Monday, 12 November 2007

Robert Dingle - The implications of non-recoverable tax on importing art

The implications of non-recoverable tax when importing art
The Fine Art Society
10th Oct – 10th Nov 2007
Curated by Toby Clarke
Written by Robert Dingle

On entering the busy ground floor gallery at the Fine Art Society I was immediately greeted with a congenial smile and an offer of assuage from my thick onerous coat. This unexpected magnanimous proposition from an elegant lady dressed entirely in black was instantaneously followed with another. Would you like a drink sir? I felt I had been caught slightly off guard. This swift cordial introduction was something I was not accustomed to. I declined the offer, but instead decided to indulge myself in selecting a handful of miniaturise buffet snacks. I was not particularly hungry but through adhering to the assumed codes and conventions of such occasions, taking something from her seemed to make the situation easier.

It was the moment she asked me for my identification number and association card that I realised I should have listened to my intuition. The uneasy feeling I was experiencing in the pit of my stomach shouldn’t have been so quickly attributed to the small decrepit sausage roll that I had just consumed. Are you not a member of the London Art Dealers Association? she asked.

The penny dropped. What I thought to be the private view was, in fact, a seminar held at the Fine Art Society for the London Art Dealers Association. Jessica Dean was about to kick off the proceedings with a short, punchy, half an hour, PowerPoint presentation introducing the implications of non-recoverable tax when importing art; I felt I had to make a swift decision. My window of opportunity was closing fast.

I apologised for the misunderstanding and asked as amicably as possible whether it would be a problem to quietly go down to the lower gallery and view the show.

Creeping down the squeaky nineteenth century staircase, I emerged into what was reminiscent of the bow of a boat. A low ceiling carries the viewer through the space and drops as it mirrors several small steps, maintaining the same distance from the floor. At either end of the space is a set of stairs. Above me the seminar had begun.

Unremittingly the sound of business jargon, tax return figures and vat refunds filtered down via the staircases at either end. The architecture acted as a conduit for the activity above. The sounds began to merge and intertwine with the work. The sound of Shawcross’s video and the rumblings of Heywood’s vibrating tower block became indistinguishable from the symphony of rustles, coughs, sighs, bumps, whispers and movements above.

Having been there barely ten minutes a gallery invigilator walked around and systematically began switching off the work. Anything that made a sound was deactivated. The work became subordinate to the mechanisms of finance that were in operation above. I am still awaiting a bill through the post for the one small sausage roll and half a dozen salted peanuts.