“This is a Not-Mirror, that's it's title and it's also what it does. The Not-Mirror shows everything that's not there. Over here is an infinite video projection. It's, um, I'm not sure what that's supposed to but you can get anything.
They both looked on.
"What's this?" The Guest peered into a tank full of clear liquid.
"This" said the Curator, "is called 'The Imperceptible Surface.'" He circled around his guest, the Curator, dressed in entirely in black. "It's a raw, very direct piece, that..." The gallery, a sleek, sparse hall, was quiet, no visItors. This was a special viewing for a special guest.
"I mean" said the Guest, standing up, "what...?" He hesitated, swallowed then went for it, "what is it, what's inside? I can't see anything."
"The imperceptible surface" said the Curator, smiling thinly. He said "look closer.” The Guest did as he was told. "Can you see it now?"
"No..." said the Guest, still looking.
"Once you see it you'll..."
"Oh" the Guest exclaimed with satisfaction. He realised; "there it is, a..."
"Finely calibrated absence of a shark" said the Curator, equally pleased, "suspended in formaldehyde. It's ingenious" he concluded, "a homage, a subversion and an anomaly, a fully realised cultural node... You like it?”
"I do. It's... fascinating..." said the Guest, standing up again. He scratched at his tweed jacket.
"Here at Marshall, Carter and Dark we only exhibit the very finest pieces" said the Curator. They were, they were everywhere in this gallery. The Guest looked around in awe.
"How do they do it?"
"The artists? Well" said the Curator, "I could tell you..."
"But I won't" said the Curator, shaking his head. The Guest looked crestfallen. The Curator quickly patted him on the shoulder. "Trade secrets, Lord Massow, you know how it is?" He smiled. "There's a reason why this salon is exclusive."
"You're right" Lord Massow agreed, nodding.
"Let me show you something else" said the Curator. "Followed me." He ushered Lord Massow along. "That last piece has a price of one hundred thousand pounds. This on the other hand, well, can you guess what this is worth...?"
"It's..." Lord Massow straightened his cap and mock-squinted, "it's lots of money pinned to a cork-board."
"One million pounds" said the Curator "in fifty pound notes, pinned to a cork-board, yes, but we are letting it go for half a million."
"So whoever buys it will double their money in an instant?"
"Whoever buys it and dismantles it will double their money in an instant. But..."
"There's always a 'but...'" Lord Massow smiled.
"But" said the Curator, smiling back "we know for a fact that the market value is due to increase fifty percent year on year for the next four years. In four years time this will be worth over two and a half million pounds."
"Really?" Lord Massow shrugged. He shook his head."Come on, how is that possible?"
"I told you" said the Curator, "we don't reveal our artists secrets."
"But who are your artists?"
"We cannot say" the Curator insisted.
Lord Massow took a moment to think. "This is the only ab-art gallery in London?"
"The only one in the world" said the Curator.
"And you have no competitors?" said Lord Massow.
“We cannot be rivaled.”
"Your prices then depend on whether you can drum up demand” Lord Massow surmised. “You cannot drum up demand for something like this without explaining how it works. Who's going to buy it otherwise?"
"Someone who wants to double their money in an instant" said the Curator, deadpan.
"But who wants to double their money when they can quintuple it? Why even mention the second option? Why tempt me?" The Curator seemed to think about Lord Massow's point. "I mean, is this even anomalous?" Lord Massow added.
"You're a smart man" said the Curator, nodding, “a man of clear taste... If you follow me though I will explain further." The pair went through a nearby door and into another room. "That last piece was called the Einstein-Rosen Investment. It was developed by a man by a man called Nico Temp de Boucle."
"I've not heard of him" said Lord Massow.
“Indeed not" said the Curator, ignoring his guest. "It's very simple though, the piece. It works because he made it in four years time." They stopped in the new room, empty and white.
"In four... you mean in the future?”
"That's right" said the Curator, "which is good for us because we don't have to pay him yet, though it does mean we have to look after him carefully... but I digress. If you'd please wait here I'll get him for you.” The Curator scuttled back through the door, still looking at Lord Massow. “Won't be a moment...” Lord Massow stood alone for a moment, now boggled but amused. He shook his head and looked around the room again, the new room, empty and white and: “hello, Sir, my name is Nico Temp de Boucle.” It was the Curator again.
“Wait, are you, are you this, this... who are you?” Lord Massow stuttered.
“I told you, Sir, my name is Nico Temp de Boucle” said the Curator. “I understand you have an interest in art.” He approached Lord Massow.
“What is going on here?”
“It's very simple, Sir” he said. “You like my art?” The Curator gestured around him as if to say 'here it is.'
“What art?” said Lord Massow, jaw dropping. “What's going on?”