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"People can get confused and think that because your issue is worthy, therefore you are. To be in a position where people expect a lot from you personally, rather than from your work, is dangerous." — Bono

A Rockstar's Paint Job

@U2
[@U2 note: U2 fan David Greg Harth was kind enough to attend and report on last week's "Peter and the Wolf" auction in New York for @U2. A selection of his photos from the event are available in our EVENTS section. Below is his first-person account of the evening's festivities. -- m2]



I can tell you the factual information you desire. Who bought what. How much someone paid for this or for that. I can tell you which celebrities came. I can tell you the make of the black sedans they pulled up in. The doorman to Christie's Auction House in New York City had striped trousers and cap that made him look far more significant than other doormen. He had white hair and a white mustache with even brighter white gloves.

I arrived at 16:30. (4:30 p.m. for the citizens of the States, wait, I am one.) I staked out my hot spot to photograph the arrivals to the event, so all of you can see. After being moved around and around in the pen full of photographers and videographers and press from around the planet, I got placed out back, because I'm only just a mere fan, and I have a lot less circulation power. It wasn't until just about 19:00 that Paul McGuinness arrived. The paparazzi had no idea who he was, but I, and all of you, know that he is a genius for seeing the talent of our young boys at such an early age. I'll skip forward now. You don't need to hear about this person and that person walking in a set of revolving doors.

Inside I was in the back again with the press area. I have not taken photographs for you here because I was not permitted to do so. However, I will illustrate the scene and mood as best as I can. The entire room had a cold warmth to it, or, perhaps one might say, a warm frost. People were dressed in their finest evening wear. No huge rockstar clothes or artists expressing themselves by their outer identity. Mainly people were there with money, or so I presume. In the crowd of spectators and patrons and benefactors and collectors and friends, I saw the musicians Elvis Costello and Moby. Of course Bono was there with his wife Ali Hewson and his good friends Guggi, Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer.

There were various people from the art world present. There was Moby's best friend Damian Loeb. Tony Shafrazi was also there. You might be aware that Shafrazi is an art dealer in New York that represents Guggi. Guggi actually had an exhibit at Shafrazi's gallery in 2001. It is also interesting that if you look at Bono's work, you could see inspirations or comparisons to the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat or even, as one reporter suggested, Picasso. Bono's work had different scattered thoughts, or formulated thoughts, on various parts of the canvas. Scratches thrown together and carefully executed. I just wonder which strokes Bono made and which were made by his daughters. A interesting comparison could be looked upon at Bono's Peter and the Wolf 1 (Lot 5) with Picasso's Guernica. The horizontal format of the work as well as the personalities and objects in the work could possibly be compared. Interestingly enough, before Tony Shafrazi was an art dealer, he was an artist. And in 1974 Shafrazi actually defaced Picasso's Guernica at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. That is your short lesson on art.

Before it all started a DVD was playing on the video screen above all of the bidders' heads at the front of the room. It was a video of Bono painting the works at some studio. Inside the auction house Gavin Friday and Bono had short introductions about the work and the project. Bono started with "Hi, my name is Bono and I'm a rock star" He also said, "At age 13, I had the head like a baked bean." After that, I didn't have a tape recorder and my mind got lost in the experience of it all.

After their short speeches the auction was conducted by an Irish chap, with an accent from the heart, wearing an emerald green tie. During the auction procedure Gavin was also at the podium who often interrupted the auctioneer with "May I interrupt for a moment." And more often then not, his mild interruptions were quite entertaining. Gavin also offered to stick his tongue in the ears of successful bidders. The auction lasted about an hour. Paul McGuinness was the first bidder of $5,000 on the first work, which went for more than that first bid. That started the frenzied bidding wars among those present at the auction house and those bidders who phoned in. Ladies and gentlemen drank wine and champagne from their breakable glasses while sitting in a semi-circle around the auctioneer's podium and the stage. The stage had a rotating stand which presented some of Bono's works. Other works were on display on the video monitor, as the originals were on display downstairs in the showroom. A line of video cameras lined a portion of the back of the room, where I was located, videotaping for various reasons, be it the BBC or an American-based television station.

Although Bono is not a major player in the art world, it was quite great seeing his work fetch the prices it did, all for a good cause. It does remind us, that if one is a rock star, then you can do art, and act, and dance, etc. May I dare to mention Will Smith and Jennifer Lopez in an article on U2? Sure. Look at those two artists, with multi-talents. Bono is one of them. Let's thank him for that, and, thank him for one of his best talents, the talent of his love and devotion to charities, third-world-debt, battling AIDS, etc. While at this auction, I was reminded of the man's passion for so many causes and his great intense music. I could only leave the auction house inspired.

This may not be the type of article you had hoped to read on this U2-fan-website. But, it is written by a U2 fan who happens to be an artist. One who resides in New York City and has been influenced by U2 just as much as the next U2 fan. I hope it gives you some sort of a different perspective. For those of you keeping track of time, the auction started at approximately 21:14 and ended at approximately 22:14. The auction raised a wonderful $368,000 for the Irish Hospice Foundation.

- David Greg Harth, NYC



© @U2/Harth, 2003.