Do you ever find yourself at a place or event looking around and wondering what on earth you’re doing there?  Not in a bad way – not like your Christmas work party when all the usually quite respectable colleagues are hitching their skirts round their waists and demanding another rendition of Fairytale of New York whilst clumsily sloshing their glass of Heineken across an unsuspecting toilet-goer as they squeeze past. I mean something nice.Something that you expect to be rather ordinary, but that turns out to actually be quite surreal.

Basically, I’m lucky enough to have a friend who’s lucky enough to have a boyfriend who writes for an art magazine and is very much in with the so-called ‘art world’. One of the perks of this job includes complimentary passes and guest passes to a whole manner of artsy events. So this particular Monday, when he invited me and Ashley (my fellow Milan-goer) along to an art auction at the Dorotheum in the city centre I decided that that might be a perfect beginning to the week.

First of all, this insane building was built in 1707 and is one of the oldest auction houses in the world, as well as the largest on the continent. I mean, it already sounds promising without even seeing inside.

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And then you go inside to the main staircase:

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Didn’t even notice those ants at the time but they’re a welcome addition to the shot

So on we went, down to the reception to hand in our jackets and bags and so forth. Beforehand I had asked Ashley if I ought to dress elegantly or if it was quite a casual affair. Despite his more casual approach – a lumberjack shirt and jeans – I decided to don a sparkly pencil skirt and cropped fluffy jumper – an outfit that usually only sees the light of day after a couple of glasses of confidence-inducing wine. Thank God I did. Thank God I changed my mind at the last minute and kicked off my flipflops and blue jeans. I think I also had a bikini top on, under my t-shirt with the entire Kellogs cast on the front. Thank God I changed.

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Do you want to know what we were greeted with once we headed up some different stairs, sans backpacks and jackets? I’ll tell you. A string quartet played from a balcony somewhere far above us. Waitresses in floor-length red aprons swanned about with trays of Champagne (and Buck’s Fizz, for those light-weights among us). Countless couples, all much older than us, meandered through the little passages arm in arm, their little notepads tucked under their arms as they considered the artwork, vintage furniture and precious jewellery which would go to auction on Tuesday afternoon. Little groups of dandyish middle-aged bachelors chortled among themselves, with younger ladies flitting nearby and designer dogs resting at their feet.

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Crap photo quality, lovely sausage-dog. His well-dressed but grouchy owner accidentally stepped backwards and tripped over me after this picture was taken. Perhaps he’s not always grouchy, but he was then.

We had to be the youngest people there, by a little bit anyway. And the poorest, by far.

When you hear ‘auction’, you kind of think of little gold pieces of cutlery or maybe old French embroideries and so forth, don’t you? But you don’t often assume you’ll find an original Caravaggio adorning the wall, do you? And for only €80’000 starting price. A bargain.

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Caravaggio’s ‘Holy Family with Infant Child’. I asked if they had two since they were so reasonable, but sadly they said no.

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Groups of fancy types, ft. man who’s forgotten where he left his wife: “I last saw her by that million dollar stool”
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“Ah. This one reminds me of my childhood.”

So we spent about two hours milling through all the amazing rooms, dripping with art by the great masters (a Rubens even cropped up, if you’d believe. I love a good Rubens), diamonds, vintage clocks and – we weren’t completely wrong in our assumptions – golden bits of cutlery.

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Peter Paul Rubens – “The Judgement of Paris”, starting at €500’000

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Sadly our budgets didn’t allow for any bidding, but that didn’t stop us from carrying one of the special little notebooks about and nodding thoughtfully at different pieces. When Rob caught sight of Ashley’s outfit choice, he’d said “Er, it’s ok, maybe people will just think you’re an artist”. Perhaps we fooled the rest of the guests into thinking we were part of Vienna’s inner ‘art circle’, as opposed to some very lucky students in their early twenties who’d had alphabet soup for dinner beforehand.

At about 10pm, after most of the older bidders (biddies?!) had retired to their homes and hotels, we made our way through the sparse remainder of chatting bachelors (and their dogs/hangers-on) and headed to an underground pool bar to finish off the sophisticated evening.

I don’t like to brag, but I hit three balls in on my first try. A winning evening all round.

 

Talk later, and much love as always,

 

K. x

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