Posts Tagged modern art
Picture this, you buy a house for £471,000 and discover that you have a Damien Hirst spot painting on one of your walls. It’s painted directly onto the wallpaper so you think, “I’ll have that off there, mount it and sell it – it must be worth a few bob.”
No problemo, you might think, but you would be wrong… oh, so wrong. It’s not yours to sell, not without a certificate of authenticity signed by Mr Hirst anyway, and his company Science have got that. You see, the painting was originally bought as a present for the previous owner and, when he sold the house, he was given an alternative version of the painting on canvas in exchange for Mr Hirst taking back ownership of the original, which should have been painted over.
Now, I’m sure Mr Hirst is acting within his legal rights (there are precedents for this) to demand the return of the, now portable wall painting, for destruction. Incidentally, I’d be happy to lend him a hand with the destruction of any of his works, but I digress. The real artwork apparently is in the concept, not the work itself – in this instance a few scribbled half-circles of colour and some written instructions on a scrap of paper. I note the youthful Mr Hirst has misspelled surrounding on this early example of one of his certificates of authenticity.
Call me naive but I’ve always assumed that an artist was a man or woman who, not only conceived, but created works of art with his or her own hands! After all, if you pay $12 million dollars for a Picasso, you have a right to expect that the great man himself actually put the paint on the canvas. Surely, it ain’t a Picasso if he didn’t!
What makes it different in the case of a Damien Hirst or others of his ilk? And if they do get someone else to turn their ideas into a physical piece of art, shouldn’t the maker also get a credit for his work? I think a little more transparency is called for here. When this type of work is displayed in a gallery or placed with an auction house, perhaps the catalogue listing should be something on the lines of; ‘A spot painting by (insert the name of the assistant or contractor) based on an original concept by Damien Hirst.’
In all the controversy over the availability or lack of it, of tickets for the London Olympics, the cultural festival that runs alongside it, seems to have been largely overlooked by the media. This could be set to change with the announcement that Tracey Emin, of ‘My Bed’ fame, has recently been named as one of twelve artists who are to design posters for the Olympic and Paralympic games. Miss Emin has a way with words certainly but judging by her artworks at least, has a somewhat limited vocabulary. When it comes to posters four letter words do have one advantage in so far as they are short and to the point, but unless the organisers want to add to the controversy which already surrounds the games, she’ll have to come up with some longer words. She also misspelled Picasso on one of them which doesn’t bode well.
For many of us, modern art is a bit like marmite– you either love it or you hate it. And the work of Britart artists in particular, has in recent years aroused a great deal of heated debate about the nature of art. Can a dead shark suspended in formaldehyde or a rumpled bed be art? I get out of bed every morning and leave the bed-clothes in a state of disarray: have I just created a piece of art or am I simply being a lazy slob? When I go back later to remake it, I often find myself agonising over the destruction of this masterwork of mine.
French playwright Yasmina Retza wrote a very clever and wonderfully funny play about modern art. Entitled ‘Art’, its plot is a deceptively simple one: three friends, Serge, Marc, and Yvan, are forced to reassess the nature of their long running friendship when Serge pays a huge sum for an abstract painting which consists of barely visible white lines on a white canvas. Serge and Marc fall out in a big way when Marc describes the painting as a ‘piece of sh*t’. Yvan’s attempt to reconcile his two friends succeeds only in widening the chasm that has opened up between them. It could be argued that the play is more about the nature of friendship than about art, but it provides plenty to chew over on both subjects.
Perhaps in the end, it comes down to this: it’s not what you see when you look at a work of art that makes it art for you, but what you think you see.