Liggers and Dreamers 8: Dom Dicker
Back in 1994 Dom Dicker dated a business woman, Sally Smith, who was big in interior design. He was slightly trimmer back then, and she had found his black beard and thick eyebrows ‘sexy and dangerous’. Dom played on this for a couple of years, donning dark sunglasses and brooding moodily at her side during various launches and functions. She, an aging Sloane, would dress him in biker boots and blazers from the Kings Road, his shoulder length black hair would be tied back in a little ponytail, his shirts unbuttoned just enough to reveal the tip of a thick rug of chest hair that lay beneath. And Sally would echo his look, dressed in fringed leathers and expensive cowboy boots. ‘What a fashionable couple they were,’ she would think smugly as they stood side by side drinking champagne. Often he would rest one hand on her backside, which was usually clad in tight white denim, and hold it there for hours as though it were stuck with the strongest adhesive. She would continue to hold intelligent conversations with guests, deliberately appearing completely un-phased by her boyfriend’s rather unnatural pose. ‘Everyone was secretly turned on,’ she would muse. ‘Probably all dying to swing with them.’
Within a couple of years, Freeze happened and everybody in business was obsessed with cashing in on the YBAs. Dom encouraged Sally to buy a gallery in Brick Lane. It was the perfect location – very cool and a hot-bed for up and coming artists. Sally swiftly acquiesced and a ‘shell’ was acquired.
‘I like it!’, exclaimed Sally as they queued for a bagel and watched an artistic looking man carry a couple of paint-spattered tyres across the street. ‘It’s really vibey!’
‘Yes, exactly as I said.’ Said Dom, tersely, irritated by the lack of recognition for his initiative.
‘I know baby, that’s why I bought it,’ said Sally, reassuringly.
Dom changed tack. He stepped in closer, pelvis first, and placed his hands on Sally’s hips. ‘So…’, he said, smiling down at her through his big black beard. ‘What do you think we should call this little enterprise?’
‘Well… As it’s our project, I thought we could call it “Smith and Dicker”,’ smiled Sally, excitedly.
Dom was silent. ‘We…. Could,’ he said slowly. ‘But don’t you think that’s a bit wordy?’
Sally flinched. ‘Well, what did you have in mind darling?’
‘Umm, I thought just one of our names would be better…’
The Dom Dicker Gallery opened in summer 1998, and through a range of Sally’s contacts, namely the house of Smaatchi, they were not only able to exhibit the work of some big names but also gain corporate sponsorship. Early on, they showed a piece from the infamous Stacey Lenin’s ‘Stains of my Inner Soul’ collection – a controversial clothes horse draped with dirty laundry. A tobacco company had sponsored them and they were given cigarettes on tap – handing them out to the exclusive gathering of artists and collectors during the Private View. Unfortunately, the gallery became filled with so much smoke that one could not see the piece through the dark grey smog. Lenin’s agent had been livid, and called Sally when the run was over to claim compensation as the returned artwork allegedly stank.
‘Probably smells better than it did before!’, barked Sally as she slammed down the phone.
However, these were the least of the gallery’s problems. Dom spent every penny of their sales on ‘business’ jollies abroad and mountains of cocaine… as he snorted it one evening off their intern’s naked stomach, Sally came by for a surprise visit. He looked on with horror, shirtless and hairy like a beast, as Sally snatched his keys from the desk and the Dom Dicker Gallery, toxic from debt, closed it‘s doors that very night.
Despite this rather devastating loss, Dom had still managed to earn a bit of a name for himself in the art world. He morphed into a self-styled collector and continued to wear his shades and attend gallery openings both in London and abroad, mixing with the elite few. Every time he walked through the doors of an invite-only event he marveled at how far he had come. How successful he was. He, Dom Dicker was part of the internationally renowned YBA movement.
In 2009, Dom began to notice a shift in the art scene. New faces were appearing at Private Views and he had absolutely no idea who these people were. In fact, he was not alone, nobody had a clue. Soon they were no longer strangers, they were familiar. They were at every major art show. These peoples’ presence began to niggle Dom. There was always a middle aged man in a baseball cap who seemed to be some kind of leader; he always had a posse of scruffy nobodies by his side.
One night, Dom could contain his curiosity no longer and deliberately loitered near these people in order to eavesdrop their conversation; now he learnt, to his horror, that the man in the cap worked at the Job Centre. They were just normal people! And yet here they were, at all the top private views!
Soon after, Dom casually mentioned to one of his acquaintances, the Director of Sproot McGowan Gallery, that the crowd in the corner were of no relevance to the art scene. ‘They aren’t associated with the industry in any way, you know?’, said Dom.
‘Well, you know, they must have been on the guest list,’ replied the Director wearily.
‘But they’re just drinking all your alcohol, I doubt they’re going to buy any art,’ whispered Dom desperately.
‘Ah yes, that reminds me, are you ever going to buy any art?’, asked the Director.
Dom fell silent and looked down at his champagne, his acquaintance turned to talk to someone else.
As Dom stood there, miserably, a taxi pulled up outside. Dom immediately recognised the unmistakable ‘Face of British Art’ in the backseat. He observed as Stacey Lenin handed over some money to the driver and he hastily exited the gallery. In a flash he was by the side of the taxi’s back door, tugging it open in a rush of manic chivalry. A pink velvet shoe stepped out onto the pavement, its heel a gold hexagonal block. Stacey peered outside, cautiously.
‘Hello Stacey!’, purred Dom, leaning in. His voice had deepened a couple of octaves, and his right eyebrow shot up into a thick, furry hook.
Stacey stepped out of the cab. ‘Who are you?’, She asked, nonchalantly, tightening the belt of her transparent plastic mac.
‘You don’t recognize me?’, sighed Dom, tapping her arm playfully.
‘I’m Dom Dicker, but people in the art world call me Dicky. Only special people, mind.’
‘Oh yeah, Dick-y. You’re the one who fucked up my clothes horse, aren‘t you?’
‘A memory that haunts me to this day,’ whined Dom, placing his hand on his heart and closing his eyes. ‘It was my ex-business partner‘s genius idea to hand out cigarettes that night…’ he finished through gritted teeth, so as to portray absolute torment.
Stacey and Dom walked a few paces to the gallery together, and upon entry, Stacey was snatched from his side by sycophants. However, he took a back seat taking comfort in that everybody would have seen their interaction outside and would know that Dom Dicker was still very much open for business.
It was the summer of 2013, when Dom finally burst his top at the liggers.
He had just returned from the 55th Venice Biennale where he had barely been able to rub shoulders with anybody important for the tsunami of scroungers that crashed through the parties.
As he perambulated a water colour show in Bond Street he overheard Mac, the Australian, boast about his Venetian exploits.
‘You would not believe it! We got into all the Press parties, and even some of the VIP parties that the press weren’t even invited to. We went to a brunch at Peggy Gerstenien’s, and even got a private tour of her collection.’ Mac’s eyes glazed over as the memories brought him into a euphoric trance.
Dom stormed over: ‘Oh, so it’s YOU who’s bringing all the liggers to Venice!’ he declared so loudly that surrounding groups could hear.
Mac snapped out of his trance. ‘Huh?’, he replied, in bewilderment.
‘Back in the day, I would cruise around Venice in a speed boat with Jaz Joppling, but now I doubt he even bothers to go to the opening week thanks to all you vultures.’
‘Well actually, we saw him at the Marco Kwince opening party,’ Mac replied, politely. ‘I said hello, I was about to ask him what he thought of the show but then Moira cut her foot open on a broke glass…’
Audrey, the grey-haired ligger, let out a high pitched giggle. ‘Oh my God, do you remember? She had to lie on her back in the middle of the party with her foot in the air.’
Dom’s mood turned darker with further disgust. ‘What a disgrace.’
‘It was sooo nice to go to parties and not be thrown out,’ sighed Audrey. ‘We’ve had a terrible time with the Winos list.’
‘Winos list?’ said Dom, his mood picking up.
‘Yes, it’s a list all the galleries have in Cork Street. It’s called ‘The Winos of Cork Street’. They’ve got all our names and photos on it,’ Audrey said before adding. ‘So, you haven‘t been asked to leave any shows yet?’.
‘What? Why would I? I’m not a wino sweetheart,’ Dom sneered, ‘I’m a collector.’ He turned on his heel, and strode angrily away from the depraved congregation. As if he was one of them? She was really kooky that one, and not in a good way. Mad as a hatter.
He pretended to look at a painting as he glanced sideways, scouring the room for some more fortunate company. Dammit, he could still hear the liggers rabbiting on.
‘He really doesn’t know, does he?’, Audrey was saying in a hushed voice.
‘Well, don’t tell him, just let him carry on believing he’s a big cheese. It’s better for everybody,’ said Mac. ‘Struth, that guy’s got a nerve!’.
Dom felt his face burn. It couldn’t be. No, surely not. He, Dom Dicker, on The List? He was part of the YBA scene, everybody knew that. If he had been mistaken for a ligger, it would be the error of some silly intern. They were nearly as bad as liggers as far as he was concerned – not even worth the travel expenses. However much he reassured himself, Dom was becoming increasingly agitated. Damn these fuckwits getting under his skin like this. He would go back and challenge them, he decided. Why should he tolerate such hearsay?
As he made his way, a tall lady with blonde hair approached the group. Dom had noticed her upon arrival at the front desk. He had tried to catch her eye to give her a cheeky wink, but she had been too distracted by another guest. She wore a simple black dress and stilettos, and minimal jewelry. She was certainly no artist, and was thus surely some kind of employee. She had in her hand a piece of paper, and wore on her face a stern expression.
He watched her interrogate Mac.
Mac hooted with laughter, as though there had been a hilarious mistake. ‘Look, I’ve just flown in from the Venice Biennale,’ he protested, reaching into his pocket and retrieving his wallet.
Dom watched as Mac pulled out what appeared to be a press pass and handed it to the lady. ‘It has to be fake, or stolen,’ he seethed. She would see through it, and soon the whole bunch of liggers would be turfed out. Thank God somebody was finally clamping down on these jokers. This gallery was pro-actively separating the wheat from the chaff – just as he had advised the director of Sproof McGowan all those years ago. He would no doubt be eating his hat right now, wishing he had nipped this nonsense in the bud.
The lady handed back the card to Mac: ‘Apologies, there’s been a mistake, I think,’ She smiled.
‘No worries!’, boomed Mac, cheerfully. ‘This is a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc, by the way!’
The lady laughed. ‘A true Aussie!’, she responded, hospitably.
Dom continued to watch her as she looked back down at The List and then scanned the room; he was mortified to find her gaze now halting upon himself. He watched, stunned, as all embers of warmth faded from her expression and the hostile stare retuned.
It had suddenly dawned on Dom what was about to happen. After all these years of networking, not to mention his important contribution to a scene that had changed art forever, he was to be turfed out of an opening like a peasant. He could not let it happen. He would not let it happen. IT WOULD NOT HAPPEN.
The lady now stood before him, lips pursed, the interrogation was about to begin…
Dom closed his eyes, took a deep breath and nodded towards Mac, who had returned to his reminiscing. ‘I’m with them,’ he hissed.
Image: Jason Gibilaro