It's a peculiar experience to see an eight year old pondering whether to invest his money in property or buy a Lowry, but I saw it last night on the TV, on C4's documentary about genius children.
Perhaps the most interesting, and certainly the most likeable, was Keiron Williamson, an eight year old boy with a self-evidently remarkable talent for painting. I mean, look at that - he's eight, and probably seven when he painted it. That's pretty good for a seven year old. No wonder people are calling him a genius.
He is a talented kid, and his parents seemed very sensible, protective and encouraging of his talent. They decided in the end to go to Cornwall (he went for the property, with studio space so he "wouldn't have to clear the table for tea") where there were more galleries and artists. I could only applaud their decision and the way they went about it. I hope he carries on painting, because he seemed to love it.
But oh boy, his public. You couldn't help but think about the sense of the freak show that surrounded the exhibitions - and which his parents kept firmly at arm's length. Collectors came from America to buy the paintings. They ran to buy them when the exhibition opened. Perhaps they'd had a catalogue and made their decisions beforehand, but they didn't seem to be looking at the paintings themselves but what hadn't been sold, what was left that they could get their hands on. The gallery owner, who seemed somewhat dazed by what had landed on his doorstep, said, tellingly, (I'm paraphrasing) "There are only a finite number of paintings he did when he was seven. He's eight now. He won't be seven again." He added, grinning breathlessly, "Kerchinnggg!" All right, no, he didn't, I made that up.
But - is that painting worth ten thousand pounds? If I did that painting, would you pay ten thousand pounds for it? The market (which is, as we know, infallible) says they're worth it because some goon will part with thousands for them. Quite whether they're the "investments" that people think they are obviously remains to be seen. (And on a related note, I'd like to take a moment to hoist a jovial two fingers at anyone who buys art as an "investment." You soulless bastards.)
I suppose you can't (or the market can't) disentangle the painter from the painting. It's 'worth' thousands not because of the painting, which, judged objectively, is reasonable, but because of the artist, who is remarkable.