My only brush with celebrity stalking begins and ends with the great Spanish artist, Antoni Tàpies, who died last night at the age of 88.
It began one afternoon, many years ago, when, armed with a map and an address, I set out alone on the perfectly unfamiliar streets of Barcelona to find Tàpies. That it didn’t, in fact, end with a Tàpies meeting was, in retrospect, fortuitous, for the fact that I hadn’t given much thought to what exactly I’d say were I to find myself in the same room with him. But on that sunny, spring day, the quest to find Tapies seemed, to me, the only reason to be in Barcelona.
Antoni Tàpies had mastered every medium that I’d wanly flirted with–drawing, painting, printmaking, graphic design, poetry–and that, I thought inexplicably, was something he should know.
My determination brought me, circuitously, to a massively imposing, unmarked wooden door on a fairly desolate narrow street, one that I sheepishly knocked on, only to be greeted by a smiling woman who said, yes, this was Tàpies’ studio, and no, he wasn’t there; and, then, in a gesture unthinkable to a New Yorker, invited me in for a tour.
A back room was lined with flat files in which scores of Tàpies’ prints were stored, and she asked me if I’d like to see some of them. There were immaculately organized lithographs and etchings, heart-stoppingly gorgeous embossings, richly colored, overlaid with Catalan scribbles–and there were crosses, of course, his famous crosses. Some prints were recently made, yet to be exhibited anywhere, and she removed them from their files, one at a time, carefully placing them on a table for me. Just for me.
I may have been there for an hour, maybe more. I thanked her for her kindness. She apologized for Tàpies’ absence. I left, as dusk approached, not quite sure of the way back to my hotel. I was leaving the next day, or was it two days? I couldn’t remember just then, and it didn’t matter much. I had come to Barcelona. I had come to find Tàpies. And, in a way I could scarcely have imagined, I had.