A Social Experiment With Some Questionable Art

I took a few random paintings on our travels to England, left them on various seats and then waited at a safe distance to observe the results. I’d written an explanation describing the journey the artwork had taken and taped it to the back of each, and added a small discreet ‘Free Art’ sign stuck to the front.
“This painting was bought in a charity shop in Tucson, Arizona. It was then put on a plane and flown 5,295 miles to London, England. It was then put in a car and driven 680 miles to Berlin, Germany. It was then hung in a show of art (all found in charity shops) in September 2023. Nobody liked it quite enough to buy it, so it was driven back to London. That’s a total journey of 6,975 miles (11,225km) – give or take a few. Now it’s right here, in your hands. Just where it’s supposed to be.”

Even on near-empty tube trains, almost nobody even glanced at them, let alone tried picking one up for a closer look. I was pretty surprised at the apparent total lack of curiosity of pretty much everyone, until the guitar-carrying Nico walked by, saw the painting of the flamenco dancer and picked it up.

He sat down and turned the painting over and read the story I’d written on the back. He took a photo of it, looked around (I pretended to be looking at my phone a few seats away), smiled and put the painting on his lap. After a few minutes I got up and wandered over to him, sat down and asked if he minded telling me why he’d picked up the painting.
Turns out, Nico is a musician and his wife is a flamenco dancer and he’d sent her the photo he’d taken and she loved the painting. As I’d written on the back: after a long journey, the painting was now “…just where it’s supposed to be”
The probability of a random stranger picking up a random painting of a random subject on a random train and having it be of a subject close to his heart is (probably) pretty low, but never zero.

“I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is”

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Artist (deceased)