provoking scribble, with my one still working eye, I decided I should buy it. It would look great in my apartment (I had recently been evicted from my flat in Dublin, so this apartment existed only in my mind – but what imaginary apartment is complete without a cripplingly expensive Shane MacGowan sketch?). Looking around for the curator I asked for the piece, promising wildly that I would be back in the morning to pay for it. Where I was to find the money in twenty four hungover hours I don’t know, but the curator did not seem to take me too seriously, thank the risen Lord. I had enough of The Fear when I woke up, an £8,000 bill would have tipped me over the edge, from self-loathing to hysteria.
Aside from my questionable art tastes and my lack of funds, I also found out I am the world’s worst socialite. Oh, this aul fella seems very nice, very chatty. I wonder if he was invited, they didn’t check the tickets at the door, he looks like he has just snuck in here, good on him the chancer. Ben, that’s Bob Geldof. Ah, Yes. Of course it is. Well, this woman is fun, she loves a selfie, doesn’t she? Not exactly camera shy. Ben, that’s Kate Moss. Indeed, so it is.Jasmine Guinness, Bobby Gillespie, Pam Hogg, etc all swam past me in a haze of free Champagne and eclectic conversation. Shane I recognised. Wheelchair bound after a bad fall, he sat at the back and greeted fans while surrounded by his friends. I didn’t get a picture, I felt accosting the man while he sat helpless a bit unfair, but I did shake his hand. We had matching Claddagh rings on as I held onto his hand and told him what an inspiration he had been. Seeing the toll his life had taken wasn’t easy to watch, but he looked on the mend and his partner Victoria, who seemed to be the driving force behind the exhibition, appeared to be nothing but a good influence for the man. His mind seemed sharp as ever and his eye held a spark in it. The same young man trapped in a waning body that can’t keep up.
We left eventually and went to gorge on pizza with some new friends from the event. Then off to some afterparty in Soho where my memory became lost in the fog of smoking area conversations and friends for life I will never meet again and can’t remember the names of. As with all good things the night came to an end. My phone was full of new numbers and my calendar jam packed with gigs to attend. I was dreading the hangover and fearful of the next day, approaching unrelentingly like an invading army. I began mentally preparing myself. I would wake up, put on wet socks that I would have neglected to take out of the washing machine when I got home, trapse to a cafe with inoffensive lighting and music, and write up the events of the night before, being in the presence of Shane MacGowan, singer, songwriter, artist, legend.