I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of a friend this morning. Francois and I met in Venice at little café where we the only patrons. He simply asked if he could join me. It was summer 2007 and my first time, first day, in Venice for the Biennale – I was there with Pilot 3, a satellite project presenting unrepresented artists. Despite not having a mobile phone we managed to meet up a couple of times over the following days and saw some great art together. I learned that Francois was both knowledgeable and generous, but mostly he was passionate about contemporary art. Over the years we met up many times while I lived in London, he always invited me to be his VIP guest at Frieze – a tradition that continued even after I moved to Sweden. He invited me to join him for a weekend of art in Berlin and introduced me to the city, he came to my first show in Stockholm, he sent me his thought and reflections on the many and various art-fairs and exhibitions that he attended as he developed his private collection. He was my window on to world of collectors, dealers, private museums, and international institutions. He was always interesting and interested, he always had time despite his hectic schedule. We did not only speak about art, we chatted about our lives and loves – perhaps confiding in each other as moved in such disparate worlds.
While putting together some links for an email to other members of the steering committee at the gallery here I opened facebook, and that is where I saw a post by another of his friends. The post was in French, Francois was Swiss, and it took me some moments to grasp what was being said.
It was only a few weeks ago that we were in touch. I told him that I would not be able to join him for Frieze – I had just begun my new job and had neither the time nor resources to make the trip. Earlier in the summer he made a “last-minute trip” to Stockholm, it was unfortunate that it was the weekend that I was in Glasgow for ‘Made-Up’. He knows several galleries and has other friends here so I was not too surprised to hear of his plans. Now, writing this, I wonder if he knew that he was ill. I am not absolutely certain why he died however the announcement of his memorial service requests donation to a cancer charity in lieu of flowers. A few years ago, as we waited for a bus on our way to Heddon Street, Francois mentioned some health concerns. He was elusive in referring to some specialists and an unnamed, possibly, hereditary condition, he assured me that it was nothing too serious. He could be incredibly enigmatic if he chose to be, was a former lawyer and tax consultant after all!
Scrolling through the posts on his facebook timeline it is amazing to see all the photographs of him with family and friends around the world. I do not have a single photo of him or us together – it never occurred to me, or us, to take pictures. I do not recognise any of the posts’ authors, not only do I have a bad memory for names but Francois often described people for me rather than giving me their names: ‘the son of my cousin who lives in Hampstead’, ‘the lady whom I met at the party after the opening in Miami’. Though not knowing the people in the pictures, nor understanding the French, Italian (?) and other tributes, it is obvious that Francois was much loved and will be much missed.
Perhaps because I learnt of his death via social media it feels unreal. I do not know his friends or family and we do not have any mutual friends. This evening I shall speak with a good friend of mine in London who met Francois and with whom I spoke about him and our trips. I think that that will make it real for me.
Francois, I am going to miss you and our curious intriguing friendship.