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    Essays

    Mookie and Toot

    by

    As a curator of contemporary art in Cleveland, Ohio, I get calls from all kinds of interesting people. Their questions run the gamut, including inquiries about what to do with a painting found in someone’s attic or basement, suggestions for how to repair a damaged ceramic figurine, and a range of other topics. I’m often asked to estimate the value of an art object—a task nearly impossible to do over the phone. A few years ago, I began taking notes of these wild conversations, filing them under “call of the week.” Here I share a call that I’ve titled “Mookie and Toot.”

    Caller: “Hello. Is this the gallery?”

    Gallery: “Yes. Who is this?”

    Caller: “Toot. My name is Toot.”

    Gallery: “What can I do for you Toot?”

    Toot: “Are you in the gallery?”

    Gallery: “Yes. I’m in the gallery?”

    Toot: “I’m sitting here in the barber shop getting my hair cut. Are you still there?”

    Gallery: “Yes, I’m here.”

    Toot: “I’m here at the barber shop and I’m looking at a painting on the wall. It’s a landscape.”

    Gallery: “Okay.”

    Toot: “Can you tell me how much its worth?”

    Gallery: “I’m sorry?”

    Toot: “My friend here says if I can sell it he’ll give me half the money.”

    Gallery: “A landscape painting at a barber shop?”

    Toot: “It’s got trees and water, and that kinda shit in it.”

    Gallery: “Oh?”

    Toot: “Yeah, there’s a few birds in the sky but I can’t tell what kind. Hold on. Hey Mookie! What you call them birds in this picture? Yeah. Those in the sky. What are they like hawks or something? No, the one’s in the painting. What’s that? He doesn’t know shit about birds, or art, do you Mookie? Anyway, some kind of bird.”

    Gallery: “I’m not sure it’s going to matter all that much anyway.”

    Toot: “What’s that?”

    Gallery: “The type of bird. Probably won’t matter.”

    Toot: “Hold on. Hey Mookie. Where did you get this fucked up painting anyway? Huh? He says its belongs to his ex-wife. Why you have it Mookie?”

    Gallery: “What else can you tell me about the painting?”

    Toot: “It’s got a nice gold frame around it but the glass is cracked in the corner. Hey Mookie! What you do, drop the fucking frame? Ha-ha! Yeah, he said it slipped while he was spray-painting it. Mookie, man, he’s something else. But he gives a real nice cut and not expensive too! So you think the painting is worth something?”

    Gallery: “Well, it’s hard to tell without seeing it first.”

    Toot: “You want to come to the shop take a look for yourself? I’ll cut you in on the sale if that’s what you’re thinking. Mookie will give you a cut while you’re here.”

    Gallery: “No, really but thank you.”

    Toot: “Here, wait. I have an idea. Mookie, give me your damn cell phone. I’ll take a picture and send it to you. This way you can tell me how much it’s worth. Hold on now while I take the picture. You need a close up of the birds?”

    Gallery: “No. No close up of the birds.”

    Toot: “Okay. Fuck! Mookie, move your big ass head out of the way so I can get this picture to the gallery man. No, leave it hanging on the wall. The flash went off. All I see is the flash reflected off the glass. Let me try again. No, it’s too dark without the flash. Mookie, go tilt that picture to your left, yeah, like that, now hold it steady. No, not like that! I can see the reflection of the cars parked outside. Turn it the other way. Like that. Shit! The flash went off again! Okay, it’s not so bad this time. I think we can still see the birds. I’ll get a close up. Mookie, put your finger on the painting and point to the birds. That’s it – great! I’m sending the picture to you right now. You want to call me back after you’ve had some time to inspect the painting?”

    Gallery: “Okay. Let’s do that.”

    Toot: “Alright now, just call this number. Ask for Mookie the barber. He knows where to find me.”


    Bruce Checefsky is a curator of contemporary art and director of the Reinberger Gallery at the Cleveland Institute of Art.  View more articles by Bruce Checefsky.


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