ALEXANDER WALKER'S Passion for Art; as the Late Evening Standard Film Critic Alexander Walker's Private Art Collection Goes on Show at the British Museum, Long-Time Friend Victoria Mather (Pictured with Walker at Her Wedding) Remembers a Man Who Brought Modern Art Alive
Byline: VICTORIA MATHER
The other day I was in a gallery in Margaret River, Western Australia, an enchanted area of vineyards and beaches where, at dawn, dolphins surf in transparent waves. It is wild and free, yet I was standing in the great indoors, transfixed by a picture. It is composed of cubes of vibrant colour, by the Australian artist Waldemar Kolbusz, it pulsates with lilac and pinks, aqua, a little burnt orange, some denim blue. It is cool, and I had that hot, sick wanting feeling. Twenty years ago, B.A. - Before Alex - I would have looked at that picture with a lack of comprehension amounting to disdain, if I had looked at it at all in the headlong rush to a beach bar.
Before I knew Alexander Walker I knew nothing about modern art, but I knew what I didn't like. Brought up in the safe, conventional world of family portraits and hunting prints, I was frightened by the incomprehensible.
Pictures were something other people I knew inherited, and either sold because they needed the money or slapped on the wall to hide a damp patch. If my contemporaries ever bought pictures, they tended to be flowery watercolours from Peter Jones for the spare room in Fulham. I related entirely to the gentleman the late Duke Of Devonshire discovered in Lucian Freud's studio, looking at a particularly scary portrait. Turning to the Duke, the man said, 'Who do you think that is?' and when the Duke replied 'It's my wife', responded heartily, 'Well, thank God it's not mine.' Alex gave me eyes. To go to his flat in Maida Vale was an adventure in colour and light, in form and shape, in the comprehension of the rich and strange.
First, the perilous journey down the little hall passage, a pictorial equivalent of that exciting opening sequence down the tunnel in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Stephen Coppel at the British Museum, which is staging an exhibition of 150 of Alex's pictures, rightly says, 'Alex was very eclectic', and in that corridor one cannoned off a bicycle, a Bridget Riley, a photograph dedicated to Alex by Bette Davis, a framed cover of his biography of Elizabeth Taylor, and what looked intriguingly like an Auerbach. That's what I call eclectic.
Emerging without having fallen over or knocked something over into the sitting room, blinking in the blaze of the Arco light, I loved the way the important and the trivial were so gloriously mixed. A bottle of icy champagne, the current Tatler, myriad old copies of Vanity Fair, a collection of swing records, a beautifully wrapped Hermes scarf for my birthday, lay amid this cornucopia of British and American works dating from the Sixties to the present. An early Freud was in his bedroom, balanced above the pile of books he was currently reading - Trollope, Donna Leon, Simon Sebag Montefiore's Potemkin. What gradually made the pictures comprehensible to me was the fact that someone lived among them, with them and for them.
In 1993 Alex wrote in the Art Quarterly, the journal of the National Art Collections, that collecting was a form of self-analysis and revealed something about the collector at the time of the purchase. …