In the summer of 1976 my family had its first - and, indeed, last - overseas holiday, in a house-swap on the outskirts of Paris. Following a visit to the Louvre I bought two postcards, one of which was of Rene Magritte's The Sixteenth of September 1956.
It depicts a young tree with a crescent moon within. Why I selected it, I have no idea. On returning home, I stuck it onto my bedroom wall, where it remained until 1979, when we moved house.
In the interim, Marc Bolan - my idol, the first superstar of the 1970s, the man who invented “Glam Rock” - had been killed, on 16 September 1977. His Mini had crashed into a sycamore tree near Barnes common at about 5 o’clock that morning. As I took the card down from the wall, I turned it over and, for the first time, noticed its name: The Sixteenth of September.
Suddenly, it was about Marc. I was shocked. I stuck it in my T.Rex scrapbook. I have continued to be a fan of Marc Bolan and have mentioned the painting to numerous people down the years, including to the writer Mark Paytress, who included it in his definitive Bolan biography, The Rise and Fall of a 20th Century Superstar.
By day I am Head of Membership and Ticketing for Tate; by night, I have developed a freelance role as chief archivist, researcher and project manager for Marc’s legacy. Along the way I met the singer from the nightclub where Marc spent his final hours. She was driving the car which followed his Mini on that fateful night, and remembers that in the misty early morning, the light and the moon looked exactly as Magritte depicted.
When I learnt that Tate Liverpool was to stage its Magritte retrospective, I was keen to know whether The Sixteenth of September would be included, and am delighted that it is now on display at the gallery. Marc’s spirit lives on in many ways. His artistry is not yet fully appreciated, so I am particularly happy to have helped to make a connection between him and Magritte. Out of a tragedy, something interesting and more than a little spooky has emerged.