Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Gamble That Paid Off

Daisy and I used to spend a lot of time hanging around the Casino Grand in Brno. We'd watch gamblers come and go, see them win some and lose some, and when they looked to us, two regulars, for advice, about whether they should hold 'em or fold 'em, as they inevitably did, our expressions would remain inscrutable.

Way back in 2002, our good friend, the multitalented artist Stewart Moore, used Daisy and me and another friend, Jennifer Lau, as models for a commission from the Casino Grand. He painted three massive portraits, all of a rather fantastical nature, incorporating sentences from a text on gambler's giveaways, a "Book of Tells," if you like.

The paintings as they looked when they were still hanging in the Casino Grand

Daisy and I always thought it cool that our likenesses were hanging in a dark casino in the Czech Republic's second city. We even went down to visit them one time many years ago. And we always wondered what might become of those paintings once the casino was through with them. Would they be bricked up behind a new wall, sold to the highest bidder, or blanketed in bubble wrap and put into a dark warehouse somewhere?

A few months ago, on a whim, I wrote to the casino to inquire about the paintings, not really expecting an answer. But as luck would have it, the operations manager wrote me back, saying the paintings were in storage after a casino refurbishment a few years ago. And they were for sale.

After a bit of negotating, we agreed on a price, and the three paintings were delivered to our Prague 6 flat.

Now, as I said, the paintings are huge -- 285 centimeters by176 centimeters, to be exact. That's 9 feet 4 inches by 6 feet. I wondered whether they would even fit through our front door, let alone whether we could find a wall on which to hang them. Totally impractical, but totally cool. There was no way we couldn't buy them.

Turns out they fit through our front door, but not up the staircase to our top-floor flat. The delivery guy and I had to hoist them by hand up a just-big-enough slot between the stairway and the railings. But we managed to get them into our apartment, where they now sit, sideways, since, indeed, we don't have a wall big enough to hang them on.

We're not quite sure what we're going to do with them. Stewart says they can be removed from their backing frames and rolled up quite easily. He can even cut them down to a smaller size and reframe them, although that seems a shame. We may be able to hang them in a future flat that we'd like to buy.

The portrait of Jennifer is quite wonderful, too. She's playing the accordion. But I don't want to remove it from its bubble wrap before she comes to pick it up and I can't find the photo I took of her portrait when it was still hanging in the casino.

Hopefully, I can update this blog post with a photo at some point in the near future.

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