Articles by Uri Geller
Articles by Uri Geller

Fountain of Wisdom

In an antiques shop in Greenwich Village, New York, I found a strange spire of crystal. This was 1975, and I was looking for a present to take to Jackie Onassis, who was feeling a little low spiritually and had invited me to join her for a meditation session.

She said my energy always lifted her, and I know her charm and beauty always made me feel like a Hollywood hero.I liked to take a gift when I visited her — it didn’t seem right to arrive on Jackie O’s doorstep with a bottle of warm white wine, so I’d let my intuition guide me around Manhattan’s Bohemian quarter until my eyes lit on something unusual.

It was a futile exercise, of course, to go shopping for Jackie Onassis. Giving her a trinket was like presenting a Match Of The Day video to Roman Abramovitch or offering to lend the keys of your Peugeot
105 to Michael Schumacher. But I was no idle shopper myself, and I liked the Village junkstores. These were still the streets of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, and the bankers and lawyers wouldn’t dare move into the ramshackle streets for years yet.

The crystal was interesting, and I got it for less than two bucks, which always makes a treasure more attractive. But it was too grubby and grungey for Jackie. What could I possibly say as I handed it to her: “Here, this has seen better days but it’ll probably polish up OK?”
Maybe Jack Lemmon could get away with a gag like that, but I’d have been dead before I hit her polished marble floor.

Weeks later, Hanna and I soaked the grubby, grungey crystal in hot water, and discovered most of the muck around its base was dried-on, yellowed glue. Someone had stuck this crystal onto a display, and someone else had ripped it off to sell it to a junk store, decades on. We gently peeled the flakes of glue away, soaking and washing, soaking again, until the spire shone like a diamond. This crystal was not an entirely natural phenomenon: some master craftsman had cut it, like a gemstone. An eight-inch gemstone.

As Hanna examined the base, she gasped. A name had been cut into the million-year-old stone. A name that resonated with images of Tsarist Russia and bejewelled golden eggs. The name of Faberge.

Fast-forward to today. The Faberge crystal is in a cabinet in my home. I never did give it away, though I’d long ago decided it wasn’t really meant to be with me. A crystal seeks its owner, and I was simply a convenient vehicle to take it out of the junk shop. One day, someone would turn up at my home and I would realise, with a flash of inspiration, that the Faberge crystal had been waiting 30 years for them.

That’s what I imagined, until the Fountain Of Wisdom arrived. It’s a spectacular sculpture, commisioned by an NHS hospital from the Russian artist Tolleck Winner: layers of granite for the square base, with a pyramid of marble stacked to the height of a man.

Tolleck, a Russian emigree, has created some wonderful artworks for me. He made the spoon, encased in Plexiglass, that hangs in my pyramid, and the rotted apple core preserved, like a fly in amber, in a clear plastic pearl. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t know what NHS Trust ordered the Fountain Of Wisdom from him and then decided they had no room to display the one tonne piece — I have endless admiration for the medical staff of Britain’s hospitals but the bureaucrats who rule them make me despair.

It’s easy to believe the newspaper claims that the National Health Service has just spent £12m on artworks, if they are sending back pieces by acclaimed sculptors because they have run out of display space. These are houses of healing, not fashionable galleries. If I need an op, I won’t book into Tate Modern. What are the pen-pushers thinking of?

Patients deserve to look at inspiring art, of course, but there’s a generation of young British artists who are ignored by the collectors and the galleries who would love to donate some of their pieces to hospitals. It would be a great showcase for undiscovered names, and a chance for patients to see some affordable art. Everyone benefits, especially the NHS, which would have an extra £12m to spend on life-saving equipment and treatment.

Rant over. The upshot of this farce is that my friends George Carter and Kevin Lewis at South East Marble And Granite Ltd, in Barking, Essex, found themselves with a tonne of Tolleck’s finest and nowhere to put it. And they knew I was a collector, a collector with a large garden...

The sculpture was stunning, but it felt like a jigsaw with a missing piece. It reminded me of the Empire State Building, but without its spire.

Its spire... My Faberge crystal. One Russian genius had been waiting for another. The sliver of transparent stone fitted perfectly into the cap of the pyramid, as if it had been made to crown it.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is exactly what Faberge, a visionary, intended, as he shaped the crystal in his St Petersburg workshop, more than 100 years ago.

Congratulations to my friend Tal Ben Haim, the Israeli football captain who has also been given the armband to lead his side out at Bolton Wanderers.

Tal’s confidence has grown to giant proportions this season: the man who once feared he could not adapt to the pace and aggression of the Premiership has become one of the strongest defenders in Europe, the rock of his team.

I have been proud to coach Tal with positive thinking sessions, using the power of his mind to bring his body to new heights of athleticism.

He told a reporter this week: “The conversations with Uri help me enormously. He persuades me to believe in myself and other things that may help my game with Bolton and Israel. I feel confident every time I go on to the pitch."

And he’s not afraid to tell his colleagues how he achieves his mental strength. His fellow defender, Rahdi Jaidi, told the national press: “Tal is a very positive person and I know he puts a lot of that down to his sessions with Uri Geller. He fills his mind with positive thinking.”

When I read that, I knew how it must feel to power the ball into the net from 40 yards out. Tal, I’m proud to be part of the team.

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