Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
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Hugo Gellert: Comrade Gulliver

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PATRONAGE

EVER since I arrived in New York I had a hankering for a ride on top of one of those double-decked busses in which passengers ride about town in the open air. One sunny Spring afternoon I was seated atop of one. A very beautiful girl was seated in front of me. A young fellow tipped his hat very gallantly and bent over towards her: "Pardon, but haven't we met before?" She looked up at him. "Don't I know you from Boston?" She did not answer. "Didn't I meet you at the Brown game?" Still she would not answer. "Oh, but I'm certain we met somewhere! No?" "No," said she, "I'm positive we have not!" "Well, well," said he, "where have you been all my life?" Quite unexpectedly the girl slapped his face so you could hear it. As the gallant retired, I laughed so loud the girl turned on me indignantly. "Oh no, we never met!" I hastened to tell her. She burst into laughter. Then I sat beside her. She told me she was on her way to Rockefeller Center. We went together.

It was a group of buildings large enough to house the population of an entire city. I wasn't much impressed by the decorative details, but I liked the simple lines and massing of the buildings.

We entered the tallest one in the center of the group. A large white wall faced us. On either side of it long corridors were decorated with pictures. "How strange," I remarked, "they put pictures where you can't see them and this big space, in the light, remains blank."

"That too had a picture -- a fresco. Didn't you hear about it?" the girl said. I shook my head. "Yes, a picture of a countryman of yours -- Lenin."

"A picture of Lenin, what happened to it?" I asked in amazement.

"It was destroyed."

"Why, wasn't it any good?"

"It must have been good, they paid twenty thousand dollars for it."

"Why was it destroyed then?"

"Oh, Mr. Rockefeller didn't like it."

"Who is Mr. Rockefeller?"

"He's the richest man in the world. He's an art patron."

"Did you ever hear of our great art patron of the good old days -- Czar Ivan the Terrible?" I asked.

"Yes, what about him?"

"Well, he put out the eyes of his favorite architect to prevent him from creating other buildings that might rival the beauty of the Basilica built for him."

"Oh, but we're living in a civilized country. Here we only destroy the work of the artist," the girl slowly remarked.

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