With less than a week to go, Santa was running desperately short of gifts for the sophisticated art lovers on his route. There was only one thing for it. He left his reindeer grazing contentedly in Regents Park and caught the tube incognito to travel to the center of London.
Task number one was to find presents for very special loved ones. Santa found just the thing at the Christmas exhibition of prints at Sims Reed Gallery, 23a St. James's Street, with prices beginning at £400. His eyes were drawn to a Robert Indiana LOVE screenprint in red, blue and green. Though of recent vintage -- it was made in 1997 in an edition of 395 -- the work is signed by the Pop master himself. Price: £580.
Santa was also tempted by a dreamy-looking lithograph by Marc Chagall depicting those incurable romantics Romeo and Juliet (1964), printed by Mourlot Fréres in Paris and priced at £780.
On his way out he spied a small print hanging in the corner. It showed a swimming pool bathed in sunshine, and made Santa think of holiday romances in the sun. The print turned out to be a signed David Hockney lithograph entitled Paper Pools (1980), printed in velin d'Arches wove in an edition of 1,000 and priced at £2,800.
Romance still on his mind, Santa was reminiscing about the sexually liberating 1960s when his eye caught sight of a large pair of red lips. The kiss was in fact a red nylon 60's Bocca Sofa, seductively beckoning from Whitford Fine Art, 6 Duke Street. Made by the Italian company Gufram, the work is priced at £3,175. Santa thought it would make a funky present for one of the many hip young things he had to shop for.
For groovy stocking fillers Santa was delighted to discover that Whitford Fine Art also had a good selection of fun and inexpensive colored plastic Biba rings, immortalized in the '60s, and on sale at £20 each.
A perfect Christmas gift for the connoisseur of fine glass is a festively decorated limited edition colored glass Millennium Disc priced at £3,800. In appearance not unlike the lollipops on sticks enjoyed by his elves in Lapland, they were skillfully hand-made by a master glass blower at the famous Italian Murano glass works to the designs of the accomplished octogenarian artist, Sir Terry Frost R.A.
Looking for a celebratory gift for the sports enthusiast, Santa stumbled upon an original, framed 1970 film poster of Britain's recently voted sportsman of the century, Muhammad Ali, at the Reel Poster Gallery, 72 Westbourne Grove. Entitled A.K.A. Cassius Clay, the poster is priced at £500. Santa thought the politically loaded image of the great fighter raising a gloved hand in victory with the Statue of Liberty was especially tantalizing, considering Ali's political activism during the Vietnam War.
Turning to presents for well-behaved multi-millionaires, Santa decided to pay a visit to Daniel Katz Ltd, 59 Jermyn Street. He was immediately struck by a marble statue of the Madonna and Child, the very image of Christmas. Made in France, ca. 1325-1350, and in extremely good condition, the Virgin was carved with the Christ Child in her arms holding a pomegranate and dove, symbols of the Mother's virginity and the imminent resurrection. The sculpture is offered for sale at £125,000.
Santa then spied a pair of angelic, early 18th-century Genoese silver putti, priced at £14,000 the pair. He was particularly taken by the way in which the unknown craftsmen had captured a sense of the sublime, especially in the posture and expression of the putto with his arms outspread and head tilted back.
Imbued with a sense of the otherworldly, Santa left the gallery but was soon brought back to reality as the snow began to fall. So he dived in to MacConnal-Mason, 14 & 17 Duke Street, to browse through its huge stock of British and European paintings.
Thinking of a number of country houses in which these works would hang beautifully, Santa turned his attention to a snowy landscape by the Dutch artist Louis Apol (1850-1936) entitled Haagsche Bos in Winter. No slouch himself when it came to snow scenes, Santa felt the wintry glow of this one fully justified the artist's reputation. It is offered for sale at £100,000.
Santa also thought an equally impressive oil on canvas entitled A Winter Landscape by Danish artist P. Monsted magically captured the tranquillity and solitude of early morning and the moment when the deer begin to stir in their frosty surrounds. Dating to 1912, the recently purchased painting is on sale for £80,000.
After these pleasant reminders of his arctic home, Santa thought he would pay a visit to silverfund.com round the corner on 40 Bury Street. There he found the ideal gift for the silver collector and lover of jewelry -- a Georg Jensen silver open-work oval brooch set with lapis lazuli above a large amber teardrop, 1909-1914. Priced at £5,000 and from a large private collection of early Jensen jewelry, his pieces were inspired by nature. Born in Denmark in 1866 but unable to make it as a sculptor, Jensen turned to jewelry before concentrating on the silver flat and hollow wares for which he is best known. Prices begin at £200.
Next, Santa faced the annual problem of finding something for the lucky few who have everything. Puzzling at what to get for this tricky group, he was delighted to discover ten dinosaur eggs offered at Spink and Son Ltd, 5 King Street, for £9,500. Found in China, these eggs date back millions of years and as a cluster of ten Santa thought they would certainly provide an unusual conversation piece
Penniless after his successful day's work, Santa spied something for himself he thought would come in very handy for the ensuing year -- a 16th-century pottery piggy bank from East Java. Originally used in monasteries by monks, these bejeweled terra-cotta pigs come in all shapes and sizes and range in price from £1,200.
Brimming with ideas for presents and happy to have found a way to save-up, Santa resolved to return to London in December 2000.
KATE HUNT is an Asian art specialist and freelance journalist.