RHYS BOWEN: I always particularly enjoy a mystery written by a writer who is an expert in the subject. My good friend Susan Shea has spent many years in the exciting and dangerous world of fine art collections. Here she confesses to her secret fantasy, which I'm sure many of us share.
SUSAN SHEA: In my Dani O’Rourke mysteries, I write about some of the ways individuals approach visual art and how their desire to possess it can lead to terrible crimes. In the third book, Mixed Up with Murder, just out, the lust isn’t for the beauty of the art but for its financial value in today’s overheated market.
I’m passionate about paintings, sculpture, drawings, decorative objects, photography – all of it. To me, it’s like being in the world’s largest candy store. Did you ever have the experience of having to choose one piece of candy at the store, and finding yourself paralyzed between a Baby Ruth and a Milky Way? I do that with art, although I will never actually own the treat in question. But my challenge is that if I could have one piece from a room or museum filled with them, what would it be? I go to museums and galleries every year, so I get to play the game a lot and would have the most exciting and eclectic collection in the world if my fantasies came true!
At the Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan, I struggle. Is it the Rembrandt self-portrait in middle age with the eyes that have been following me around “his” gallery since I was a small child? Or the serene, life-sized Buddha statue in the room ringed by the most astonishing Buddhas from many countries? On some visits, I head for the American Wing with its breathtakingly beautiful silver services, although the idea of having to polish them to keep that warm gleam in tiptop condition does give me pause.
At the Oakland Museum, it’s simple: any Diebenkorn painting but preferably one from the Ocean Park series. I can’t figure out how he kept the same planes and selection of colors and yet managed to keep the large abstracts fresh and compelling time after time. I could stand in front of one for a year and never get tired.
Ditto Jackson Pollack’s splatter paintings at MOMA in New York. Oh, but wait, there are the tiny, charming pre-Columbian gold figures in the Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Washington, D.C. and Matisse at the d’Orsay in Paris and the glass flowers at Harvard’s Museum of Natural History and … Uh oh, this is getting out of hand!
What about the rest of you? Do you play a similar game when you see art, or is Cartier’s or Chanel your game board of choice?
RHYS: For me it would be all Impressionists, a room full of Monets, Renoirs, Mary Cassatts.
Susan will be giving away a copy of MIXED UP WITH MURDER to one lucky commenter today. And she'll be stopping by to answer your comments.
SUSAN C. SHEA spent more than two decades as a non-profit executive before beginning her best-selling, “wickedly funny” mystery series featuring a professional fundraiser for a fictional museum in San Francisco. MIXED UP WITH MURDER (February 2016) is the latest. Susan is past-president of the northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime and secretary of the national SinC board, a member of MWA, and blogs on CriminalMinds. She lives in Marin County, California. www.susancshea.com