Thursday, September 13, 2007

Donleavy on Art Auctions

From J.P. Donleavy's The Unexpurgated Code: A Complete Manual of Survival & Manners, first published in 1975, a guide to behaviour "At the Fine Art Auction" from page 189:
"Do not overdress for these usually dusty places. And even though they occur in the morning, carry yourself in a mild afternoon manner. It is quite becoming to wear your coat draped across your shoulders in the manner of the shop lifter, and this togetherwith your bending to look behind or knelling to look under furnitureor sniffing at the surface of paintings will demonstrate your erudition as well as add authority when at the viewing you drop and smash a priceless piece of porcelain and loudly proclaim it a fake.

"Be forceful in signalling your bid. Especially in view of the millions being tendered and that you are previously unknown to the auctioneers. Raise your walking stick and sahke it vigorously should the broker appear to disregard you. But do not let it interfere with toupees or ladies' hats. Watch also for the mentally unstable who make a habit of bidding you up insanely high, but posess enough brains to laughingly leave you stuck there."
Donleavy, born in New York of Irish parents, started his career after WWII as a painter with little success. He had gone to Dublin's Trinity College following service in the American Navy; he became an Irish citizen while studying there. Donleavy may be most famous for his 1955 novel The Ginger Man, in which a young scoundrel comports himself in a ribald manner.

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