Strolling about London’s West End several weeks ago, on the recommendation of an art collector friend of mine we dropped by New Bond Street, the spot where the capital’s zillion year-old auction houses are situated. The timing was just right I think, as a few days earlier we’d been at the Tate Modern, and I was all child-in-a-sweet-shop and in the mood for getting hold of a small Rothko or some other such crazy modern art masterpiece for the office. Which is surprising, especially to me, as it’s not like I usually splash out – on anything – as normally doing so is just to show off.
And then I saw it – the bright, shiny, emerald colored… elephant! With a golden angel on its back blowing a horn! It was big, it was elegant, it was cast out of bronze. It heralds hope for the future – “a future promising great fortune”! It’s also the kind of piece that’s truly very aesthetically satisfying to look at – unlike some of the completely mad modern kunst exhibits over in the Tate. I fell in love with it immediately.
Still, what made this piece in particular stand out for me most of all was its color – British racing green KL green! We’ve used green and only green for just about everything KL for years – product boxes, our logo, fonts, mascots… even furniture and fittings in our offices around the world. Yet another factor I’m sure was attracting me to namely this modern artwork was that it was created by a surrealist I’ve always really admired. He’s just so unique with an unmistakable style all of his own. And down the years I’ve been checking out and rechecking many of his works all over the globe – particularly in the museums dedicated to him in Catalonia and Florida. You guessed who yet?
So, to summarize, the equation of my thoughts about this funky green elephant the first time I saw it several weeks ago went something like this:
KL Green + aesthetic delight + genius artist I’m a true fan of + a future so bright we’ve gotta blow a horn = must have!
Fast forward to a few days ago…
Earlier this week the item was being auctioned at the same place we saw it on New Bond Street in Chelsea. According to those there it was very much a tense mood in the auction hall, with the adrenalin pumping and the nerves getting frazzled (but then, at auctions they love to whip up such an atmosphere, so I guess it was to be expected). The Elephant de Triomphe, which is the sculpture’s full title, turned out to be real popular. Of course it was – just look at it! Nevertheless, eventually, after much nail biting and pulses rising, we did it. Gooooaaaaaal! The elephant and angel became ours! Hooray!!!!
Big, bronze, green, golden and magnificent. That’s what it is.
The long, insect-like spindly legs of the elephant are a recurring theme in the artist’s work symbolizing the future, or to be more precise, “symbolizing the fragility between past and future”. Elephants themselves also figure often – symbolizing strength, dominance and power. The angel too is a symbol – you guessed it – often featured in the surrealist’s work. I especially like this particular angel’s heralding a bright future. Nice to hear, what with all the potential cyberwarfare that’s around the corner…
Turns out Salvador Dali (like, you haven’t noticed the (green) elephant in the room yet?:) made 14 elephants of triumph. Four he kept for himself (and who could blame him?), eight were sold, and the other two he generously gave to the workers who helped him make them. Our elephant is number four of the eight that were sold. Previously it had been in a private Swiss collection. Soon it’ll be on its way to our new office! But in which of the two buildings will it be installed? Oh no, I foresee conflict ahead – despite the bright future heralded :).
I hope our green elephant will one day be triumphantly exhibited in museums, so others besides KLers can behold, admire and simply delight in this wonderful specimen of modern art. That’s what art’s for after all – sharing and enjoying.
I expect that opinions will be diametrically divided re our newly procured sculpture – from ‘wow!’ to ‘eh?’. Of course there’ll be skeptics, there always are; haters always gonna hate. But all the same, I bet they too will be getting their smartphones out to take a few cheeky pics together with the wowed set! Which says it all :).