Cristina Ruiz: Geneva and Rome: running the gamut from Swiss watches to Italian strikes

My journey today has been planned with military precision. There is no room for manoeuvre; no margin of error. I rely on French trains and Swiss efficiency to complete my task and make it from Paris to the Gagosian Gallery in Geneva and then to Rome (where I have a free place to stay) by Thursday evening.

All aboard! Getting on the high-speed train to Geneva to see more spots, Swiss style

The train leaves Paris’s Gare de Lyon station right on schedule at 7:11am. So far, so good. I pass the time by reading the glossy brochure published by the Gagosian Gallery to accompany the global spot show. This includes an essay by the British novelist Michael Bracewell which has this alarming assertion: "Timeless and ageless, the [spot] painting could be drawn from the late 30th century or from 30 years ago." Good God! Is Damien Hirst going to be churning out spot paintings for another 900 years? It's not impossible, dear reader. After all, he could easily approve the method of production for posthumous spot making so that his heirs can continue to make them until the end of recorded time. After all, Giacometti died 46 years ago and they're still making his bronzes…

I Spot DH: Hirst appropriates the famous "I <3 NY" logo

I occupy myself with such thoughts until the train arrives in Geneva three hours later. I hop into a cab and head to the Gagosian Gallery, which is on the first floor of an elegant building in a high-end retail district near Lake Geneva. There are shops selling Rolex and Chanel nearby and Hirst's spots, the ultimate luxury purchase, make sense here in this rich, slick, ordered and international city.

What will they look like in Greece, I wonder, a country traumatised by the near collapse of its economy and teetering on the brink of default?

I am the first one in the gallery when it opens at 11am. There are eight paintings here and I spend some time admiring Cefotaxime, a small 2010 canvas which has apparently sold in the last week for around $300,000.

The gallery staff tells me that 650 people have now registered for the global spot challenge. The numbers are rising! If we all complete the circuit, the limited-edition print we receive as a reward will be worth less than a poster. Nevertheless, I persevere.

My identity is verified, my card is stamped and I am on my way. I am finished so quickly that I have time to walk back to the station and catch the train to the airport. I don't know if any rich art collectors are following my particular route around the Gagosian circuit but if they are, I'm pretty sure I won't be bumping into them on my Easyjet flight to Rome.

When we land at Rome's international airport, I discover that all taxi drivers are on strike today. Brilliant. I was once in Naples when the sellers of contraband cigarettes went on strike—only in Italy. I take the train into the city and am done for the day.

The running tally

Taxi to Paris Gare de Lyon: €12 ($15.50)

Train to Geneva: €89 ($115)

Taxi to Gagosian Gallery Geneva: €12 ($15.50)

Train to Geneva airport: CHF3.50 ($3.75)

Flight to Rome: CHF81.95 ($88)

Train into central Rome: €8 ($10)

Total today: $247.75

TOTAL SPENT SO FAR: $530.75

Published Thu, 19 Jan 2012 20:42:00 GMT

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Cristina Ruiz

Over the next six weeks, Cristina Ruiz, our editor-at-large, has taken up the challenge to try to visit all 11 Gagosian galleries showing Damien Hirst’s spot paintings. Follow her as she blogs about her travels here.