Nadia worked as a chambermaid at a big city hotel. She did the job only to earn the money she needed to support her painting. The hotel was part of an international chain, the company priding itself on its sense of style. Every guest-room was hung with an artwork, each canvas a variant on a general theme of abstract shapes and bright colours. Nadia hardly noticed them at first, intent on making up the rooms for new occupants. But after a while the insipid designs began to irritate her. She started to make her own additions, discreetly at first, so that no one would notice, a few words stencilled at an angle across an area of the picture where they blended with the general lines of the composition: ‘two of a kind’, ‘trash’, ‘goes with the décor’. No one seemed to notice what she was doing. As time passed she became bolder. ‘This is utter shit’ she stencilled on one picture in large letters, and on another: ‘puke.’ Guests began remarking on the hotel’s distinctive artistic policy, and comments appeared online, many extolling the artworks in the rooms. The hotel management was mystified. When a well-known dealer began asking about the artist, they realised the collection had commercial value. But who, they wondered, was the artist?
Illustration: Claire Palmer