Label: modern art
Wednesday 04th May 2016Take that, Duchamp!
In one of the most famous modern art pieces of all time, Marcel Duchamp made a name for himself and secured his place in history. At the time it was arguably a stunt and wildly derided by those in the artistic establishment, but Duchamp didn't give a hoot what they thought - they were exactly the people he was trying to offend. The piece in question? A public urinal that had been ripped off a wall and submitted to a gallery, titled 'Fountain' and signed 'R. Mutt'. At the time, it was rejected, of course, but Duchamp's point was rather clear about his views of the state of the art world at the time. That was in 1917.
Fast-forward to 2016, and cross the Atlantic to the Guggenheim, New York City. Maurizio Cattelan, whose works have made him one of the most expensive and sought after living artists, has decided to come out of 'retirement'.During an interview on his reasons for a return to practice, he said, “Actually, it’s even more of a torture not to work than to work.” Understandable, almost immediately so, for when you have a vision, not acting on it can be more painful than a root canal. .
Also immediately understandable is his first piece of work since his return, which is being installed in the Guggenheim this month. In the spirit of Duchamp but updated for the modern era, the piece is entitled 'Maurizio Cattelan: America' and instead of hanging in one of the gallery spaces, will be installed in a public washroom.
Because it is a working toilet made out of 18-karat gold.
99 years to the month after Duchamp failed to get his urinal installed in an exhibition, New York will finally get its artistic toilet.
Curiously enough, it's actually intended to be used for it's evident purpose, although it's hard to imagine that the lines for a public restroom can get any longer than they already are. “There’s the risk that people will think of it as a joke, maybe, but I don’t see it as a joke,” Cattelan explained, and commented that it really only becomes an artwork when it's actually being used by someone.
The commentaries on the state of modern America are obvious and rife with charged debate concerning wealth distribution and the unity of humanity, but it's also a hilarious jab at the self-importance of the rich. After all, everyone needs to use one.
Posted on May 04th 2016 on 05:52pm
Wednesday 06th January 2016Modern Art, Modern Weapon
To kick things off in hilarious style this year, we present one of the strangest stories we've come across while writing for the Gallereo blog. Everyone is aware of the existence of the Cold War, the period during the 1970s and 80s where the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a relatively non-violent struggle for hearts and minds in countries around the world. Spies and intrigue were everywhere, and the geopolitical climate was fraught with tension and brinksmanship every day. In a climate like that, it's no surprise that much of the battle was fought in cultural terms - and naturally, the art world played a major role.
For a long time, it was considered simply a rumour or a joke among those in the art world who'd ever heard the story, but it has now been confirmed as a fact by former Central Intelligence Agency officials: the American government used modern art as a political weapon.
As hilarious as it seems, this was a real effort, with the CIA helping to foster and spread Abstract Expressionist art around the world in a kind of hands-off cultural war. Behind an organisation known as the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which was set in up the 1950s with CIA money and run by a CIA agent, exhibitions and showcases of American modern art were hosted in every major city in Europe in the late 1950s.
Donald Jameson, a former case officer with the CIA who is now retired, explains the theory. "It was recognised that Abstract Expressionism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions. In a way our understanding was helped because Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. And so one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy- handedly was worth support one way or another."
Tom Braden, another retired ex-CIA official, elaborates even further. "We wanted to unite all the people who were writers, who were musicians, who were artists, to demonstrate that the West and the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any rigid barriers as to what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint, which was what was going on in the Soviet Union. I think it was the most important division that the agency had, and I think that it played an enormous role in the Cold War."
While it wasn't the only weapon these organisations used, these revelations provide a fascinating sidelight into the hidden side of a hidden war. Abstract expressionism would likely have risen to become the most popular genre in the post-WWII world without this kind of help, so don't suddenly reject these artists!
Posted on January 06th 2016 on 04:51pm
Tuesday 27th October 2015Political Satire Installation Accidentally Thrown Away
All is not quite right in the halls of the Museion modern art gallery in Bolzano, Italy. Only the artist behind the piece in question will know exactly for sure, but perhaps even that might not save the installation, because it was accidentally gathered up by cleaning staff and meticulously and carefully cleaned away. When you stop and hear the story, however, it begins to take on a surreal, ironic hilarity all of its own that might actually make it a better piece than it was originally - if the Milanese artist duo Goldschmied & Chiari can capitalize on the opportunity instead of being caught up in anger.
There had been an opening the previous night, and as most of you who've been to your fair share of gallery openings will know (and the smaller share of those that got a bit out of control, of course, the floor of a gallery can look something like a cleaner's nightmare. That's surely what the staff must have thought when they arrived the morning after the opening, only to be greeted by a room literally covered with bottles, cigarette butts, clothes, shoes, and other detritus that you might expect to find after a particularly wild party. The cleaners set about restoring the gallery to it's properly cleaned state, only to realize after they were finished that the refuse they had spent so long cleaning was actually the star of the gallery opening the night before.
Entitled 'We were going to dance tonight', the exhibit was supposed to be a political sendup of the over-the-top parties that were apparently classic pastimes of previous generations of Italian political elites. It should be no surprise, then, that the average person was left to clean up the mess - even if they were the only ones who wanted to bother to do so.
As hilarious as it may sound to those who are somewhat skeptical of the value of modern conceptual art, this is not the first time this has happened. We recently wrote about hotel cleaning staff who accidentally cleaned away a piece of artwork intended for an upcoming auction, although police still haven't determined if that was just a clever smokescreen for a theft. Numerous other accounts have amused and delighted readers for years, but perhaps we in the art world should actually be taking it as a criticism of just how far our conceptual reaches have gone.
Posted on October 27th 2015 on 03:35am
Friday 24th October 2014Governmental Modern Art Spree
The British government has had a bit of a rough time of late, with the imposition of austerity measures designed to curb public spending on all but the most essential services. It may seem to some that these restrictions are easing slightly, as the Civil Service recently announced an art buying spree of upwards of 100,000 pounds, the first time any work has been purchased since austerity measures first went into place back in 2011. There may be some confusion and more than a few groans over what they chose to purchase, however, as the pieces were exclusively modern and conceptual artworks from a variety of British artists..
The chosen pieces include a variety of disciplines, though a heavy emphasis on sculptural forms, installation and multimedia is evident. Among the most irritating of the chosen pieces is a pair of torn polystyrene coffee cups made out of bronze, textured to appear like the original polystyrene, and a series of wildlife portraits on rice paper that have been crumpled and partially unfolded. Aside from gems such as these, there were also quite a number of portraits of generals and officers from the allied nations, which had actually been on loan to the collection for the last 60 years and now are properly their own.
The works are part of the government's private collection, which means they will be displayed in various government buildings throughout the United Kingdom, as well as overseas in British embassies and military bases. The goal, of course, is to present the cutting edge of British art around the world - the problem is simply that the works they've selected seem to be simply boring. They don't speak to anything new or exciting, and the media are equally unspectacular.
In the words of one commentator at the Telegraph, "...for all the apparent outlandishness of the materials, this is still official art, selected by establishment figures who think they know what is good for us and what will represent Britain in the best light. The work here isn’t so much bad as a reflection of the increasing blandness and academicism of British contemporary art." What do you think of their selections? Do you think the price they paid was justified for the work? Somehow they don't seem to have the proper kind of gravitas for governmental purchases, but instead have swapped that for a misguided attempt at edginess.
Posted on October 24th 2014 on 04:55am