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An unexpected pleasure at the Tate Liverpool

Hello Traders,

Yeah I know I haven’t posted as much as I normally do – shock horror – I’ve been busy trading these glorious markets.

However now and then I do get away from the desk and indulge in normal people’s behaviour. And so last Thursday I found myself in Liverpool for the day and decided to visit the Tate Liverpool Art Gallery in the Albert Docks. Now I have an admission: I am quite the ignorant, Neanderthal, philistine ( I suspect most of my readers had already worked that out.) I find most modern art a bit self-indulgent, in the same vein as jazz, namely more likely to be enjoyed by the artist than the viewer. That’s not to say there aren’t some stunning, spectacular, moving, thought-provoking pieces – it’s just that I end up shaking my head and shrugging my shoulders at a lot of it thinking to myself, “How many drugs did the artist have to take to think that would be a good idea?”

My view was only hardened after I walked into one side-room to find a arty film showing a grown mature man, dressed as a baby, hitting himself with toys in what looked like a child’s bedroom. I was told that this was art. Personally I thought it was a big bag of tosh – from a clearly disturbed man – and walked away muttering under my breath that it’s no surprise that the art world is full of sex-abusers and paedophiles. Anyway I digress.

The reason I chose to pop in was because I was intrigued to see that there was a Roy Lichtenstein exhibition on, and one of his famous pieces was there (see below).

The piece is called “Whaam!” its from 1963 and depicts aerial combat in pop-art form. I have it as a fridge magnet (see I told you I was a philistine)What can I say? The former Air Defender in me is still alive and well and takes pleasure in scenes of aircraft getting shot down! (As an aside I learnt that Lichtenstein served in the US Army during the Second World War and in particular focused on anti-aircraft drills and operations and lots of his early work consisted of drawings of aircraft – so maybe he too derived pleasure from scenes of aerial combat?)

However I was pleasantly surprised to find the piece below – and I would love to have it on my office wall! It’s by Andrew Gursky and is a double exposed photo of the trading floor at the Chicago Board Of Trade from 1999. I thought it was fantastic and ended up having to explain to my date and several others what it was representing. It’s a huge piece and sadly my photo doesn’t do it justice.

I loved it so much that I went to the shop and tried to buy a copy (see, even Philistines can support the arts, now and then.) Sadly they had none. Boo.

In a weird world of coincidence just a couple of days later I got a text from my friend and colleague Malte Kaub (Twitter: @SE_1Trading) who sent me a similar photo. It turns out that Gursky has an exhibition on at the Haywards Gallery in the Southbank Centre until 22nd April. It’s not free but if you’re a trader then maybe pop along and see his work – I loved the photo – I now have visions of a large copy of it filling the wall of my trading office. To many people looking at it would give them a headache. To me, it’s just a great insight into the frenzy of a world no longer with us.

Even cooler was when I tweeted the photo a guy on twitter actually spotted himself in the photo. How cool is that?

Here’s an interesting aside for the traders within us. I was today interviewing a former trader who started up as a floor trader on Liffe and then made the transition across to electronic trading. I asked him about how the transition went – he said it was extremely hard, and most floor traders did not make the transition. We talked about it and came to the conclusion that in the old days you saw your enemy – he was the guy on the other side of the pit – you could see the whites of his eyes, and get a picture of whether he was confident or sweating about his position. That was an edge. Whereas when you look at a screen you don’t get the same sense of the other participants sentiment. It may explain why there is an increased interest in trading psychology / performance coaching within the electronic trading community. Instead of taking cues from the guys around you, now the only feedback you get is from yourself – and so you need to know how you think, operate and behave far more intimately than ever before. Food for thought? (Be sure to disagree with me if you think so – I’ll happily listen to opposing views.)

Anyway I’ll finish up with a joke about artists from my good Irish trading pal Ian.

“Why do artists always look happy?”

“Because they get to party on other peoples money!”


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