Note to Herbie Hancock [“Herbie Hancock at Wells Fargo”, Timeout, Friday, September 16, 2011]:
Some encounters you just can’t forget; and mine was 15 years ago already.
I still remember what I said to Yoko, when I ran into her at the NY auction house, Christies. In the lead-up to the actual auction, the auction pieces are on display and open to the public, often for a few days; every year, both NY auction houses do Impressionist and Post-Impressionist auctions, which always draw big crowds.
The friends I came with were playing a game of “What would you buy if you had $100,000 to spend on art today?” It was mid-afternoon when my friends got all excited, saying “Yoko Ono is here”, pointing out a Japanese woman in a tall felt hat. I’d met Yoko once previously, at a performance of New York Rock at the WPA Theater on my 42nd birthday, and knew it wasn’t her (too tall), when suddenly, I turned around, and to my astonishment, there she was. Gathering up my nerve, I walked up beside her, re-introduced myself, and said, “Are you here to shop, or are you just looking?” I’d intended to explain about our shopping game, and of course I suddenly lost my nerve, and shut up. But she is, after all, the only person I knew who would have had enough money to actually bid at a Christies auction. She replied, “Just looking,” and I retreated, and left her at a respectful distance the remainder of the afternoon.
However, later at Sotheby’s, her two male companions, one of whom I’d guessed to be Sam Havadtoy, were standing in front of this humongous floor-to-ceiling painting by Egon Schiele, and told them that New York was soon going to get an Egon Schiele exhibit, at MOMA.
This exhibit would turn out to contain mostly his sketches with a single painting placed at the end of the gallery – afterward, I told my companion that you can’t look at a gallery of his sketches and not think about genetalia. It turned out to feature some works. – afterward, I dared my companion to look at a gallery of his sketches and not think about genetalia – that were of doubtful provenance. These were held by the Museum, then turned over to the courts which ultimately, if memory serves, returned the Nazi-confiscated works of art to the original owners. The show itself, reviewed in the NY Times, became a controversy that became news itself, until the case was finally settled.
It seems you can’t have a true Yoko Ono encounter without coming directly in contact with the rest of art history.