Recently, I attended Somerset Celebration of Literature at Somerset College on the Gold Coast. I was fortunate enough to attend one of Gabrielle Williams’ sessions. I have been a huge fan of Gabrielle’s for some time, Beatle Meets Destiny being one of my favourite books.
During the session, Gabrielle spoke about her book The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex and it reminded me of how much I loved the book, and so I decided to reread it.
I love books that are a blend of truth and fiction. When authors take an event that has happened and weave it into a story, I find it endlessly fascinating. For days after I find myself googling different elements of the story to learn more. The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex is based on the infamous theft of Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’ from the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) by a group called Australian Cultural Terrorists.
“On 2 August 1986, a group calling itself the Australian Cultural Terrorists stole one of the world’s most iconic paintings – Picasso’s Weeping Woman – off the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria and held it to ransom, demanding an increase in government funding for artists in Victoria. The painting was the subject of an international manhunt involving Interpol, Scotland Yard and the Australian Federal Police.
The Australian Cultural Terrorists were never found.”
It is almost inconceivable to imagine this theft occurring, and that the theft was so simply orchestrated. While googling the incident, I found an article in The Sydney Morning Herald by chief conservator Thomas Dixson (https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/thomas-dixon-first-person-weeping-woman-20160623-gpqixc.html).
“Art gallery security in 1986 was primitive by today’s standards. I had been on staff at two major art galleries in the US and can attest that NGV facilities and procedures were pretty much on par with the art world of the time.
This meant that at 5 pm attendants locked up the gallery and did a perfunctory walk-through and beat a hasty exit leaving a skeleton staff overnight.
Lacking CCTV and motion detectors, the four-storey building was secured by two attendants’ hourly patrols with hand torches. A thief could simply conceal themselves until after closing and wait for a patrol to pass. They then had an hour or so until another patrol. Come morning they could mingle with other visitors and leave unnoticed. It wouldn’t take genius, just bravado.”
Gabrielle spins a story with four principal characters – Guy (The Guy), Rafi (The Girl), Luke (The Artist) and Penny (The Ex) and with a tremendous supporting cast tells their stories which she then weaves together to become one story. The book is told in third person alternating chapters. In the beginning, you don’t quite understand how all these characters stories are connected, but Gabrielle does a great job of intersecting their lives in surprising ways.
What I particularly like about books that revolve around an event that actually happened is the excerpts from newspaper articles and letters to the editor to tell me what the vibe was at the time concerning the incident. At the time the people of Victoria were wavering between being outraged at the theft or perplexed and bemused that the ‘kindergarten-like’ painting has been stole and cracking jokes or suggesting the Gallery is better off without it in its collection.
Thank heavens that monstrosity has been taken off the walls of our gallery.
ELLEN PORTER, Balwyn”
“Tired old jokes
Picasso was original, unlike the tired old jokes about children being able to do better.
ERIC HANOVER, Northcote”
The novel ties together four characters who don’t know each other, a curse, a party, love at first sight and an art heist. Quite a combination but Gabrielle Williams is a master storyteller, and she ties together all these elements effortlessly. The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex is a superbly crafted novel. Gabrielle Williams is an intelligent, discerning and compassionate writer and this her second YA novel is an engaging, quirky page-turner.