Tark And Mara Make Art Pay

“I’ve been thinking, darling.” Tark eyed his wife over the steeple of his hands from his calfskin armchair, his eyebrows wiggling in a manner suggesting that great riches were about to ensue from a cranium unmolested by follicular fuzz.

“Oh, dear,” said Mara archly. “Go easy on me, darling. You know I can’t digest brilliance on a full stomach.”

Mara pushed the plate of lamb’s lettuce away and rose from the table. She was always glad to have her weekly meal over and done with. Zero calorie green food played havoc with the designer gap between her two front teeth.

“I knew you were plotting something,” she said. “Twice last night you shouted ‘Limited liability, you charlatan!” in your sleep.”

“I can’t keep anything from you, my precious python,” Tark chuckled. “Look, it’s regarding our art collection. It’s become worthless.”

Art Attack

Mara’s gaze rested briefly on her own personal art collection (seven 1960s Hermès handbags, housed in a thermostatically controlled cabinet), before she took in the priceless Jackson Pollock over the fireplace, and the Fabergé egg which once belonged to a Russian princess, whose violent death had quadrupled the bauble’s value. The entire penthouse was festooned – tastefully of course – with such collectables. She might have gazed at more of them, had she not been mindful of boring her readership within such a limited word count.

“Do you want to sell something?” she asked, confused. Tark never tired of leaving the tags on the priceless items they had amassed during their marriage: had he tired of them? Was the difference between pricey and priceless no longer enough?

“I don’t need new art,” he said.

Mara dislodged some salad which had wrapped itself around an incisor. Surely her husband wasn’t going to turn to – she swallowed – philanthropy?

Tark beamed and rose from his chair. “Everything we need is right here.” Tark indicated just how near ‘here’ was by extending both arms into their full three foot span, pointing to the northside of Dublin with one daring index finger, and swirling the other one from side-to-side in the general direction of Dublin 8.

He walked to the piano and began to play the theme from Jaws.

“Did you read about that fellow yesterday who sold that picture of a spud to a foreign businessman for a million quid?”*

Tark And Mara Make Art Pay

Picture: The Irish Times

“I did!” said Mara. “Most annoying. I was the one who started the famine trend. But I never sanctioned potatoes. They’re not nearly retro enough.”

“Well, I’m the businessman who bought it.”

Mara’s mouth opened, but nothing came out. She was so shocked, that in that moment, if someone had offered her a square of milk chocolate, she might conceivably have had a nibble.

“Look at your face!” said Tark. “Oh, I’m sorry, my pernicious pudding. I didn’t mean to give you a heart attack. But we already had pictures from this photographer in our collection. You were orchestrating the bidding war for the last two chapters of your true crime documentary when the call came, and I only used the small change we had left over from having a staycation last year.”

Mara was mollified: they had always agreed that minor purchases under three million didn’t require consultation. It was how she’d acquired half her wardrobe. She had to admit it was just the idea of the potato that bothered her, and she said as much.

“But it’s all part of the plan, darling,” said Tark. “Remember when I went through that phase back in 2007 of supporting local artists?”

Mara shuddered. “Yes. It was a difficult time. Having all those awful people on our doorstep.”

“And remember how we targeted artists in obvious financial trouble? Remember how we haggled? Getting those fantastic jelly sheep for a quarter of their value?”

Tark And Mara Make Art Pay

His wife nodded.

“Well. I’m a big enough man now to admit that I was wrong.” Tark moved away from the piano, all five-feet-two of him casting an impressive shadow across the polished floor in a sudden inter-shower flash of winter sun. “Those artworks aren’t worth any more now than they were then. Sure: we quadrupled our money, but in terms of net present value, it was a bust.”

“But there was a recession, darling.”

“Yes. Which was all the more opportunity for stratospheric gains. We could have had our own artist-in-residence, for Christ’s sake. But I know what to do now.”

Mara unfolded her size minus-something frame from the table and walked to her husband. She felt that familiar flicker of excitement which always indicated that Tark was about to beat the bankers. “Tell me.”

“I should never have underpaid, my homicidal honeybun. I should have overpaid. Art is only worth what’s paid for it, and only ridiculous prices will lift our collection to the status it deserves. That potato photograph cost a million yesterday, but the four other pictures we have by this guy are now worth 127 times what we paid for them.”

Mara placed her hand on her husband’s shoulder. Tark liked her benediction almost as much as he liked winning. “I shouldn’t have been so shocked, Tark. It was just the potato. You know how I feel about tubers.”

“You’d better gird your loins for my next acquisition, in that case,” said Tark. “I’ve got an option on a black-and-white photograph of a rotten turnip which was thrown at rebels in the 1916 Rising. It’s been valued at one hundred thousand euros, with at least two Irish politicians in the bidding.”

Mara, content, settled herself on the arm of Tark’s chair. “And what will we be doing?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” said Tark. “A bid for nine hundred grand should do it. And then we’ll donate it to a museum, so it can never devalue, and make a net tax gain. You mark my words. The walls of Ireland will be fully decked out in vegetables by Easter. And by June, our collection’s going to make the Saatchi Gallery look like a car boot sale.”


*Note: the following text is purportedly what the photographer behind the €1 million spud had to say about the meaning of his lucrative print, but it’s funnier than anything else in this post, so I had to include it. If he’s joking as I suspect, fair play to him. If he’s not, he’s still a million quid better off, so what can I say?

“I see commonalities between humans and potatoes that speak to our relationship as individuals within a collective species. Generally, the life of a harvested potato is violent and taken for granted. I use the potato as a proxy for the ontological study of the human experience.”

  40 comments for “Tark And Mara Make Art Pay

  1. January 28, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Now it all makes sense. I didn’t think there’d be anyone daft enough to pay so much for a photo of a potato, and there he is. But I do see the photographer’s point in that last statement. People like, for example, Ian Hislop are referred to as Mr Potato Head, so there is an ontological (and dare I say a possible epistemological) connection between human and spud. A connection obviously not lost on Tark.

    I once took a photo of a yellow pepper. If I can find it I might post it to my blog. See if there’s any interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 28, 2016 at 11:11 am

      Look at that: first comment. Get in there…

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 28, 2016 at 12:33 pm

        Check you, Chris. First in line and unpipped today. I’m sure there’s a queue of 64 people behind you just waiting to tell me exactly what they think of it all – certain I am – so well done. But seriously, if that photographer isn’t having a laugh, it’s a sorry state of affairs. He already got the million quid, why vomit out that much drivel when you’re already on the way to the bank?! Looking forward to your pepper. I don’t mind if it’s yellow or green or red. I’m really open-minded.

        Liked by 1 person

        • January 28, 2016 at 1:27 pm

          Perhaps his initial reaction was ‘I got a milion quid for me spud,’ until his agent suggested he plays it up a bit. Let’s face it, vegetables and the human condition go hand in hand; what would hipsters do if kale disappeared tomorrow?

          Liked by 1 person

          • January 28, 2016 at 2:33 pm

            I don’t know. There’s just something about his statement that’s so…. heartfelt. Like his words were composed of bone marrow and the decaying corpses of childhood innocence. Don’t you think?

            Liked by 1 person

  2. January 28, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    It finally all made sense. Thank you for that!

    PS. How much for this one, then?

    Liked by 4 people

  3. January 28, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    I do so enjoy a good episode of Tark and Mara. I think you should devote a blog entirely to them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • January 28, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Hello, Naptime! Long time no verbal spar.
      Tark and Mara can write their own damn blog. They have all the money and I have none of the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. January 28, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    You are an inspiration! Paints and canvas at the ready. I’m heading out this minute to buy a sack of spuds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 28, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Don’t underestimate the power of minimalism, though, Imelda. Given that one spud fetched a million, perhaps for maximum profit over and above this figure, you might start thinking about a chip?


  5. January 28, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    I paid nearly a fiver for a bag of McCain frozen chips today… That Tark fella has a lot to answer for..me head is mashed 😒

    Liked by 1 person

  6. January 28, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    This was great – but that last paragraph by the potato photographer made me laugh and cry at the same time…

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 28, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      Oh, lovely, Helen: emotional confusion. Just what Tark and Mara like best. If you throw in a feeling of artistic inadequacy, they achieve Nirvana. Just sayin’

      Liked by 1 person

  7. January 28, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Yeesh. Humans are far stranger than potatoes and just about anything else on the planet. I’m speechless. Great satire, Tara. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • January 28, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      I’m toying with calling it starch, Diana. Satire of the spud. It’s the new Thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. January 28, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Well, obviously violent, short lives are part the human condition in a lot of places around the world – spuds have if easy in comparison and at least they’re usually nice and warm most of the time… Does it have to be root vegetables? I think brassicae are pretty sexy myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 28, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      Oh, it absolutely has to be root veg, Jan. Brassica is far too curly and pretty. All that fractal symmetry is no good for analysing the human condition. I tried once, and ended up with new curtains and no answers.


  9. January 29, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Truth, it is said, is stranger than fiction, and a one million Euro potato photograph is apparently another example of that. As for his comment – must say the spud looks like quite a few folk I know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 30, 2016 at 1:05 am

      Good grief, really? How about you throw a dinner party in that case and leave one-third of each plate empty, just to see how many of them break into a sweat?


  10. February 1, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    I have a photo of the “brain vegetable” in a post I have written. I need your input. Can you send me your email via Facebook messenger, so the spambots don’t get it and start sending you random vegetable related email. Mind you, spam is best consumed with some vegetables. Not that I eat spam. Not in a long time. No.

    Just send the email.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 1, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      This is very intriguing, Conor. As spam almost always is. I will do that immediately. It may be the only time anyone ever asks me to have any input into a food matter.


  11. February 2, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Tark is onto a winner here and his logic is ontologically impeccable. I clicked through to the Irish Times in disbelief. I don’t know why I should be surprised, I have inhabited the fringes of this world. When I was an sculpture student, half of our year took the ‘conceptual stream’… blank notebooks, teacups, string and words were their medium. Failing to make a living out of my big structures, I also took bread and butter commissions for portrait busts. I worked flat out and kept my costs minimal. My brother (in the financial world) pointed out my error, you should charge twenty, thirty times as much, you’ll sell more. Tark and Mara are the real humans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 2, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      I had to look up ontological, Hilary, but once I did, I was delighted, because it obviously means that my writing is more intelligent than I am. On the other hand, please don’t encourage Tark and Mara, or else I’ll be tied to this pole forever. I hope you rewarded your brother’s belated advice with at the very least an obstructively large installation in his house.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. February 2, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    I specialised in giving his children, every Christmas, the most destructive, noisy and messy toys I could find (he gave mine utterly impossible puzzles).

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 2, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      Oh, excellent. I’m glad. I’m presuming that an impossible puzzle could easily be tired of and cast aside, whereas a destructive, noisy and messy toy would tend to be a more permanent and popular household feature.


  13. February 3, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Based on this valuation system… the value of the picture could be related to the vegetable depicted. But, what sort of relativistic value system should we use? Edibility? The potato is sometimes quite edible. Color? It’s brown. And the statement about potatoes could be said about every single vegetable, maybe. I’m not sure where he gets the idea that a potato has a violent life. A tomato, otoh, is gently used so it doesn’t bruise and become a sodden mess.

    That artist is a complete and total moron. Being rich does not make you wise. Successfully ripping someone off does not make you wise. Shut up and take your million, you hack! I’ll bet he got notes in school: “Nobody likes you.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 4, 2016 at 10:54 am

      I agree with you, Matt, if the artist in question wasn’t having a laugh with his comment, he is a complete and total moron. However, even though I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for now, he’s still got a million quid more than I do, so it’s hard to feel superior. And if somebody paid me a million to say the same thing, I reckon I could manage to be even more annoying.


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