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THE OBSERVER MAGAZINE
30 November1999

Deals on wheels

To taxi driver jason Brown, the Knowledge means a cab full of art.
By Stephanie Dennison.

Jason Brown is mad about art. So much so that he fills his black London cab with prints and art books for passengers to study. Wlth his knowledge of contemporary art to rival a professional dealer - but without the capital to match - Brown looks for alternative ways to collect. Two years ago, he entered the Royal College of Art's annual guessing game, Absolut Secret.

Two thousand postcards went on sale at the RCA, at 35 each - a dozen or so were miniature masterpieces designed by bankable artists, the rest were by unknown RCA students. All were signed on the back. Brown was only allowed to buy six, so he spent hours pouring over the exhibition, paring down his selection, trying to identify the gems. 'I had a list of 40, which I was trying to get down to six,' says Brown. 'The one I was really after was by Frank Auerbach. I like his work, but I was never really sure I knew which was his. You don't know if someone has copied his style and done a pastiche.'

Having queued all night outside the RCA to be the first to place his selection on sale day, Brown did indeed identify the Auerbach, and walked away with originals by Anthony Gormley, Edwardo Paolozzi, Albert Irvine and John Bellamy. Brown's luck was so good in 1997 that he did not attend the Absolut Secret last year ('I thought I'd be disappointed'), and has no intention of trying this year, either. Which makes richer pickings for the rest of us.

Meanwhile, Brown's postcards are stored away discreetly, along with his collections of contemporary American, British and European art prints. 'They aren't framed. I keep them in sleeves in a box with other gear,' he says. 'I've heard the figure mentioned of 10,000 for the Auerbach, but I have no intention of selling.'

Furthering his unorthodox ventures into the lucrative world of modern art, Brown, in collaboration with art dealer Paul Stolper, has turned his taxi into what he describes as a 'cab gallery'. 'Where you'd normally have advertising space inside the cab on the tip-up seats, I have invited artists to display their work there. And on the outside of the cab as well,' he says. 'On the back shelf, there are books of art for passengers to read.'

Prints of bold coloured paintings by Bob and Roberta Smith are posted on the outside of the taxi, while inside there are prints by Peter Liversidge. On 30 November, Brown's cab will launch a landscape exhibition by Liversidge at A22 Projects, Laystall Street, London EC1.