Canal through the park, 1978
by Felix Kelly
Sold by Artcurial, Paris for EUR6,800
When I first saw this picture last week on the auction site, (from whence this image comes), the estimate was about EUR500 and the starting price about EUR350.
I knew from a similar work sold at an auction at Christie's in London which I attended that it would in all likelihood fetch considerably more. I knew of the artist because a friend of mine owned two, which he bought when we both lived in Hong Kong in the 1990s.
The picture immediately made me think of this friend, with whom I had recently been in touch, after a long period of estrangement. I contacted him in December because I learned that he had recently had a stroke and was in poor health, and we began a brief period of correspondence, discussing amongst other things art and pictures that I thought might make his life a bit more interesting, as he was now immobile and reliant on a friend and a nurse to go about normal daily activities.
I last wrote to him, (we used fax because he never mastered the computer), on Christmas Day to wish him a pleasant day, (however unlikely that might have been, given his condition). I never heard back, but nor did I expect to, because I knew it was an enormous effort, and required assistance. When I saw the Kelly picture last week I was about to write again to mention it, the mispricing, and how I remembered his own two. I never did get around to that.
This morning I received an email from a mutual friend who lives in New Zealand to tell me that he had died yesterday morning, in his flat in London. The picture sold in Paris yesterday.
Felix Kelly painted this picture in Auckland.
I have mixed emotions. I am relieved that he no longer suffers the indignity that can burden the victim of a severe stroke, and I feel hugely glad that we reconnected, however briefly, before he died. I think the picture was a message to confirm that.