There is a whole wing of the Buentoilliçan Museum of Painterly Curiosities that is locked every day but today. Whilst it is locked, nobody is allowed in or out, not even the Museum’s staff (which makes things a bit tricky because it means they have to go outside to get to the staff room), because of a stipulation in the contract between a fictional painter and the Museum.
Inside, the wing is filled with enormous floor-to-ceiling paintings; intricate works in oil that depict bustling city-scapes, windswept moors, roiling seas and dark caverns, quiet with inert potential. Today it will be difficult to move in the rooms with the amount of people therein, all closely inspecting the paintings; some on stepladders, some with magnifying glasses, some merely sitting back and enjoying the spectacle.
Although they are a household name now, the painter, Darryn Karst (real name Christian de Luxe) was entirely unknown until 2003, when they presented a one-day-long exhibition at Ustagyn Hall in the east of the City, an exhibition they called a ‘retrospective.’ In all the advertising around the exhibition, and in the explanatory plaques next to each painting, de Luxe presented themselves as a famous artist who was just coming to Buentoille for one day from their native city of Integrimun, known for its many prestigious visual art schools and universities. They had never shown any paintings to the public before, or even outwardly presented themselves as an artist, but now they became Karst; an artist who had hundreds of successful exhibitions, who had sold paintings to investors for vast sums, who was considered one of the leading lights of the New Eschatologists (a hitherto entirely fictional art movement).
At the first exhibition, Karst strode around the room playing their part exceptionally well. They told of their fictional childhood on board a trading ship that saw many beautiful sights and sea monsters, of their youth learning the painting techniques from the Jilted Monks (an ascetic order of monks who pray though painting), dropping hints and secrets into the ears of the viewers. One of the hints they dropped was that clues to the location of a great buried treasure were hidden somewhere in the paintings. The Buentoilliçan art world bought his charade hook line and sinker, a deception that was in no small way helped along by the fact that Karst was indeed an exceptionally talented artist, and had been painting in secret in their spare time away from their job as a dock hand since they were a teenager.
Karst died of lung cancer in late 2003, the late diagnosis of which was the thing that spurred them on to show their many works to the world. Before they died, they were approached by the Museum of Painterly Curiosities, who wanted to purchase as many of their paintings as was possible within their (what most artists would consider insultingly small) budget. Karst cut a deal; that they could have every single painting for free, as long as they agreed to only ever show them on the anniversary of the first exhibition.
Eventually, rumours of buried treasures got out, and viewers flocked to see the paintings in the hopes of catching some detail that would lead the way. The fact that the truth is now out about who Karst really was (revealed to the world by Karst’s mother in her biography of their life, Hidden Beauty), and that nobody has yet been able to find any evidence of clues to hidden treasure, has put off very few people. Indeed, the deception itself is now considered one of the greatest examples of Buentoilliçan art, spurring a renewed interest in the painter’s works.
Visitors to the City are advised to go to the exhibition between the hours of 4-5pm, when crowds are expected to be at their lowest. Whilst you could spend hours searching for clues to buried treasure, you are probably more likely to enjoy yourself if you sit back and consider the beauty of these enormous, detailed paintings, and the stories told therein.
Other festivals happening today:
Gogorov’s Moral Compass Spinning
The Society Gala of Fashionable Ice
The Charitable Organising Council’s Biannual Dinner for the Disadvantaged