(London) Nadir Meshti, 47, a photocopier ink saleswoman from Battersea, London, England awoke two weeks ago to the sound of the doorbell. The early post included a registered letter congratulating her for winning the 2008 Turner Prize.
The prize, organized by the Tate Gallery, is Britain’s top visual art award given annually to an artist chosen by a panel of pompous art connoisseur judges, usually for ‘abstract or conceptual art’. Past winners include Damien Hirst for putting half a cow in a glass case. Other memorable winning pieces such as an unmade bed and a pile of bricks have led many mothers to believe their child prodigies have turned the house into priceless works of art.
This year, however, was different. Nadir had no idea she had even entered the competition. “I was, um, surprised” she said. Staring at the £40,000 checque in disbelief, she decided to visit the Tate Modern museum to see her exhibit.
She entered a large brightly lit white-walled room containing seventeen large canvases arranged in hap-hazard fashion on the walls, floor and ceiling. Each canvas appeared to have a blurred dimly lit image of abstract shapes. On closer inspection she noticed that one canvas in particular showed an outline of an earring similar to one she had lost months ago.
To celebrate the significance of the exhibit, the Tate had prepared a leaflet explaining the history and meaning of the art. According to the text, rumours had abounded for many years about a reclusive artist and photographer alleged to have studied under Picasso who had dedicated his life to abstract photography. “These prints”, it continued, “are the only known examples of his work”, concluding with “Name – Unknown”.
In order to respect the privacy of the artist, the judges had appointed a detective to find him with strict instructions not to reveal his identity to anyone. Following the trail, the detective interviewed the interior designer appointed to arrange the canvasses. She told him where the photos had been printed. They eventually admitted having sent the wrong photos to the Tate, explaining that a mix-up had occurred during a shift-change whereby a series of fashion photographs intended for the history of fashion exhibition had got confused with some photos for a Mrs Annie Winterbottom whose cellphone was receiving prank MMS images that she wanted printed to send to the police.
The Tate, on receiving photos that were clearly not about fashion, assumed they had been addressed to the wrong department and passed them on to the Turner Prize Judges.
The detective tracked down Mrs Winterbottom, identified the number of the cellphone that had sent the ‘prank’ messages and sent the checque to the cellphone company (Vodafone) to forward to its subscriber (Nadir) as they refused to give him a name or address.
It turns out that while Nadir was out shopping, her phone had accidentally sent 31 images of the inside of her handbag to a random number dialed by her lipstick.
Unable to sleep through feeling guilty about receiving the prize money, Nadir returned the checque anonymously with a thank you note.
Over 650,000 people have gazed in awe at the prize winning exhibit and no-one knows if the mythical artist really exists.
“I may not have the £40,000” she said, “but at least I found my earring”.
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