18 février 2013

ART 04

Dan Witz

It's just after noon on a recent Wednesday in San Francisco, and Dan Witz is driving a rental car on Highway 101 north, approaching the Vermont Street exit that leads to Potrero Hill. Just before the turnoff, he suddenly pulls over to the right-side embankment. Minutes later, he has walked to his trunk and put on a blue hard hat and green reflector vest, which gives him the appearance of an official Caltrans worker. The disguise is perfect.
Witz is a Brooklyn street artist, and after spraying the back of a painting with silicone glue, he walks south along the embankment as a California Highway Patrol car approaches in the slow lane and keeps on going. Two minutes later, Witz has secured his artwork — a hooded woman with bad teeth staring out from behind a grate — on the base of a freeway foundation. As he takes photographs of his latest illegal posting, two San Francisco police officers on motorcycles speed by and continue through the Vermont Street turnoff. Three minutes later, Witz is back in his car and heading toward downtown. "You become invisible — you become part of the landscape," he says of his freeway worker outfit. "Everyone thinks you're not up to anything. In the light of day, they don't suspect."
Witz is the latest major street artist to come through San Francisco, and like Banksy — the British stealth painter who left his mark here last April — he risks doing his work at public intersections in the middle of the day. Unlike Banksy, though, Witz has bona fide credentials: a prestigious grant from the National Endowment for the Arts; two fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts; and a bachelor of fine arts from New York's Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. His age (53) and longevity in public spaces (three decades and counting) make him one of the longest-working street artists in America — a kind of godfather figure to a younger generation of devotees.
Robert Longo has had retrospective exhibitions at the Hamburger Kunstverein and Deichtorhallen; the Menil Collection in Houston; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; the Hartford Athenaeum and the Isetan Museum of Art in Tokyo. Group exhibitions include Documenta (1987 and 1982); the Whitney Biennial (2004 and 1983); and the Venice Biennale (1997.) His work is represented in collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; the Albertina in Vienna; and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. Robert Longo was the recipient of the Goslar Kaiserring in 2005. Robert Longo is represented by Metro Pictures in New York City and Galerie Hans Mayer in Düsseldorf, Germany. He is a co-founder and member of the band X PATSYS (with Barbara Sukowa, Jon Kessler, Anthony Coleman, Anton Fier and Sean Conly).
Robert Longo lives with his wife, Barbara Sukowa, and their three sons in New York.

Tanguy Samzun   T101
Culture arte  is proud to present  artist Tanguy Samzun T101 at the MIA | MI CIELO 2010 Fine Art Exposition in concurrence with Art Basel | Miami Beach. T101 will feature a retrospective selection of  art works, sign copies of his limited edition book “Piranese” and carry out some of his clandestine artistic illegality on the highways.
More than just a documentation of Tanguy Samzun T101's public artworks, “Out View ” is a diary of three decades of thoughtful and emotional engagement with the ever evolving surfaces of European City. Embracing a meticulously disciplined aesthetic inspired by the old masters, Tanguy Samzun has spent the last decades making easel paintings as well as rebel art, leaving various love letters in plain view on the doorstep of his beloved Paris, London or Berlin. Tanguy Samzun  is in conversation with both the conventional and street worlds of art. His work is inclusive; It is obsessive. It is acknowledged as an original voice, an inspiration and a catalyst.
Besides obvious craftsmanship, the artwork of Tanguy Samzun  evinces a rigorous conceptual framework.
"Snake Plissken goes to Hollywood" for Big John Carpenter 2010
"Meme 01.2"  "Meme 02.3" Numeric paint

Ben Quilty

 Ben Quilty (born 1973 in Sydney) is an Australian artist who won the 2011 Archibald Prize.
 Quilty grew up in Kenthurst in Sydney's north-west. He lives and works in Robertson, New South Wales. He is a graduate of the Sydney College of the Arts at the University of Sydney. Quilty also graduated from the University of Western Sydney with a Bachelor's degree in Visual
A multiple finalist, Quilty won the Archibald Prize in 2011 for his portrait of Australian artist Margaret Olley.It was his seventh entry to the prize.
In 2009, he won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Australia's most lucrative portrait prize, for a painting of Australian musician Jimmy Barnes. His painting Dead (Over the Hills and Far Away) won the National Artists Self Portrait prize in 2007.
Quilty was awarded a Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2002.
 From 11 October until 3 November 2011, Quilty was attached to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) observing their activities in Kabul, Kandahar and Tarin Kowt. His task was to record and interpret the experiences of Australian service personnel who are deployed as part of Operation Slipper. After his return, Quilty spent six months producing work for the Australian War Memorial's National Collection. Such work is in the tradition of war artists that began in World War I with artists Arthur Streeton, George Lambert and Frederick McCubbin.
Quilty has been awarded numerous prizes and awards including the 2009 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize,[1] the 2007 National Self Portrait Prize, University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, the 2004 Kings School Art Prize, Sydney, the 2004 Metro 5 Art Prize,[2] Melbourne and the 2002 Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
As lead singer of legendary Aussie rock band Cold Chisel and an equally successful solo artist, Jimmy Barnes is one of the best-selling Australian musicians of all time. A reformed drug user, he is now an outspoken pro-family, anti-drug advocate. Though Barnes abstains these days, Quilty asked him to act as if though he were inebriated, head lolling back, eyes rolling in their sockets. He built up the image in his signature impasto style and then literally squashed the heavily laden surface against another blank canvas creating a perfect geometric copy – a Rorschach. Quilty imitates the ink-blot tests created by Hermann Rorschach, an early 20th century psychoanalyst. “Rorschach ink blot tests are used as a tool by psychoanalysts to test personality characteristics and the emotional functioning of their patients” says Quilty regarding his use of this technique. “I wanted it to appear as though Jimmy’s head had been peeled back, his skin left behind.” The original painting was destroyed in the creation of the geometrically perfect Rorschach copy. Finally the copy was scraped off to reveal the ghost-like stain upon the surface of the linen underneath.
BEN QUILTY IS standing outside his cavernous Alexandria studio looking at his beloved white 1972 LJ Torana. "Usually it sits in the studio, wasting a lot of space, and I rarely drive it," he says, stroking its roof. "But the paintings of the car are worth more than the car now. How can I ever sell the poor old car?"
Four years ago, the Torana and other cars were the stars of a series of vivid, thickly layered paintings that established Quilty's presence on the art scene. One, titled Elwood Torana No 7, earned him $30,000 when he won the Metro 5 Art Award in Melbourne in 2004. He sold all the car paintings and wishes he had kept one. But there are other reasons for keeping the car.
Quilty, 33, grew up in Kenthurst, in Sydney's north-west, where car hoon culture was a rite of passage and a symbol of self-worth for young men as they came of age. Apart from activities involving drinking, smoking "the wrong kind of cigarette" and blowing things up, Quilty hooned the streets with his mates in the Torana muscle-chariot.
"It was one of those kinds of cars that reeked of rebellion. It was loud and furious and not part of the culture of Paddington," he says. "You're cruising around at night with a joint hanging out of your mouth, trying to be cool, and you're also risking your life with other guys sitting inside the car."
Quilty's work has long been informed by such symbols of young male culture in Australia. His exhibition, Pride and Patriotism, at GrantPirrie Gallery in Redfern, a congregation of enormous, attention-grabbing oil and aerosol paintings of male heads and Rorschach-style images, charts male power and irresponsibility from infancy to maturity.
Lining the walls of Quilty's studio, the works are truculent, discomforting and compelling: a stern Captain James Cook staring disparagingly out of the frame; Quilty's baby son, Joe, with his face contorted from crying; Quilty's mate Lloydy looking half-dead after his buck's night. One self-portrait features the artist's semi-comatose, hungover face squinting listlessly at the viewer through half-closed eyes. Suspended on canvas, without bodies and with blank backgrounds, each expressive head has an unsettling, almost brutal influence on the viewer.
Quilty created them over the past year and says they are of people who have held positions of power or shirked responsibility.

Liu Xiaodong

Liu Xiaodong  Liú Xiǎodōng; born 1963 in Liaoning, China) is a contemporary Chinese artist.
Liu studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts  in Beijing and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in oil painting in 1988. In 1995 he was awarded a Masters of Fine Art in oil painting at the same university. From 1998. He continued his studies overseas at the Academy of Fine Arts at the Madrid Complutense University in Spain
1990: Began participating with the Chinese Independent Film Movement, starting as the lead role in The Days, which was named one of the top 100 most important international films of the past century by the BBC.
1993: Art director for movie: Beijing Bastards.
2006: Starred in Documentary, Dong ("East"), a documentary of the Three Gorges and Thailand painting project by director Jia Zhangke. This film was entered into the 2006 Venice Film Festival as a candidate for the Golden Lion Award.

Posté par edition-qualis à 07:43 - Permalien [#]

02 juillet 2012

ART 03

Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China. He recalled as a child hearing the "upsetting yet eerily beautiful blasts of artillery being fired across the straight."His father, Cai Ruiqin, was a calligrapher and traditional painter who worked in a bookstore. As a result, Cai Guo-Qiang was exposed early on to Western literature as well as traditional Chinese art forms.


As an adolescent and teenager, Cai witnessed the social effects of the Cultural Revolution first-hand, personally participating in demonstrations and parades himself. He grew up in a setting where explosions were common, whether they were the result of cannon blasts or celebratory fireworks. He also “saw gunpowder used in both good ways and bad, in destruction and reconstruction”. It seems that Cai has channeled his experiences and memories through his numerous gunpowder drawings and explosion events.

In his late teens and early twenties, Cai Guo-Qiang acted in two martial art films, The Spring and Fall of a Small Town and Real Kung Fu of Shaolin. Later intrigued by the modernity of Western art forms such as oil painting, he studied stage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy from 1981 to 1985. The experience allowed him a more comprehensive understanding of stage practices and a much-heightened sense for theater, spatial arrangements, interactivity, and teamwork.


Cai Guo-Qiang's practice draws on a wide variety of symbols, narratives, traditions and materials such as fengshui, Chinese medicine, shanshui paintings, science, flora and fauna, portraiture, and fireworks. Much of his work draws on Maoist/Socialist concepts for content, especially his gunpowder drawings which strongly reflect Mao Zedong's tenet "destroy nothing, create nothing." Cai has said: “In some sense, Mao Zedong influenced all artists from our generation with his utopian romance and sentiment."


Early Work

Cai's work, inspired by an interest in traditional Chinese culture and the everyday aspects that defined it, is scholarly and at times politically charged. As a student, Cai made works consisting of stick-figure or abstract patterns in oil and burnt gunpowder, giving him a place in the experimental ferment preceding the '85 New Wave. However, Cai moved to Japan in 1986 as the movement was building.

"Projects for Extraterrestrials"


In 1990, Cai began "Projects for Extraterrestrials", which consisted of using large fireworks and extensive trails of blazing gunpowder that span across landscapes and building surfaces. Site-specific, the projects were implemented in various locations throughout the world. Project to Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 Meters: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 10 (1993) was representative of the nature of the projects as a whole, as it involved an approximately six-mile-long gunpowder fuse that extended beyond the western end of the Great Wall at the edge of the Gobi Desert. The fuse burned for about 15 minutes after it was lit, creating a dragon-like pattern across the dunes that was indicative of China's imperial and mythological heritage. The title for the series refers to Cai's inspiration for the project: the belief in a need for a new, higher perspective in which celebrations of pure energy replace earthly conflicts, and gunpowder, the "material fuel" of such conflict, becomes a system that delivers beauty and joy.


Gunpowder Works


Cai initially began working with gunpowder to foster spontaneity and confront the suppressive, controlled artistic tradition and social climate in China. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, Cai explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, an inquiry that eventually led to his experimentation with explosives on a massive scale and the development of his signature "explosion events". In 1995, he moved to New York with a grant from the New York-based Asian Cultural Council, an international organization that promotes artistic exchanges between Asian countries and the United States.

Cai Guo Qiang 01 Cai Guo Qiang

Cai Guo Qiang 02 Cai Guo Qiang

Cai Guo Qiang 04 Cai Guo Qiang

In 2004, Cai Guo-Qiang installed "Inopportune: Stage One" and "Inopportune: Stage Two" at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). The piece was duplicated in 2008 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. MASS MoCA describes the installation as such:


Nine cars arced through the 300 foot long gallery, tumbling and suspended in mid-air as if by stop-action. Long transparent rods radiated from the car, pulsing with dazzling multicolored light. An explosive moment, expanded in time and space as if in a dream, the cars formed the centerpiece of Inopportune by Cai Guo Qiang.

An adjacent gallery opened for the installation housed Inopportune: Stage 2, in which nine realistic tigers also hovered in the air, each one pierced by hundreds of arrows. The imagery in this gallery referred to the famous 13th-century Chinese story epitomizing bravery, in which a man named Wu Song rescued a village by slaying a man-eating tiger. In yet a third space, a phantom car bristling with fireworks floated like a ghost through the glittering illusion of Times Square at night.

Engaging images of our unsettled world, Inopportune created a theatrical, psychologically charged space in which to reflect on some of the most pressing dilemmas and contradictions affecting us such as terrorism and cultural, religious conflict, violence and beauty, the meaning of heroism.

Cai Guo Qiang 08 Cai Guo Qiang

Cai Guo Qiang 09 Cai Guo Qiang

Cai Guo Qiang 10 Cai Guo Qiang

Cai Guo Qiang 11 Cai Guo Qiang

In an interview in The Brooklyn Rail, Cai said of his piece Light Cycle, commissioned by Creative Time in 2003: "Because this was a post 9/11 New York I wanted to provide an anchor and reference point for people to feel hope. That is why I picked the reservoir in Central Park and made a full circle. It is kind of a protection, a symbol for comfort and fullness."


Cai is one of the most well-known and influential Chinese contemporary artists, having represented his country at the Venice Biennale in 1999 with his project Venice's Rent Collection Courtyard, a time-based sculpture which he had artisans recreate the Rent Collection Courtyard, a famous work of Socialist Realist propaganda sculpture. Cai returned to Venice in 2005 to curate the Chinese pavilion.


His work has also attracted controversy. Venice's Rent Collection Courtyard drew condemnation within China from the original authors of the Socialist Realist sculpture for destroying their "spiritual property." Some critics have asserted that while his work references politics and philosophy, he seems to switch positions at will and that the references seem relatively opportunistic.


In response to the critical backlash against his appropriation in the "Venice Rent Collection Courtyard," Cai has said in an interview in The Brooklyn Rail:


My idea of making this work is not to do any criticism or replication but to focus on what it means for sculptors to create realist sculptures in the time the work was created. ...The end goal is not to make perfect sculptures and have them exhibited elsewhere and then have them collected somewhere. The key is to focus on the process of fabrication of these artworks, to pay attention to the process of the artists making these sculptures, rather than where these sculptures will end up and how they will look in the end.


From May 2–September 25, 2010, Cai was featured in the solo exhibition Cai Guo-Qiang: Peasant Da Vincis, which presented works from peasants in China. This includes homemade airplanes, helicopters, submarines, and robots.


Cai also created Odyssey, a permanent gunpowder drawing for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in Fall 2010. Installed as part of the museum's ongoing Portal Project and stretching across forty-two panels, it is one of his largest gunpowder drawings to date. Another solo exhibition, 'Cai Guo-Qiang – 1040M Underground, was on view at the new foundation IZOLYATSIA. Platform for Cultural Initiatives in Donetsk, Ukraine through the fall of 2011.


In December 2011, Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab opened at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar - the artist's largest since his 2008 retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum and his first solo exhibition ever in a Middle Eastern country. Saraab (mirage in Arabic) features more than fifty works, including seventeen newly commissioned pieces, thirty recent works and nine documentary videos. The exhibition opened on December 5th with Black Ceremony, the artist's largest ever daytime explosion event and includes several large-scale site-specific installations.



Posté par edition-qualis à 17:57 - Permalien [#]

21 mai 2012


Ben Quilty

School Boy Doodles?

Germaine Greer

Ben Quilty's car paintings are not a childish obsession. They depict the self-destructive urges that lie at the heart of young men.

Six years ago, a reputable Sydney gallery put on a show of 14 portraits in oils on canvas of an old car. The pictures sold like hot cakes. The car, a white 1972 Holden LJ Torana, was in no way a triumph of design, but it had become an icon in its own right. The Holden, though by then almost entirely made in Japan, was Australia's car; and the Torana was Holden's raciest model, built for speed and boy racers. What was more, the pictures were wonderful, painted in what seemed to be a few strokes with a brush loaded with neat paint straight from the tube – blazing whites, midnight purples, throbbing golds. The unmistakeable contours of the Torana leapt from the canvas. Some might have argued that it was just too easy to paint a model that never moved, that artist Ben Quilty was merely engaged in a grown-up form of schoolboy doodling. Others realised that that was exactly the point: the male human's obsessive, unending love affair with his car.

It was the paint that should have silenced the doubters. Nothing about these works was banal. The whiteness of the car body was as telling as the whiteness of an animal skull in a drought landscape; its windows were as deep and unreflecting as the eyesockets of the same skulls. Sometimes the whiteness grinned from the navy-blue depth of an Australian night, sometimes it shone from the aching gold of a dirt track in the back of beyond. The artist sometimes calls these paintings landscapes. Cars are what most people see most of the time – not mountains or trees or churches or sunsets.

Ben Quilty was born a year after the Holden LJ Torana was built. The car was his darling, his ticket to ride, his way out of wherever. In One for the Road (the banal but ominous title is typical), the car is trapped by the picture edge, which cuts off the front end. It is violated, empty, front and rear doors open, and lit by a harsh overhead light, as if it were a crime scene. Behind it there is utter darkness. We cannot know what has happened, or if anything has happened.

Quilty has also drawn hundreds, perhaps thousands of skulls. One of his quests is to find a way of projecting the appeal of death for young men, the craziness of "hard driving", with or without the concomitant of hard drinking. He paints disturbing portraits of men dead drunk, bloated and sick, even portraits of himself unconscious and drooling.

All along Australia's country roads you will encounter works of sinister folk art, strangely exultant memorials to young men annihilated at speed. Some incorporate cans and bottles of beer, still full, as well as personal relics, tattered T-shirts quietly rotting, photographs, fading plastic flowers. Further afield, the cars themselves are the memorials. A broadcaster travelling the Sandover highway, which runs from the Northern Territory eastwards to Queensland, this week reported that in a day's journey she passed 19 "live" cars and 13 dead ones. In the outback, the phenomenon of white-boy self-destruction intersects with Aboriginal recklessness, suicide and parasuicide.

In 1996, in an attempt to understand his destiny as a white Australian, Quilty took a course in Aboriginal history at Monash University in Victoria. Whitefella artists have painted Aboriginal people, much as they might paint any other kind of wildlife; but they have not so far found common ground with indigenous artists, nor have they learned from Aboriginal ways of seeing. Any attempt to copy the stylistics of Aboriginal painting would be denounced as co-option.

In May, Quilty curated an exhibition in Brisbane called On Rage, showing a number of artists, including the Aboriginal artist Daniel Boyd. Quilty's own contribution was Self Portrait Smashed No 4. Daniel Boyd painted a storybook lion, emblem of empire, and called it Once Upon a Time. Quilty took the title of the exhibition from an essay I wrote about the toxic rage that is destroying young Aboriginal men, which he saw as an element in the lives of all young men. He has been attacked for glorifying mindless machismo, but the phenomenon he is struggling with is real. Its appalling consequences are real, too. I want him to paint the burnt-out cars on the Sandover highway. He is one artist who could show you in a heartquake what they mean.

The Return of Painting
Peter Hill

Painting is again proving to be the cockroach of the art world. You just can't kill it. No matter how hard you hit it with video art or installation art it rises, Lazarus-like, and twice as strong. The most recent return of the sleeping giant can be traced to New York's Armory Show in 1999, when a tiny painting by Neo Rauch - the leader of the burgeoning Leipzig school of painters - was exhibited.

It caused a sensation. His work subsequently appeared at other art fairs and biennales around the world, as the hype, and his prices, rocketed.

In 2001, a painting by another emerging German artist Kai Althoff sold to collector Michael Hort for $10,000. Forbes magazine recently reported how an offer of $600,000 was recently made for the same painting. If it sounds like a return to the 1980s, when painting became the cultural wing of the stock market, it probably is.

Neo Rauch is to the early 21st century what Julian Schnabel, with his broken-plate paintings, was to that decadent decade, with its shoulder-pads and Reaganomics, but with less macho posturing. If you doubt his prominence, try doing a Google search on his rather unusual name. But neither he, nor Germany, is alone in this resurgence. Charles Saatchi, the art world's corporate barometer of change, is showing nothing but painting exhibitions for his next five shows, well in to 2006. Interestingly, he has broken away from his previous love affair with young British artists, and returned to the global search for new art that so marked his collecting policy, with first wife Doris, in the '80s. And like the early years of that decade, when the most collectable artists were Anselm Kiefer in Germany, Schnabel in America, Francesco Clemente in Italy, Peter Booth, Jenny Watson, Jon Cattapan, and Susan Norrie in Australia, Marlene Dumas in the Netherlands, Steven Campbell in Scotland, and Gerard Garouste in France, the painters of the 21st century to look out for are equally global.

They would include, at the top of the list, Rauch in Germany, and his compatriots Cornelia Renz, Daniel Richter, Tilo Baumgartel, Thomas Scheibitz (exhibiting at present in the German Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale) and the blue-chip stock of Althoff. Luc Tuymans from Belgium, Dumas from Holland (both having been influential for some years), Dexter Dalwood and Glenn Brown in England, Tal R in Israel, Anne Wallace, Ben Quilty, Victoria Reichelt, Tiffany Winterbottom, Rhys Lee, and Richard Wastell in Australia, Ellen Gallagher and Karen Kilimnik in the US, Michael Lin in Taiwan - the list is long.

As a result of this painterly pressure cooker, all over the world art schools are employing sessional staff who know the ancient skills of stretching a canvas. They are seeking those artists who can pass on the century's old skills of creating a painting from minerals, pigments, oils and binding agents. It is the true alchemist's art, turning base materials into intellectual, emotional and financial gold. In short, painting, like The Terminator, is back. From artist-run-spaces to the auction houses of Christie's and Sotheby's, all forms of painting are being bought, argued over, and enjoyed. And it no longer matters if it is figurative or abstract, modernist or postmodernist - so long as it is painting. Around the world, as we will see, the pages of popular magazines, specialist journals and daily broadsheets are filling with "welcome back" articles on painting's timely return, happening at the very moment when what's been called "techno-fatigue" is hitting the previously dominant areas of digital art, video, and new media.

This, in turn, had usurped the early '90s movement of installation art.

The epicentre of painting's tsunami is the Leipzig School in the former East Germany. To give it its full title it is the Hochschule fuer Grafik und Buchkunst. Painting never fell into decline there, as it did elsewhere over the past 20 years, because of the strong history of social realist painting within the studios. Out of this strange mix of cultural Stalinism, followed by the heady years of German reunification, emerged Neo Rauch, the leader of this group. But he is far from alone.

When Germany recently celebrated and memorialised 60 years passing since the end of World War II, Spiegel magazine, in April, produced a special English "International Edition".

The editorial, penned by Stefan Aust, began: "At 11.01pm on May 8, 1945, the guns fell silent. The High command of the German Wehrmacht had surrendered unconditionally. Adolf Hitler's game was up. Europe lay in ruins. After 12 years of Nazi rule, including 2077 bloody days of war, 60 million dead had been counted."

In response to these horrors, several German painters rose to prominence over two decades ago - Anselm Kiefer with his "paintings" made from lead and steeped in mythology; Gerhard Richter with his death portraits of the Bader Meinhof terrorist group; and Martin Kippenberger with his anarchic paintings, performances and Superfictions.

But what of today's younger generation of German painters? In the same navel-gazing issue of Spiegel, between articles with titles such as "Hitler's Legacy" and "Goodbye Uncle Sam", painting is again elevated on a par with world events in a six-page article with the strap headline "Kraut Art Kraze: the international art market is mad about paintings that are nostalgic, grimly gaudy - and unmistakably German". The term "Eastalgia" is apparently being used to mark this nostalgic turn.

Ulrike Knafel begins her article by introducing us to one of the rising stars of the German art scene, Till Gerhard, who recently showed at New York's Stellan Holm Gallery in Chelsea. "Gerhard's work portrays attractive young people dancing in groups in the grass, or staging a sit-in in a forest setting reminiscent of a romantically dark jungle camp. Occasionally these flower children don parkas and head off for demonstrations, as in 'Acid Rain - Cold Peace'. Berlin's Teufelsberg is visible in the background, complete with the listening posts long operated there by the US and British forces."

Jake and Dinos Chapman

Iakovos "Jake" Chapman (born 1966) and Konstantinos "Dinos" Chapman (born 1962) are English visual artists, often known as the Chapman Brothers, who work together as a collaborative sibling duo. Their subject matter tends to concentrate on whatever is generally deemed to be appalling, vulgar, offensive, etc. — including, in 2008, a series of works that appropriated original watercolours by Adolf Hitler. In the mid-1990s their sculptures were included in the YBA showcase exhibitions Brilliant! and Sensation. In 2003, the two were nominated for the annual Turner Prize but lost out to Grayson Perry.

Jake Chapman was born in Cheltenham and Dinos Chapman in London. Their father was a British art teacher and their mother an orthodox Greek Cypriot (hence "Jake" an anglicized diminutive of the orthodox Iakovos, and "Dinos", a typical diminutive of the orthodox Konstantinos). They were brought up in Cheltenham but moved to Hastings' where they attended a local comprehensive (William Parker School) before both attending the University of East London. Art college - then at Greengate House, Plaistow - and then enrolling at The Royal College of Art, when they worked as assistants to the artists Gilbert and George.

Art collaboration

They began their own collaboration in 1991. The brothers have often made pieces with plastic models or fibreglass mannequins of people. An early piece consisted of eighty-three scenes of torture and disfigurement similar to those recorded by Francisco Goya in his series of etchings, The Disasters of War (a work they later returned to) rendered into small three-dimensional plastic models. One of these was later turned into a life-size work, Great Deeds Against the Dead, shown along with Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal Model (Enlarged x 1000) at the Sensation exhibition in 1997.

The Chapman brothers continued the theme of anatomical and pornographic grotesque with a series of mannequins of children, sometimes fused together, with genitalia in place of facial features. Their sculpture Hell (2000) consisted of a large number of miniature figures of Nazis arranged in nine glass cases laid out in the shape of a swastika. In 2003 with a series of works named Insult to Injury, they altered a set of Goya's etchings by adding funny faces. As a protest against this piece, Aaron Barschak (who later gate-crashed Prince William's 21st birthday party dressed as Osama bin Laden in a frock) threw a pot of red paint over Jake Chapman during a talk he was giving in May 2003. The Chapmans' oeuvre has also referenced work by William Blake, Auguste Rodin and Nicolas Poussin. Jake Chapman has published a number of catalogue essays and pieces of art criticism in his own right, as well as a book, Meatphysics (Creation Books, 2003). The brothers have also designed a label for Becks beer as part of a series of limited edition labels produced by contemporary artists. Using a title from the Tim Burton film, in 2004 they curated A Nightmare Before Christmas as part of the occasional All Tomorrow's Parties music festival at Camber Sands.

The Rape of Creativity

From April - June 2003, the Chapmans held a solo show at Modern Art Oxford entitled The Rape of Creativity in which "the enfants terribles of Britart, bought a mint collection of Goya's most celebrated prints - and set about systematically defacing them". The Francisco Goya prints referred to his Disasters of War set of 80 etchings. The duo named their newly defaced works Insult to Injury. BBC described more of the exhibition's art: "Drawings of mutant Ronald McDonalds, a bronze sculpture of a painting showing a sad-faced Hitler in clown make-up and a major installation featuring a knackered old caravan and fake dog turds."While The Daily Telegraph commented that the Chapman brothers had "managed to raise the hackles of art historians by violating something much more sacred to the art world than the human body - another work of art", they also noted that the effect of their work was powerful.

The Chapman brothers were nominated for the Turner Prize in 2003. As well as including Insult to Injury, their Turner Prize exhibit debuted two new works Sex and Death. Sex directly referenced their previous work Great Deeds against the Dead. The original work shows three dismembered corpses hanging from a tree, Sex shows the same scenario, but in a heightened state of decay. Additionally clown's noses are now present on the skulls of the corpses; snakes, rats and insects (like those found in joke shops) cover the piece. Death is two sex dolls, placed on top of each other, head-to-toe in the 69 sex position: despite appearing to be made of plastic it is in fact cast in bronze and painted to look like plastic.

That year the prize was eventually won by Grayson Perry.

On 24 May 2004, a fire in a storage warehouse destroyed many works from the Saatchi collection including Hell. The brothers subsequently made a very similar, though more extensive, work called Fucking Hell.






Posté par edition-qualis à 12:27 - Permalien [#]

22 mars 2012

ART 02


 Pascal Mohlmann

 Over the past several years Pascal Mohlmann has been speed painting friends and colleagues in Zurich for his Gallery of Idiots. The sessions last no longer than 30-60 minutes while Pascal works as quickly as possible on each portrait. The rest of his work is incredible albeit NSFW.


 Gallery of Idiots,

Галерея идиотов...
Галерея идиотов...
Галерея идиотов...
Галерея идиотов...
Галерея идиотов...
Homa Nasab – You studied at the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Utrecht. How would you describe your training there… and the influences (positive or negative – technical or aesthetic) that it bore on you as an artist?

P.M. :Rather poorly actually. I’ve been a student there for six years and I’ve hardly learned anything there. It’s been a good disciple-training though, just for me, to learn that painting is working. That one has to be ready, whenever divine inspiration (or whatever one might hope for) suddenly strikes.


HN – When, & on what basis, did you decide to become a figurative painter?

PM – Halfway through art-school I became frustrated with all the elite-coated nonsense; I wanted to give it all up. Then, however, I decided to paint at least one “real” painting, before surrender. Which, to me, meant: figurative, old-masterly technique rather than a concept dictating the form. Preferably a portrait. That first painting came out horrible (although at that time I was extremely proud of the result!), but I knew after a few days already, I had found my true love.

HN – Do you consider yourself an heir to the Dutch artistic tradition of figurative and portraiture painting…?

PM – No. I don’t really care for Dutch paintings. Apart from Batholomeus Van der Helst and Frans Hals. But even them not as much as I admire Flemish Masters such as Rubens and, particularly, Anthony Van Dijck (!!!!!), or Spanish (Velazquez!!!, El Greco!!, Ribera!!), French (David!!!, Manet!!!) and Italian (Caravaggio!!, Titian!!, Veronese!!).

HN – I am intrigued by your Gallery of Idiots – the portraits remind me of the 18th century Viennese sculptor Franz Xavier Messerschmidt’s Character Heads. Are you familiar with his work?

PM – Funny enough, I just learned about Messerschmidt about a week ago. Love it!! My Gallery of Idiots wasn’t planned to be a gallery. It’s been a measure for me to loosen up and paint fast. I figured: if someone has to sit for me, making a stupid face, it’s bound to hurt after a few minutes. Since I’m no sadist, this automatically pushes me to paint really really fast in order to keep the muscle-aches down and thus not care for precision, in which I used to lose myself in previous work (and which, more often than not, killed the soul of the painting). Of course, after a while it officially took on the form of a series…

HN – Who are some of your favourite artists – both contemporary & historical?

PM – Apart from the ones listed above, I admire/love: Schiele, Klimt too (the poor guy can’t help his paintings are being used for cheesy calenders every year again), Hodler, Lovis Corinth, Wilhelm Leibl, Delacroix, Lucien Freud, Tai-Shan Schierenberg, Gil Elvgren, Matsui Fuyoko, Sargent, Reynolds, Reaburn, Norman Rockwell, Neo Rauch.

Though, as I am thinking about this…, I am sadly (re)discovering my dislike of art in the modern sense. Not only could I hardly come up with a single contemporary artist that I respect or even like…

HN – What inspires you to paint? And, where do you (actively) seek inspiration – for example, is there a favourite gallery or museum that you visit…?

PM – Things around me. Everyday objects (which tend to get more beautiful the longer I look at them), women, music (from Wagner and Dvorak to Slayer and Snoop Dogg), the neighbourhood in Zurich where I live and work. Yes I have a few favourite museums: Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Prado, National Gallery. Always the old guys! Although… the Kunsthaus in Zürich is quite nice too.



HN – Your work has a  narrative quality – and, I am not referring to the traditional definition of narrative as in a story with a beginning, a middle and an ending…

PM – Hmmm… no. I don’t see my work that way. I actually find it brutally difficult to contemplate on any message that my paintings might express. The narrative quality you are talking about, for example…

HN – Do you receive / accept commissions – portraits or other projects?

PM – From time to time I do accept commissions. Whenever I get the feeling (at first) and guarantee (shortly after), that I can execute a commissioned painting (portraits, almost without exception) exactly how I like, without the slightest interference.

HN – Many of your paintings are highly erotic, yet, interestingly you don’t seem to have a single fetish…

PM – But I do have particular fetishes! Still I don’t regard my paintings to be erotic. There’s nudity every now and again…

HN – How did you end up living in Zürich?

PM – My wife is from Basel – I met her there at a party, about nine years ago. After a couple of years living in that small, sort-of provincial town, we decided to move to Zürich. Zürich is small too, but there’s so much going on… I really love it here!

HN – What is your next (big) project?

PM – There’s a couple of portraits waiting for me, which I look forward to very much. Apart from that: I’m not quite sure yet… Some things are developing. I can already sense it somehow, but it hasn’t take shape yet. I’m quite curious myself!!

Das Wallholz (2007) 60x60 - oil on canvas




 Nicolas Uribe

"I was born in Madison, WI, but returned to Colombia when I was almost a year old. I lived all my life in Bogotá and after finishing High School I went to study Illustration in SVA New York. After graduating I worked at Evergreene Painting Studios, a mural painting studio, and at The Studio, an illustration studio where I did animatics, storyboards, print jobs, together with some illustration jobs (paperbacks, jackets, etc). After two years I decided to go back home to Colombia and paint full time. What was a hard decision at first, turned into the best career move. I have been able to paint what I love, and be surrounded by friends and family. I recently got married and live happily with my wife Claudia in Bogotá."



 One of the things I'm horrible at, which is probably the one thing that has become a nuisance when I hope to be represented by a gallery, is that my work is visually inconsistent. I rarely envision what my paintings should look like when they're finished... I try not to anticipate and trick myself into thinking that I prematurely know what the painting needs... I just try to be alert while I paint, and I hope that I'm willing to make the necessary changes, whatever they may be. This, one may say, is probably true for every painter out there, but what happens in my case is that I end up sacrificing the "unity" if you will, of my work. One painting may be painted in one manner while another, which may very well be painted at the same time, is treated completely differently.

This of course is something that galleries detest. Well, it's something they don't particularly associate with figurative painters at least. It shows (to them) that I'm not really worried about creating a recognizable image, an image that may be associated with my name. And I kind of have to admit they're right. While I'm painting, the last thing on my mind is having to subject what I have to say to what I've said previously.

The other day I was reading a book edited by David Evans,
Appropriation, a concept I'm very much drawn towards. I felt  somewhat relieved when I read a Richard Prince interview with Peter Halley, where Halley was asking Prince why some of his rephotographing of images seemed to have a different approach. Prince's response really hit close to home.

You don´t  feel like you're assigning each work, as well as yourself, a role?

It's not that worked out. It's more like I'm conducting an affair or relationship. Each set of pictures has different considerations. In order to produce the effect of what the original picture imagines, you have to play the picture, you can't play yourself.


I guess all of this is a preface to put in context the changes that this painting endured. One of my biggest fears is to find myself painting just to finish a painting. And when I'm referring to finishing something I'm alluding to a technical aspect, a stylistic choice. There were things in this particular image that while I thought were well painted (at least as well as I can paint them), they just felt bland. Like I was in auto-pilot. And I absolutely hate that feeling. If a painter is detached from what he or she is painting, the viewer is going to recognize that immediately.

So I painted, and repainted, and while it looks overworked, it's not a bad overworked. I'm able to exhale and feel comfortable when I'm next to the painting. And there's nothing quite like the feeling of being honestly content with something... when I don't like something I simply can't function properly. 

So fuck style. I'll do whatever needs to be done to satisfy the needs the image requires.








 I was born in cozy Madison, WI, but ever since that day I have not set foot on Wisconsin again. In all honesty, I haven’t really been actively avoiding this generous land of cheese and beer. Given the very attractive winters that this icebox of a state has to offer, I was happy that my parents decided to return to Colombia before my first birthday. I spent my first 17 years in Bogotá and after finishing High School I went to New York to study Illustration in SVA. After graduating I worked at Evergreene Painting Studios, a mural painting studio, and at The Studio, an illustration studio where I did animatics, storyboards, print jobs, together with some illustration jobs (paperbacks, jackets, etc). After two years of constant and diligently supervised drawing, I decided to go back home to Colombia and be free to paint full time. What was a hard decision at first, turned into the best career move. I have been able to paint what I love, and be surrounded by friends and family. Today, I am happily married and live with my beautiful wife Claudia in Bogotá who just gave birth to our first baby, Samuel. He quickly became the reason I work.






Posté par edition-qualis à 11:47 - Permalien [#]

29 février 2012

ART 01

 Paul McCarthy
Paul McCarthy - born in 1945 in Salt Lake City, centre of the Mormons - studied at the University of Utah (1969), painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, and film, video, and arts at the University of Southern California (1972). From 1982 onwards, he teaches performance, video, installation, and the history of performance art at the University of California, where, as it appears, he influenced other great artists like Jason Rhoades, Cindy Sherman, Mike Kelley, Jonathan Meese, John Bock, Jake and Dinos Chapman. As an artist, he remains relatively unknown. But since the exhibition of 'The Garden' in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 1992, his star is rising. In 2001, there is a retrospective in the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Villa Arson in Nice, and in Tate Liverpool. Soon, extensive surveys of his work are presented in the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (2004), the Haus der Kunst te München (2005), the Moderna Museet in Stockholm (2006), the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum in Denemark (2006) and the S.M.A.K in Gent (2006-2007). And, during the summer of 2007, the Middelheim in Antwerp organised 'Air Borne - Air Borne'', an exhibition of the recent large scale inflatable sculptures.

Let us have a closer look at the works of this artist - who was until recently completely unknown, but turns out to be a 'living legend', yes even to belong to the 'most important and influential artists of his generation.

In 1967, Paul McCarthy joins the trend of the happening, introduced in 1959 by Allen Kaprow, with works like 'Sudden Leap' (1967), in which he jumps out of a window, 'Black Paintings' (1967-1968), in which he chars canvases with a blow torch, 'Face painting - Floor white line' (1972), in which he paints a line with his own face, and 'Plaster Your Head and One Arm into a Wall' (1973), in which he explores the relation of his body to the surrounding space.

From 1971 onwards, he begins to use masks to identify himself with diverse icons like Madonna and Alfred E. Neumann. From here to the exploration of sexual identity is only one step: 'I realised that if I was sitting down and then stood up without wearing my pants, my penis fell below my legs, I was a woman sitting down, and a man when I stood up...' (interview).

Increasingly, he is influenced by the developments in Europe, especially by Vienna Actionists like Hermann Nitsch, who, already in the early sixties, had replaced the canvas of the Action Painters with the body, and paint with blood and excrements. With Paul McCarthy, the blood and the excrements of the Vienna Actionists are replaced in their turn by ketchup, mayonnaise and chocolate sauce. In 'Penis Painting' (1973) Paul McCarthy paints with his penis, and in 'Painting, Wall Whip' (1974) with his head and his feet. In 'Sauce' (1974), he pours ketchup on his genitals and has them disappear between his legs. In Sailor's Meat (1975), he copulates with raw meat, dressed in lingerie. Just like with Hermann Nitsch, sex is soon replaced with sadomasochism in 'Whipping a Wall with Paint' (1974), and with auto mutilation in 'Meat Cake' (1974) and in 'Class Fool' (1976), in which he threw himself around a ketchup spattered classroom and inserted a Barbie doll into his rectum. 

The happening was meant to be a protest against the increasing impact of the art market: otherwise than paintings or sculptures, happenings were supposed to be unsellable, and they were performed outside the circuit of galleries and museums. But, the market has a logic of its own, to which the performers could not but eventually comply. Thus, Hermann Nitsch began to sell the relics of his 'Aktionen' as art objects - and thus made undone the transition form 'Action Painting' to real life, where it was all about. And Gilbert and George, rather than displaying themselves for the rest of their lives, soon preferred photos and drawings to do the job. The same fate befell most of 'Land Art': most of Andy Goldsworthy's transient creations survive in photo books and videos. Not only the art market, also the image has a logic of its own. Already in primeval times, man proceeded to make images of the real world, simply because images are not susceptible to decay and are always at our disposition.

Also Paul McCarthy stopped making performances in 1983, and began to sell works in the Rosamund Felsen Gallery. Initially, he restricted himself to exhibit the relics of his performances, just like Hermann Nitsch: objects like 'The trunks' (1972-1983), 'An accumulation of props from 1972 through 1984', 'Butt plug chair' (1978), 'Mask performance props' (1994), 'Kitchen set' (2003),'Yellow table' (2004). This move culminates in 'The Box' (1999), which contains the entire contents of Paul McCarthy's studio set at 90 degrees.

Soon, three-dimensional moving sculptures take over the role of Paul McCarthy as a performer. In 'Bavarian Kick' (1987), a Bavarian man and women pop up from behind a door, toast with a pint, and kick each other with their legs. In 'The Garden' (1992), a mechanised father masturbates against a tree, and a dito son with the earth in an abandoned set of the television series 'Bonanaza'. In 'Cultural Gothic' (1992), a young man copulates with a goat under the supervision of his father. In Heidi (1992), the hero ends up in bed between her grandfather and Peter.

Paul McCarthy, Caribbean Pirates, 2001-05. Collection of the Artist, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth Zürich Londo
On top of that, Paul McCarthy, who already from the beginning recorded his performances on photo and film, resolutely resorts to the medium film. The character of a performance is conserved in that the films are projected in the accompanying sets. In Bossy Burger (1991),Paul McCarthy, with the mask of Mad Magazine icon Alfred E. Neuman, prepares a meal - makes a mess - in the set of the America soap 'Family Affair'. In 'Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma' (1994), a costumed family enacts a domestic drama worthy of a soap opera. In 'The Painter' (1995), Willem de Kooning and his collectors and dealers are ridiculed. In 'Sod and Sodie Sock Comp O.S.O.' (1998) everyday military life is caricatured. In 'Santa's Trees' (1996/1999), we see Paul McCarthy, dressed as Santa Claus, at work with ketchup and chocolate sauce in a Japanese restaurant decorated with Christmas trees. In 'Houseboat' (2001-2005), the myth of the 'happy family' is parodied. In 'Wild Gone Girls' (2003), girls in bikini are are chopping a guy's leg off. Then, there is the famous 'Frigate with Caribbean Pirates” (2001-2005), first shown as a part of “La La Land Parody Paradise” at the Haus der Kunst in Munich (2005) where pirates rape an entire village. 'Piccadilly Circus' (2003). In 'Bunker Basement' (2003), George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden and the Queen Mom are indulging in an orgy of sex and violence. In “F-Fort Party” (2005) the myth of the potent, nature-loving cowboy is 'deconstructed'.

In addition, many of these performances solidified into installations are sold as portfolios: “Pirate Party Photograph Portfolio” and “Houseboat Party Photograph Portfolio”, and also, commissioned by the Haus der Kunst: “F-Fort Party Photograph Portfolio” (2005).

From masks, dolls and mannequins as solidified performances to real sculptures - and thus to sellable ware - is only a step. From the beginning, the father and the son from 'The Garden' (1992) are also presented as independent 'Garden Figures' (1992-1994). Soon, Paul McCarty makes sculptures that are conceived as such: two man-sized copulating cuddles 'Bear and Rabbit on a Rock' (1992); 'Spaghetti Man', a doll with a penis of several meters (1993), 'Apple heads on Swiss Cheese' (1997-99), sculptures of Michael Jackson based on Jeff Koons, 'Pot Head' (2002), 'Tomato head' (2004), 'Mechanical pig' (2003-2005), a true to life pig that breathes, 'Michael Jackson fucked up' (2004), a whole series with Santa Claus - 'Santa Butt Plug' (2004), 'Santa Long Neck' (2004), 'Santa Candy Cane' (2004) - and 'Dreaming', a cast of himself (again without pants) (2005). Especially for the show at the SMAK, Paul McCarthy made 'Pig Island Peaces' (2007): sculptures of George W. Busch taking a pig from behind and participating in a chain of .ss f.ck.rs.

Perhaps because these sculpture reminded him too much of the formerly scorned art objects, he soon proceeds to inflatable sculptures: transient like the happening, but nevertheless well sellable. The series begins with 'Chocolate Blockhead Nosebar Outlet' (2000) for the Expo 2000 in Hannover. For the Tate Modern, he makes the 35 meters high 'Blockhead' (2003) and the 16 meters high Daddies Bighead (2003) based on a ketchup bottle. And in 2007 there was an inflatable version his 'Santa Butt Plug' on 'Air Born - Air Borne' in the Middelheim in Antwerp, alongside new inflatables like 'Shit Pile' (2007), pigs, and a head of George W. Bush.

"We become what we see in the media"

Paul McCarthy

All that leg chopping and animal f.ck.ng dressed with ketchup and mayonnaise: are we dealing here with a pervert who succeeds to enact his private obsessions as 'outsider art' in the museum? Not at all: apparently, a culture critic is at work here, who uses parody as the vehicle of a 'desublimating' 'deconstruction' of 'our Western Culture'.

The formula was developed in his approach of Action Painting, that was transformed into smearing the canvas, and soon the surrounding space and the own body with ketchup. The transformation is meant to 'lay bare the true nature': from painting as leaving traces of an action on the canvas, to the action itself.

Once ended up in the domain of the 'performance', Paul McCarthy begins to uncover the real world behind the glamour of Disney and Hollywood. The brutality of the America Invasion in Iraq, child abuse, the restriction by social conventions are criticised through grotesque parodies of 'Pirates of the Carribean', Johanna Spyn's 'Heidi' and Carlo Collodi's 'Pinocchio'. The unmasking of the icons of the 'culture industry' is extended to the deconstruction of other forms of mass-entertainment: educational programs on cooking in 'Bossy Burger' (1991) and on art in 'The Painter' (1995).

The parody and the grotesque are gradually 'desublimated' to blunt scolding. At the end of 'The Painter' (1995), Paul McCarthy, in the role of Willem de Kooning, takes his underpants off - his pants were already down - and has his .ss sniffed by collectors. The laying bare of naked reality is replaced with calling art 'shit'.
The parody is further desublimated when Paul McCarthy tries to devalue the icons of the political establishment, not by denouncing what they really do, but by simply declaring that they are 'f.ck.rs' - as when he has political icons like George W. Bush, the Queen Mom en Osama Bin Laden indulge in gory orgies. And the desublimation is completed in the masterpieces made for the exhibition in the SMAK in Gent: George W. Bush taking a pig from behind. This is no longer a parody, but the non-verbal version of a word of abuse. Parody desublimated into scatology.

With hindsight, the shift from parody to scatology uncovers the true face of Paul McCarthy's parody itself. The level of someone who attacks his enemies in calling them .ss sn.ffers or p.gf.ck.rs, is not more elevated than the level of someone who deems it necessary to cover the wall of a toilet with dirty drawings. Which makes us surmise that Paul McCarthy's 'unmasking' is no more than an alibi to indulge in the 'dark side of our culture'. Granted, you could not conceive such refined scripts like those of Paul McCarthy, let alone perform them with so much undeniable pleasure, when you do not have some uncontrollable bias to it.

The same goes for Paul McCarthy's criticism of the art market, exemplary in 'The Painter'. The same man that began his career with the unsellable happening, complains nowadays that he could not sell a single work to an American museum up to 1990. Up to 1990: for meanwhile - ever since he fell on his knees for the art establishment - he fares far better. 'The Garden' (1992) was bought by the New York 'art advisor and dealer' Jeffrey Deitch. Other works of his are sold for respectable sums at Christies. For his 'Santa Butt Plug' - the bronze counterpart of the so-called unsellable inflatables - he was paid 280,000 Euro. And from November 11to December 14 2007 a chocolate factory is installed in the Maccarone Gallery in New York where 1000 chocolate versions of 'Santa Butt Plug' will be produced on a daily basis, 100 $ each. We are talking about the same Paul McCarthy who declares, referring to his inflatables: 'The biggest damage inflicted by the art market is that it increasingly questions the transience of art.’ After the metamorphosis of the 'transient' happening in enduring and sellable objects for the art market, the resort to inflatables to keep up appearances is a joke. That they are inflatable, does not mean that they would no longer be enduring objects. Quite the contrary: they can be re-inflated on countless other places. Talking about appearances! Under the guise of the anti-commercial artist who scorns 'consumerism', Paul McCarthy knew to conquer his own cosy niche in the art market. Should we not rather replace the mask of the p.gf¨ckIng Bush with that of Paul McCarthy himself?
Paul McCarthy, Spaghetti Man, 1993, Collection FRAC.
In that same 'The Painter' (1995) where Paul McCarthy has Willem de Kooning down his underpants to have his .ss sniffed by his admirers, the painter repeats: ‘You can’t do it anymore, you can’t do it anymore’. Whereby he wants to stress that painting is really outdated. Did not Paul McCarthy himself meanwhile 'desublimate' painting into the real thing: smearing the penis with ketchup?

But, transforming art in real action has its consequences: smearing a penis with ketchup might be welcome in some dark corner of a sex park, but not in the spotlights of the temples of art. We already described how Paul McCarthy had therefore the transient happenings undergo the metamorphosis to enduring object - and hence to sellable ware. No doubt: art, but art of a lamentable quality, not only form the point of view of content, but from a formal point of view in the first place. The filmic tours de force of Paul McCarthy are nearly discernable from those of the porn-industry - where Hollywood is really 'desublimated' from a stylistic and contentual point of view. How poor the quality of the filmed versions of the performances is, is betrayed by the curators of the show in the SMAK themselves, in that they project highlights simultaneously of giant screens. Magnifying and addition of highlights as a compensation for a lack of artistic eloquence. Even Wim Delvoye exclaims, on occasion of the giant proportions of 'The Garden' that Paul McCarthy 'could have said the same with a mere sketch'. Whereby he forgets that Manzoni's cans with 'Merda d'artista' had already conveyed the entire message of his 'Cloaca' with far more modest means.
To further compensate the poor quality, Paul McCarthy's masterpieces are emphatically provided with the necessary references (in the world of advertisement, the technique is called 'endorsement'). The 'mantra like' movements in 'Bossy Burger' are compared with Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot'. 'Houseboat (2001-2005) is supposed to refer to the film after Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, and 'Bunker Basement' (2003) to Pasolini's 'Salo'. Paul McCarthy resorts not only to writers, but also to real painters: his smearing with ketchup would have been announced by Francis Bacon; his 'Butt Plug' would refer to the sculptures of Constantin Brancusi or Hans Arp; 'Cultural gothic' (1992) would show the true face of Grant Wood's 'American Gothic'; and ''Blockhead' (2003) would refer to Tony Smith. Philippe van Cauteren, the curator of the show in Ghent, goes even further: without blushing, he compares Paul McCarthy with Ensor, Brueghel and Bosch! Thus, the very man who cannot stop repeating in 'the Painter' that 'you really can't do that anymore', is eventually installed in the pantheon of the great... painters!

It is necessary to add: 'Unjustifiably so'. For even curators seem to have become blind for the unbridgeable gap that separates Paul McCarthy's 'Pink Island Train' (2007) from a real masterpiece like Brueghel's 'Parable of the blind'.


The question remains why Paul McCarthy and his work are so welcome in the temples of art? The answer is that pushing the boundaries has meanwhile acquired a good reputation there, to the point of having become a condition sine qua non for being accepted.

For a long time, there have been good reasons for this attitude. As long as the production of images was rather expensive, it was political and religious authorities who determined what there was to be seen on the image. It was not until the introduction of cheaper techniques like prints and photography, or until the increasing wealth brought painting within reach of broader strata of the population, that alternative views could be offered. Critical artworks - many of the greatest achievements of Western Art belong to this category - could not but shock those who were scorned and, conversely, command the approval of those who finally could vent their moral indignation. It is in the first place this long tradition of critical art which has contributed to the prestige of shocking and to the identification of art with pushing the boundaries, here as the imposition of the norm.

Totally opposite to this first form of pushing the boundaries, that scorns injustice and immorality in the name of the norm, is a second tradition, that rather questions the norm. In the West, it is in the first place the sexual moral of the Church which increasingly came under attack. The artists have played a decisive role in this struggle. Their ever more audacious depiction of the pleasures of the flesh could not but shock the religious authorities, who did no shy away from censure: it suffices to refer to Savonarola, who condemned the first nudes in Firenze to the stake. Also this tradition, which, just like the first one, produced some genuine masterpieces next to countless works of the lowest sort, has contributed to the prestige of shocking, and to the identification of art with pushing the boundaries, this time not as an imposition, but as a transgression of the norm.
In a third tradition, it is equally norms that are questioned, although not moral ones, but rather norms of a purely artistic nature: changes of style. Also changes of style are often experienced as shocking, as is apparent from the fact that names of styles tend to be terms of abuse (Gothic, Cubism, Fauves.....). Styles have the same effect as religious symbols: they indicate to which group one belongs. And that can make feelings run high. Because it has mostly been great artists who introduced new styles, art was for a third time identified with pushing the boundaries and with shocking transgression.

Good art, hence, has often been transgressive. In expectance, it is important to distinguish between the three forms of transgression.

For, although Paul McCarthy is apparently very welcome in the temples of art, that is not evident to everybody.

Take Daniël Termont, the mayor of Ghent, who, on occasion of the opening of the show in the SMAK, proudly declared: “Within of the confines of my city, artists are allowed to 'colour outside the lines'. He thereby acknowledges that the mark is overstepped. Nevertheless, in the name of artistic freedom, he will not intervene. And that goes also for Philip Heylen, alderman of culture of the city of Antwerp, who, on occasion of the opening of the show 'Air Born/Air Borne' - in comparison with the show in the SMAK a joke - still had the guts to make a critical note in the name of freedom of speech. For him, 'colouring outside the lines' is allowed, as long as it is permitted to say that it is 'outside the lines. The followers of Pim Fortuyn acted more boldly. they succeeded in referring the six meters high bronze 'Santa Butt Plug' to the courtyard of the Boymans van Beuningen Museum. And the mayor of Angoulême intended to close an exhibition with works of Paul McCarthy.

It is interesting to examine the arguments used in this discussion. The followers of Pim Fortuyn were told that also Ossip Zadkine's statue 'Destroyed City' has been widely contested in 1953, while it is now widely accepted. And that is also the argument with which Philip Heylen called himself to order: have there not been many objections against the purchase of Henry Moore's 'King and Queen' for the Middelheim in 1952'?

Meanwhile, we know that these arguments are not valid. There is a difference between refusing a style and refusing a content: nobody had problems with Ossip Zadkine depicting the despair of a destroyed city. The problem was that he did so in a style that was not generally accepted. In the case of Paul McCarthy, the objection is different: many resent the staging of sadistic orgies in a museum (or the exhibition of a butt plug on a public square). The comparison with Ossip Zadkine would only be valid, when Zadkine had made a statue that glorified the destruction of the city. A valid comparison, on the other hand, would be a comparison with the meanwhile world famous Guillermo Vargas Habacuc, who had the luminous idea of tying a street dog to a wall in the 'Galería Códice' in Managua (2007) and let it starve there from hunger and thirst. That lead to a massive protest from ... animal protectors! Not from the art world, which rather selected the man for the 'Biennale Centroamericana Honduras 2008'. The comparison holds equally for the true to nature wax statues that Maurizio Cattelan hanged on a rope in the trees of a public park in Milan. Since the broadminded authorities let the artist 'colour outside the lines' - Gabriele Albertini, mayor of Milan stressed that 'free expression is the foundation of our society' - an old man tried to remove the sculptures, and fell out of the tree. And the comparison holds equally for the self mutilations of Marina Abramovic in 'Lips of Thomas' (1975), which will be performed in December 2007 in the Guggenheim.*
The protest can be justified on other than moral grounds. Philip Heylen refers to the purchase for some 33.500 Euro of the text 'Iron and gold in the air, dust and smoke on the ground' of Lawrence Weiner for an exhibition of sculptures in the Middelheim in 1997. The man who made a critical note on the moral value of some of Paul McCarthy's sculptures, seems not to come to the idea that letters on a wall cannot possibly be called a 'sculpture', even when the entire art world and Lawrence Weiner himself contend that he is a sculptor. On the ground of this simple fact, the authorities should not have allowed such a 'sculpture' in the Middelheim, which is after all a sculpture park. For the same reason, the galleries of Guillermo Vargas Habacuc should not have allowed him to let a real dog die from real hunger and real thirst in his gallery, and the curators of Guggenheim should not allow Marina Abramovic to really mutilate her real body in their museum. To my knowledge, fakirs and sward swallowers - who, by the way, have style enough to not mutilate themselves - do not belong in the museum, but on the fairground (See: 'Mimesis and art'). These days, it is apparently necessary to remind of the fact that there is a difference between art and displayed reality: Othello only simulates that he is suffocating Desdemona. Someone who does so in the real world is liable to punishment - except when he does it in a gallery, like Guillermo Vargas Habacuc or Marina Abramovic, to enjoy 'artistic freedom'. And that is also why Spencer Tunick pretends to be a 'sculptor'.

Whereas I have no moral objections against the text of Lawrence Weiner or the 'body sculptures' of Spencer Tunick, the objections against creations like those of Guillermo Vargas Habacuc and Marina Abramovic only add up: they have not only a dubious moral status, they are not works of art in the first place.

Not only confusion of norms, hence, but confusion of categories as well.

In order to understand how such confusion came about, we should have a closer look at the economical aspects of transgression: the effect of the nearly completed integration of art as a ware on the free market.

Also on the art market, every innovation promises extra profits and extra attention.

Let us first have a look at the effects thereof on transgressions of the third kind. We already pointed to the fact that styles can make feelings run high. It suffices to refer to the commotion around Ossip Zadkine's 'Destroyed City'. Here as elsewhere on the developing art market, clever guys - artists as well as art dealers who sell their works and curators who exhibit it - had immediately understood that a change of style can cause a sensation and attract the necessary attention. That is why, from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, the merry-go-round of the styles began to turn at an ever faster speed. The carrousel of the '(modern)isms' only came to a standstill when 'postmodernism' proclaimed that 'everything is possible', with the effect that it is no longer possible to score with changes of style. Although the storm has subsided, the ravage is inconceivable. Although everything is possible, one solution is better than another. As a matter of fact - and contrary to what the accompanying ideologies want to make us believe - art is in the first place a question of increasing perfection, step by step, and generation after generation. The longer perfection is improved, the higher the quality attained: Mozart's and da Ponte's Don Giovanni is the last shackle in a long chain (See 'Leda and the Swan'). By ever beginning anew from ever new starting points, the level decreases on each new domain. Add to this that not every style is appropriate to every content. It is not evident to praise the beauty of the body when you are a cubist or an adept of geometrical abstraction. That was not much of a problem to someone like Piet Mondrian. But who would in all seriousness maintain that the whole 'comédie humaine' can be reduced to the opposition between vertical and horizontal? We analysed these problems in 'Ligeti's Aventures'.
As far as transgressions of the first kind are concerned - shocking the perpetrators by reminding them of the norm - there are not much problems. To be sure, the propensity to denounce injustice or immoral behaviour, not out of moral indignation, but in view of profit, can now and then lead to the necessary excesses. But there is strong, inbuilt check on the escalation. Who uncovers, should not have something to hide himself. And that is not always obvious. That is why in these matters there is more profit in the construction of appearances, or in making objectionable conduct acceptable: think of the nowadays so popular demonising of opponents in order to get rid of the norm unpunished. It is precisely to such construction of appearances that we owe an important part of 'culture industry' that cries for being unmasked.

The second kind of transgression on the other hand - the questioning of the norm - offers endless perspectives. Wares are the natural allies, not so much of utility, than rather of the drives. It matters to conquer new markets. Norms differ from culture to culture, and they are often adjusted during the course of time. Above, we described how the severe sexual moral of Christendom came to be questioned in ever broader layers of the population. In every phase of the process during which the flesh was restored, the artists in question could reckon not only on the indignation of those who wanted to maintain the status quo, but above all on the interest of all those who were out at undisturbed erotic pleasure. As the flesh became restored, the possibilities for shocking and attracting the attention were increasingly reduced. But, that is not much of a problem for clever guys. In the dungeons of oppression, many drives are awaiting their liberation. Why not release ever new drives from their chains? The sexuality that came to be freed, turned out to be heterosexually restricted. There remained a struggle to be fought for the homosexual variant. And when this victory was won, the possibility remained to extend the kinds of intercourse and the age of the partners. At the same time, the sadomasochistic universe could be disclosed. The interesting thing here is that the resistance only increases when the drives are released from deeper dungeons: all the greater is the sensation and all the greater the attention attracted.
Sooner or later a boundary is breached. In the limit, the norm itself is questioned. But that cannot but provoke the reaction of those who are thereby harmed. For, cheating is nice, being cheated less. That is why honesty - or faithfulness - is a norm. Or, to bring things to a head: some two thousand years ago, nobody objected when muscled, naked man fought each other with pointed tridents and sharp swards. We owe it to Jesus that such things are no longer permitted today: he tried to teach us that we should love our neighbours like ourselves. That is why our Western democracies are supposed to protect the rights of the entire herd, otherwise than their Greek model, where the 'Masters' judged that other men could be subordinated like 'Slaves' for the satisfaction of their needs and drives. Shall we also question this norm in the name of the emancipation of the drives?

There is no point in promoting the questioning of the norm to the norm, to the new convention, yes even to a holy duty, as the smart guys would have it, who have proclaimed the artist as the transgressor par excellence, and can thereby reckon on the sympathy of all those who find some norm on their way. It only matters to mitigate all too severe norms, to reconsider wrong norms, and to introduce new norms if necessary. We have to be consequent then, and clearly speak out that artistic freedom cannot be unrestricted in matters of morality. Just like the freedom of speech does not include the right to deliberately spread lies, artistic freedom does not include the right to praise patently immoral conduct. Meanwhile, it is only waiting for the moment when the glorification of the rape of babies will reach the galleries and the museum - merely as mimesis on the two-dimensional canvas, or three-dimensional and animated with the 'animatronicst with which Paul McCarthy makes Bush f.ck a pig, if not live like the performances of Marina Abramovic or the installations of Guillermo Vargas Habacuc.
It suffices to overlook the evolution of Paul McCarthy's work to assess how he has succumbed to the escalation of transgression, to eventually end up in what many - with the obligate reference to a great work of art - describe as 'the hell of Dante'.

In this context, it is not superfluous to remark that in Dante's Inferno, those who 'coloured outside the lines' - the 'sinners' in a somewhat antiquated terminology - are not served, but punished. This is a remarkable 'Fehlleistung' (slip of the tongue): when indulging in what is apparently a 'sin', there is no waiting long for the warning finger - or to call also that thing by its name: conscience.

Smart guys who shy away for the last windings of the downward spiral to hell, dispose in expectance of a whole array of other possibilities.

A first possibility consists in upgrading the ware: what previously could only thrive in the twilight of the book, the print, the photo or the video, can always be brought into the spotlights. When Courbet painted his 'L'origine du monde' in 1866, it was already possible to peep between the legs on photographs. On a painting, it was perhaps something new. The owner nevertheless hided the painting behind curtains. Today, it is openly on view in the museum, without curtains, and the wait is only for a curator who wants to score in the media hangs it in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The story can be repeated again and again. Homosexual pleasures went under the counter as soon as photography was invented, but it is only with Robert Mapplethorpe that they were allowed in public in the galleries. And that goes also for the - compared with what there is to be seen in the darkest regions of the art industry - rather modest sadism that has been veiled so artsy by Joel-Peter Witkin, that it could pay its respects in the public art circuit - albeit in the sector photography.

Paul McCarthy resorts not only to obligatory transgression, but also to increasing publicity. On a modest screen somewhere in the basement of the museum, his creations would already have been shocking enough. But by projecting his sadistic orgies on all the walls of an entire museum, or by casting his 'Santa Butt Plug' six meters high in bronze and inflating it on a much larger scale in a sculpture park, Paul McCarthy claims the largest possible publicity. That speaks volumes, not only about the large size that is totally superfluous from a contentual point of view, but especially about the 'parody', that shows thereby its true face: there is nothing in creations of Paul McCarthy that betrays that they are meant to be critical. The large size inflated 'Butt Plug' could as well serve as a logo for the factory that produces such playthings, or welcome the visitors at the entrance of an erotica fair. That it is meant as a parody can only be derived from the fact that it is presented in a sculpture park. We need not rely on the context to know that Ravel's 'La Valse' is a parody: the music speaks for itself, regardless of the context.

Also here it applies that what may be tolerated in private or behind closed doors - and that will be necessary and desirable in every culture - must not necessarily be tolerated in public, let alone in institutions that are supposed to hold up standards. For the same reason, deliberate lies may perhaps be tolerated in everyday life, but not on prime time on television, let alone before a plenary session of the UN.


A next way out is far more difficult to unmask: the use of an alibi for staging what is morally objectionable. In that respect, we have a rich tradition in the Western world. It is well known how the nude body of Christ and Sebastian, or of Greek gods and goddesses, knew to enrapture many a man or woman. Even more voluptuous was the deployment of the sado-masochistic universe in Christian art: not so much battles, as rather the graphic depiction of the suffering of martyrs, not to mention the punishments in hell, were a most welcome alibi.

The best alibi, however, is the moral alibi itself. The morally objectionable is shown, not to praise it, but to condemn it. That is in the first place the case with all the minor human vices in the twilight zone between the permissible and impermissible: think of the unfaithfulness of Don Giovanni, who is eventually driven in hell, or of 'Cosi Fan Tutte', where the unfaithful eventually ask for forgiveness. But it can be extended without problems to the darkest corners of the moral universe: the more graphic the depiction of vice, the greater the moral indignation.

Everything depends on the way in which the morally objectionable is depicted. The way in which Mozart has composed his don Giovanni cannot but betray the warm sympathy he felt for the hero of unfaithfulness. But that goes even more for the unforgettable music with which the Commendatore drives the scoundrel to hell: one of the greatest pages in the history of music.

Soon, the formula as handled by Da Ponte and Mozart, was experienced as 'hypocrite' by all those who identified with Don Giovanni. Whereupon the Commendatore was simply fired.

With such music in my ears, my fingers refuse to type the name of 'P..l McC.rth.' With him, the formula is totally perverted. On Picasso's Guernica, you will search in vain for a detail that could turn on a sadist. But Paul McCarthy depicts what he pretends to criticise so graphically, that he nearly suffocates from wallowing. Nobody will point his finger at him, because he does so already himself, and he knows to sell his wallowing as a 'grotesque'. And, just like the torturers of the Inquisition could let themselves pass for the keepers of virtue, he can inscribe himself in the respectable tradition of critical art. If the rapists of babies ever want to conquer the museums, they certainly have to learn something here.

There is still another way out for those who find it too difficult to renew art form a contentual or formal point of view: they can always transgress the boundaries of art itself: and try to let design, displayed reality and (preferably non-verbal) statements pass for art (see 'Mimesis and art').

To succeed, it is crucial to deny that a border is crossed here that simply should not be crossed: the boundaries of art itself. Nobody goes to the Olympics to get a strip-tease served.
It may be surprising, but in matters of art, there is no problem in letting a strip-tease pass for a football match. A host of often brilliant philosophers must meanwhile haven written an entire library to get the trick done. The arguments can be reduced to two. In a first line of reasoning, art is understood as a historical given in the vain of 'In the beginning, art was nearly discernable from magic, mythology and religion. Why should it not continue to take new forms?' In a second train of thoughts, we are triumphantly reminded of the fact that the question 'Is this still art?', has always been caught up by the general acceptance of the objected art works: just think of Marcel Duchamp's 'Fontaine', that has been proclaimed 'the art work of the century'. Needless (?) to remind of the fact that 'Fontaine' is nevertheless not a work of art, and will never be one. After we got served slides in the Tate Modern, and even dying dogs appear on the menu, should it not begin to dawn on us?

Especially displayed reality has - apart from the fact that is more easy to pick a flower than to paint one - its secrets charms. Although the merely imitated world of art can surpass the real world in every respect, the real thing is, notwithstanding its limitations, always more alluring. Already Hume - who therewith draws the proper line between art and non-art - remarked that people immediately leave the 'blood and slaughter' in the theatre when there is a real execution on the market place. That is why a simulated auto mutilation - like that of Paul McCarthy who chops only polyester legs - will never be a match for the 'real thing' of Marina Abramovic. For the same reason, the adepts get a greater kick from the photographed - indexical - mutilation of real bodies by Joel-Peter Witkin - albeit corpses - than from the merely painted mutilations of Grünewald...

Paul McCarthy, Mutant, 1994, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver.


There can no doubt that 'art' - the word speaks for itself - has something to do with quality. Just like we go to the Olympics to admire exceptional performances, just so a museum ought to be a place where works of a more than normal quality are exhibited. If art has something to do with 'pushing the boundaries', then it is certainly standards of quality that should be pushed - ever higher.

We already mentioned the poor artistic quality of Paul McCarthy's work. Just sacrifice some minutes of your precious life to have a look at 'The Painter' (the lowest screen). You probably will be shocked, not only by the pathetic approach of the otherwise already dubious theme, but also by the bluntly ridiculous acting of Paul McCarthy, not to mention the, if possible, still more ridiculous quality of the film as such. I will bet you anything that you have been messing about with that lever to get things moving faster, question of not falling asleep underway, or in the expectance that something might still happen. Perhaps you now understand better what I meant with the trick of the simultaneous projection of 'highlights' on those giant screens in the SMAK.

Paul McCarthy, Bunkhouse, 1996, Courtesy Phillips de Pury & Company.

Do we really have to welcome the maker of such masterpieces as a misunderstood genius? To phrase it otherwise: can you imagine Shakespeare delivering such stuff to his public in The Globe? Which makes it clear at once what of kind of orgy is celebrated here really: that of the rancour of the ever increasing horde of the impotent and ignorant, who cannot but resign when faced with the ever increasing heights the masters of the past knew to achieve. The rancour against beauty - for, in matters of art, beauty is the name of formal and contentual quality. A cleverer guy like Marcel Duchamp had soon understood that he was not a match for Picasso in Paris nor for Kandinsky and Munich, and preferred to perform the trick with the bicycle wheel in New York, hors concours. Of a lower sort is the rancour of Paul McCarthy, who assaults a lower god like Willem de Kooning, to drag him with more pedestrian means - with his tail between his legs - through the mayonnaise and the ketchup. Granted: with Van Eyck, Brueghel, Rubens, Goya, yes even with Picasso in the role of Willem de Kooning, it would have become all too obvious how dreary this performance is! And make it clear what drama of culture is phrased in that seemingly banal quotation from Paul McCarthy: 'There is an old feud boiling, painters versus conceptual artists. The doctrine of painting and beauty versus the doctrine of Michael Asher' (For those who do not know the name of this other misunderstood genius: Michael Asher is a Californian prophet of conceptualism).

All this makes it clear at once what boundaries have not been pushed for decades: those of artistic quality. In the recent past, they have rather been 'deconstructed' professionally, so that we have ended up, not in the realm of immorality this time, but in that of generalised impotence and ignorance - if not in both together.

Ignorance that wants to pass for mastery, succeeds in doing so, and in the end becomes the norm: is this not shocking par excellence?

Paul McCarthy, Butt-Plug, Multiple.

Paul McCarthy, Grand Pop 1977, Los Angeles California, 1977, 1995 {printed}, © Paul McCarthy.



After this analysis, we understand how misleading it is to proclaim after every transgression the artists and their curators to heroes, and to remind all those who feel shocked of Savonarola, the Inquisition, the 'Salon de Refusés' and the 'Entartete Kunst'. Although all the authorities in question may have had their own reasons to feel shocked, in terms of the criteria laid out above, they had not a leg to stand on. Rather is it we who are entitled to feel shocked by the hypocrisy and the lack of quality they wanted to present us as great art.

Nevertheless, the reference tot the Inquisition and the Nazis continues to be remarkably popular. As a warning finger, it suffices to silence every opposition - who wants to pass for a philistine? Certainly not the authorities. Let us quote Philip Heylen: 'Many would have liked me to close a part of the show, so that they would be able to denounce the politician as an exponent of the establishment'. Or Arthur Vlaardingerbroek of Rotterdam who, on occasion of the affair around 'Santa But Plug' in Rotterdam let slip the remark: 'When a politician wants to intervene with the content of art, he cannot fail to be scorned as a Nazi’. The heroic mayors above have also examples of a higher, ministerial rank. Think of the former French minister of culture - Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres from the not precisely progressive UMP. After the performance of Jan Fabre's 'L'histoire des larmes' - yet another hero of transgression who practices culture criticism with body fluids, and does equally not refrain from smearing ketchup and chocolate sauce - nipped the protest in the bud by applauding demonstratively. Not only politicians have learned their lesson. Also the commentators in the press really do their best to not appear as narrow-minded moral crusaders. With slogans seldom to be heard even in the world of advertising, art educators like Amarant lure the herd in the temple to be professionally initiated. Talking about education: the keepers of transgression will not rest before all layers of the population - children included - are converted to the true faith: curator Philippe Van Cauteren - who esteems that a visit of Plopsaland ( a loal version of Disneyland) is more dangerous than a visit to his show, and does not come to the conclusion it had better be closed - provides entire educational packages for schools, and the pupils cannot be young enough to be initiated in the cult. Even of the formerly so scorned 'worried parents' there is no longer any trace. Nowadays it seems rather bon ton to manoeuvre the youngest, even before they can walk, in buggies through the 'inferno', as I could witness with my own eyes.

Paul McCarthy, Bossy Burger, 1991, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.


It pays to have a closer examination of the obligate reference to the Inquisition and the Nazis. Inquisitors and dictators are the personification of everything people loathe in political and religious authorities: the so scorned 'warning finger' - or, if necessary: the torture chambers and concentration camps - of church and state alike. Granted, we had not much to complain during the last decennia - at least not in the Western World. Although the return of the fellows is far from improbable, one cannot escape the impression that they are all too readily invoked as a spectre. Could it be that the widespread antipathy for the 'warning finger' - and the even more widespread cult of the heroes of transgression - have something to do with all those minor and major devils that many so dearly would like to cherish on their bosom, although they do not tolerate daylight? The problem with the abuse of these spectres is that it only obfuscates the fact that the power of state or churches dwindles in comparison with the power of the 'Invisible Hand' of the market, which, in matters of art - in the museum not otherwise than in the porn industry - increasingly imposes the dictate of the obligate transgression, and therewith lures all these minor and major devils out of their holes. The enlightened spirits that would have us march in the ranks of the permanent and obligate transgression, have only exchanged one master for another. Instead of shrinking under the reproving gaze of the Great Inquisitor or the Führer, they rather submit to the dictate of the Free Market and its ware like slobbering dogs. They are the neo-liberals of the art market, who dismiss as 'Fascism' or 'Inquisition' every intervention of man in the invisible, blind mechanisms of which he threatens to become the victim. They want a 'strong state' only to warrant 'artistic freedom', so that the market has free rein. The warning finger may be raised, if not against the ware, but against those who question its supply. The state is allowed to pay, to organise, to subsidise, but not to intervene: that is the privilege of the curators in the conclave.

From the above, it appears sufficiently that I am therefore not an advocate of democratic participation in the conclave: there is no democratic vote about quality. Even less do I plead for an intervention of the political or religious authorities. Quite the contrary: precisely because they are authorities, they have much to defend and even more to hide, and has there to be safeguarded, just like for freedom of speech, a free zone for art, at all cost. But, even more than for political and religious authorities, I am afraid of the invisible authority of the free market: it has much to sell, and hence even more to justify and to obfuscate. That is precisely why it succeeded, not so much a turning art into its very opposite, as rather debasing it into its lowest forms.

It is time to break the stranglehold in which the 'Invisible Hand' threatens to suffocate art. Just like real love, good art is not a ware, but a gift, for which you can only be grateful. For, as opposed to love, which can be reciprocated, this giving can not be answered by giving in turn. Gratefulness and admiration must suffice. Although also this norm has to be handled with the necessary suppleness. After all, also the artist must earn his living. But it must be clear that it is the norm. Since time immemorial, paid love has been called whoredom. It is about time to find a name for paid art.

Two thousand years later, it is time, hence, to chase the merchants from the temple again: they have wreaked too much havoc there during the last century. To do so, we should better not rely on the authorities, question of not falling in the hands of Pharisians. Ever since the Enlightenment, we have a better weapon than Jesus' whip: free speech. It matters to lift the veils behind which the free market hides: in case the fable of the elusive nature of art and the whole rhetoric of transgression (the special variant of modernism included); It is about time that the progressives among us - or simply all those who care about the fate of art - denounce the 'emancipatory' rhetoric that the market has recuperated for its own purposes.
As we succeed in that task, the way will be paved for the long awaited innovations of the image that we so badly need...

Stefan Beyst, November 2007


Posté par edition-qualis à 14:41 - Permalien [#]