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Art Forgery

A bare warehouse room, far outside the city. A large canvas rests on an easel, a sheet draped over it.

Ms. Palmer, cigarette in hand, leads Mr. Jacobson into the room, holding a briefcase.

Ms. Palmer I'm telling you, chief, this'll be the grandest, damndest most brilliant discovery in the contemporary art world. Your name will appear in the art and culture section of newspapers all over the world for people to skip to get to the crosswords in the back.

Mr. Jacobson Wonderful, very excited to see it.

Ms. Palmer Behold, the lost masterpiece of Kazimir Malevich!

Ms. Palmer pulls the sheet off the easel, revealing an abstract painting, geometric shapes of varying colours on an off-white background. Mr. Jacobson immediately begins inspecting it.

Mr. Jacobson Marvelous.

Ms. Palmer That's right. What you are looking at is none other than the 39th canvas of Malevich's groundbreaking 1915 exhibition which introduced the world to his aesthetic philosophy of Suprematism, a revolutionary idea which sough to separate art from the real world and all its nasty petty politics in a revolutionary attempt elevate art to an act of pure creation rather than imitation in order to access a higher spiritual plane – or so I'm told, all looks like a bunch of fucking squares and circles to me.

Mr. Jacobson Yes, I'm familiar with his ideas.

Ms. Palmer I don't doubt that, I'm just trying to demonstrate that we've done our research, that you're not dealing with a bunch of clowns who got some paint at Home Depot and called it a day. (Ms. Palmer approaches the painting) We are thorough, Mr. Jacobson, that's what makes us worth our money.

Ms. Palmer blows smoke onto the painting. Mr. Jacobson waves it away.

Mr. Jacobson Don't do that!

Ms. Palmer This thing has supposedly been changing hands for a century. Some wear and tear is to be expected.

Mr. Jacobson Right.

Ms. Palmer I told you. We're thorough. And that's why we need to renegotiate our price.

Mr. Jacobson Excuse me?

Ms. Palmer This is worth quite a bit more money than you led us to believe, Mr. Jacobson. Now I'm going to go ahead and give you the benefit of the doubt and assume this was a genuine mistake on your part.

Mr. Jacobson We agreed on a price at the time of –

Ms. Palmer Based on faulty info. Circumstances changed, so this deal needs a little alteration. We want 2 million.

Mr. Jacobson Two million! That's absurd, that's over twice what we agreed upon!

Ms. Palmer I know, which means you either severely underestimated how much money you'd make on this painting or you were trying to stiff us good.

Mr. Jacobson I don't have two million lying around!

Ms. Palmer We're happy to take payment in instalments.

Mr. Jacobson This is ridiculous, why are you just springing this on me now? You must have known its value for months. And you only tell me now (waves his briefcase about) right at the point of payment? Well I won't do it.

Ms. Palmer You won't do it?

Mr. Jacobson That's right. You're getting the amount we agreed on.

Ms. Palmer Ok, I see what's going on here.

Mr. Jacobson Oh you do, do you?

Ms. Palmer You were expecting to be dealt with honestly in a business which operate on dishonesty. We're not accountable here in the same way we are in the real world, Mr. Jacobson. The only thing that matters in this environment is leverage and power. And I'm sorry to tell you, you're lacking both right now.

Mr. Jacobson Am I? Well allow me to demonstrate my leverage by walking out this door. Enjoy finding someone else to shift that painting.

Mr. Jacobson begins leaving.

Ms. Palmer Ok, enjoy being quietly asked to resign in about 6 months time.

Mr. Jacobson stops.

Mr. Jacobson Excuse me?

Ms. Palmer Not sure the Met would want to keep a curator on payroll who regularly acquires paintings from art forgers.

Mr. Jacobson Regularly – you're the only I've ever dealt with and I haven't even properly dealt with you.

Ms. Palmer Oh you've gotten plenty of items from us before, you just don't know you have.

Mr. Jacobson What?

Ms. Palmer That Mondrian for a few months back? Or the Kahlo from 2 years ago? If someone took a spectrometer to the Contemp Art section of the Met right now, they would find some mightily interesting things.

Mr. Jacobson You're lying.

Ms. Palmer I thought you were some kind of covert agent at first. Seeing how lax you here on verifying the authenticity on all the items you acquired. But no, turns out you're just quite happy to turn a blind eye to that sort of stuff to help you on your journey to head curator.

Mr. Jacobson Fuck you.

Ms. Palmer After a while, we realised it was quicker to just contact you directly rather than going through a middleman. You really are one of our best customers, Mr. Jacobson, we should get you a loyalty card or something.

Mr. Jacobson You report me, I'll report you.

Ms. Palmer Mr. Jacobson please, I'm never more than one phonecall away from leaving the state, two phonecalls away from leaving the country and three phonecalls away from leaving the continent. My name is nobody, I'm from nowhere and I was born in 19-go-fuck-yourself. Now you can decide, you can either walk out the room and hope that you only made me angry enough to have you fired and not jailed or you can hand over that briefcase, make your tidy little profit from this absolutely stunning example of 19th century Russian avant-garde artistry and pay up the rest.

Mr. Jacobson opens his mouth to reply but has nothing to say. He slowly puts the briefcase down.

Mr. Jacobson You'll handle delivery?

Ms. Palmer Yes, we pride ourselves on providing the finest customer experience this side of the law.

Mr. Jacobson walks out the room. Ms. Palmer looks back at the painting.

Ms. Palmer I love art.

Ms. Palmer covers the canvas with the sheet.

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