A boy, a painting and the world trips…

HIGH finance is not really my area. Low finance is hard enough to grasp these days. A moment ago I shuffled along my vertiginous shelf of rock and glanced at the global stock market panic caused by China (or not, depending on what you read).

But before I could think of anything sensible to say, I saw the boy trip into the painting.

Now this is more my sort of thing. Perhaps that says something about me. Maybe if I better understood stock markets and the seemingly random workings of capitalist roulette, then I would be inhabiting a more commodious ledge. Or not haunting a ledge at all.

I have tried to think about what might be happening on the stock markets. All those men and women screaming themselves towards a heart attack need someone by their side, I’m sure. But not me. Not today.

This is because I saw that boy fall. The 12-year-old Taiwanese boy was visiting a museum at the weekend when he tripped and broke his fall with a 350-year-old painting. His outstretched hand went through the canvas and punched a hole in a painting said to be worth $1.5 million.

The painting was hanging at an exhibition in Taipei called Face of Leonardo: Images of a Genius. The organisers have released footage showing the boy in shorts, trainers, a blue Puma T-shirt and holding a drink. As passes the painting, he catches his foot and trips over a low rope and falls into the canvas. Then he steps back, looks at the painting in panic and glances around, perhaps thinking: “Wake up now, for God’s sake wake up now.”

The painting by Paolo Porpora was later discovered to have a hole at the bottom caused by the boy’s fist.

The clever thing here would be to make some comment about this being a form of art criticism. To say that the boy’s mishap was a work of art worthy of the Turner Prize. Well, I seem to recall that was once won by a light going on and off in a room.

But no, it’s nothing like that at all. Just the art of clumsiness, nothing more. Life is a wall built of mishaps and misshapes. Sometimes no one sees. Sometimes you notice far too late.

Here is a minor example. Yesterday beetroot picked from the garden was placed in a casserole dish and covered in foil, ready to bake while we went out for a couple of hours. Next to this was another dish topped with foil. This one contained the remains of the creamy potatoes we’d had for lunch. Guess which one I placed in the oven? On our return we were greeted with twice-cooked potatoes a la cock-up rather than slowly roasting beetroot.

As to clumsiness, perhaps we are more prone to this when surrounded by objects of value. I remembered the man and his shoelace when I read about the boy and the painting. This is because shoelaces worry me.

So here he was again, cruelly plucked from obscurity. Maybe he had even stopped blushing until everyone remembered again. A loose shoelace caused Nick Flynn to trip during a visit to the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge in 2006. As he fell he knocked over Qing dynasty vases thought to be worth £100,000 in total.

As an inveterate fiddler with shoelaces, which are too loose to too tight and rarely just right, I felt for that man. There but for the grace of a badly secured shoe and all that. Yes, I can certainly see myself doing something similar. Note to self: please make sure laces are secure when visiting York Art Gallery tomorrow.

In the end perhaps fears about inflation, shares and interest rates following the China crisis stock market crash are merely another shoelace incident. One moment the world is on a careless dash to unending wealth and prosperity. Then someone bends over to tighten a rogue shoelace. And the whole thing comes crashing down.

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