Friday, May 14, 2010

Is it Art ?. We report,you decide.

To the grand opening of the Art Bar, owned by the former boyfriend of designer Peter Morrissey, Karim Gharbi ( who amusingly calls his company KGB) in the ritzy boutique hotel, The Kirketon, favorite home away from home of visiting actors like Keanu Reeves when filming at Fox Studios.

Karim Gharbi
The Art Bar has had a chequered history under a variety of names. First opened  by celebrity chef  Matt Moran as 'Salt' who shortly after opening flew to Denmark to supervise the wedding feast of Crown Prince Frederick and his bride Tasmanian born Princess Mary in the toytown Christianborg Palace in Copenhagen (regular Shuttlers may recall we told the tale in a previous incarnation of how Mary's no nonsense Scots born kilt wearing dad Professor John Dalgleish Donaldson almost caused a diplomatic incidence as he sat in the Copenhagen Cathedral, legs akimbo opposite HRH Queen Margarethe  and later at the reception, pint of beer in hand lunged for the sausage rolls and knocked King Gustav of Sweden for six)

4 months after Moran returned Salt closed due to lack of customers. Whilst Moran now operates a highly successful restaurant in the Hilton Hotel, the Salt premises have  been through a number of re-inventions with each one collapsing after about 6 months. Now it has twist-walls lined with the works of artist Charles Billich.

For he uninitiated Charles Billich, a highly likable man, is controversial to put it mildly. As a painter he has an enviable record. Just check his Wikipedia entry. He has works in the Vatican Collection, Rome, the United Nations Heardquarters, Geneva, the White House Collection, Washington D.C.,Ferrari Collection, Milan,the Shaolin Temple, China, the International Red Cross Museum, Geneva and so on.

Elle McPherson's mum Fran & Charles Billich
But many art critics have been most unkind including the Sydney Morning Herald's John McDonald who in a scathing piece re-published in The New York Times said of Charles' work that it was"a slippery form of graphic design backed with a high-powered marketing strategy” and likened it to kitsch which "would be fine if it was 'fun' kitsch' but it isn't". 

Christa Billich, Matt Brown MP & Charles
That high powered marketing strategy is down to his German born wife Christa Brunhilde Ostermann who, as they say, could sell ice to Eskimos and a few Billich prints to boot. Christa often features in Charles' nude portraits in erotic poses. His paintings bring amazing prices from $50,000 up to $200,000 and has made the couple extremely wealthy. Last year they sold their Bentley Turbo after their much loved chauffeur Hector who wore a floor length leather coat passed away. Today they drive a vintage Daimler convertible worth about half a million. Which they did to the opening of the bar, just a few doors from their apartment.

Billich was born in what is now Croatia and spent nearly 7 years in jail for anti-Communist activities when he was dobbed in by a girlfriend, He taught himself to paint in jail and how to speak 7 languages. After travelling the world he ended up in Melbourne working as a morgue attendant, taxi driver and waiter before his successful art career took off. Now he lives in Sydney. tSS likes Charles and the fact he often lent us his Bentley and driver and has flown us to exotic locations and luxury hotels for art exhibitions is entirely incidental.

A masterpiece-yours for 200 grand !
Guests at the opening night party for the Art Bar were divided on Charle's art. Supermodel Elle McPherson's mum Fran is a big fan. Racing identity Victoria Coppleson has a huge Billich painting opposite her bed given to her by her late husband John Moorish who died in a shooting accident. She says she keeps it there out of  loyalty to John but says sometimes waking up in the morning, especially with a hangover to be confronted by Christa's pussy can be a challenge.
MP Matt Brown who was sacked as Police Minister last year when it was claimed he danced on a table top in a Wollongong restaurant in his underpants and "titty f*cked"a colleague Nora Hey MP wasn't giving an opinion. He doesn't like the media.

One of critic John McDonald's biggest gripes is that collectors pay huge prices for Billich's work believing they will increase in value over time and hopefully pay for the collector's pension. We don't have an opinion. Although tSS did notice 6 months ago at the regular Lawson Menzies art auction we attend every Friday, a Billich print sold for-$1 !