The Guy, the Girl, the Artist & his Ex by Gabrielle Williams (Allen & Unwin, 2015) combines the stories of four young people and the theft of Picasso’s Weeping Woman from the National Gallery of Victoria in 1986. Gabrielle Williams weaves her story around the historical facts of the theft and eventual anonymous return of the Weeping Woman. The historical facts are few because the perpetrator(s) are still unknown.
Luke, the Artist, and his friend Dipper steal Picasso’s famous Weeping Woman from the National Gallery. Luke’s Ex, Penny lives next door to Rafi, the Girl who babysits Penny’s son Joshie. All interconnected, except Guy who’s just really good at getting in trouble. Despite all the strife he finds/causes he doesn’t have any connection to the others, until his parents go away, his friends throw the party of the decade, and he elbows Rafi in the face.
I loved this collision of art history, 1980s music, fact and fiction. A melting pot of unfortunate coincidences and wrong decisions. Dipper allows his friends to pressure him into stealing the painting. Guy lets his friends pressure him into throwing a party when he knows his parents will hit the roof if they find out. But they won’t, right?
“Just a few people” [Famous last words]
Rafi follows her crush to the party when she has other obligations, she just wants a break from her grief stricken mother. Penny falls in love with a womanizing bastard and can’t extricate herself.
“Being with him some of the time was better, had been better, than not being with him at all.”
And what a spectacular waste of time Luke is, talent really doesn’t make up for a total lack of compassion.
After reading The Guy, the Girl, the Artist & his Ex I looked up what’s known about the 1986 theft, not much. People in the art world have strong suspicions as to the culprits, but there’s never been concrete evidence. Gabrielle Williams is not the only writer intrigued by the theft (this link includes a comic showing the events, every art story should be drawn).
I hope the truth is as farcical as the rollicking ride that is The Guy, the Girl, the Artist & his Ex. As part of her research Gabrielle Williams
interviewed a number of people – some of who may or may not have been the actual Australian Cultural Terrorists.