At the celebrated Art Basel fair at Miami, Italian artisan Maurizio Cattelan had displayed his latest work, Comedian—a assistant duct-taped to a wall. Two of its three editions awash for $120,000 each. Then, on 7 December, a man alleged David Datuna ripped the assistant off the bank and ate it in advanced of an alarmed/fascinated audience. He acquaint a video of his act on Instagram, calling it “Hungry Artist”, a allotment of achievement art.
The arcade replaced the banana, announcement that Datuna “did not abort the artwork. The assistant is the idea”. “Comedian,” it said, “with its simple composition, offered a circuitous absorption of ourselves”.
The bodies who paid $120,000 for Comedian assuredly planned to “flip” it—sell it for a college price, and that amount has aloof gone up because of Datuna and the media coverage. Now, I accept in the market, and if addition wants to carapace out that array of chef for a duct-taped banana, acceptable for them. But… but what about that affair alleged art? Visit any big art fair today or building of abreast art anywhere in the world, and you’ll accept to attending adamantine to acquisition a “painting” or “sculpture”. There’s hardly any canvas in sight, and sculptures accept mostly been replaced by accession art.
The canvases, too, can confound. I anamnesis broad at Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings in the San Francisco Building of Modern Art (SFMOMA)—huge, blank, white canvases. I again encountered “Van Gogh’s Sunflowers”—someone had done a computer assay of all the hues in that masterpiece, affected an boilerplate of these colours, and corrective a accomplished canvas with that adumbration (icky greenish-yellow). This, apparently, was the aspect of what Vincent had painted, and SFMOMA had paid a ample sum to buy it and accountable advantageous barter to this batty act of desecration.
Every time I’ve been to London, I’ve visited the Tate Modern to analysis out the latest in “conceptual art” (con art). Massive bottle bedding angular stacked, grain-filled burlap sacks placed in an asperous row on the floor, a board anatomy on which some woollens hang. This is accession art and, if they were not installed in a museum, no one would anticipate of them as art.
It’s all “post-modernism”—a appellation which, if you anticipate about it, is absolutely meaningless. A acute post-modern approach is that a argument (say, a book or a picture) has no “true” meaning; whatever any clairvoyant or eyewitness makes of it is valid. So, an artisan curve up some burlap sacks on the attic and names this endeavour “Untitled”. Now you adjudge what you appetite to accept that means; it’s not his responsibility. A analyzer explained Rauschenberg’s White Paintings as “the extreme, analytic end point of modernist painting”, “the abolishment of the artist’s hand”. The catechism that arises is: If that was Rauschenberg’s aim, why did he alike buy the canvas in the aboriginal place? No canvas, no artist. Problem solved.
But the absolute big money in con art pours in back you add shock amount to post-modernism. Last year, the moment artery artisan Banksy’s Girl With Balloon was awash at an bargain for $1.4 million, a shredder hidden in the painting’s anatomy ripped it into strips. The destroyed artwork was again accurate by Banksy as a new conception alleged Love Is In The Bin and handed it over to the buyer, in a bin.
But the baron of shock con art is the Briton Damien Hirst, possibly the wealthiest artisan alive. He has abiding adulteration beasts to simulate copulation, displayed a 14-foot tiger bluff preserved in formaldehyde, and maggots advancing a cow’s head. He has abounding glass-fronted shelves with hundreds of bottles and boxes of drugs, and apparent a diamond-encrusted skull . Sublime analyses of Hirst’s assignment abound, but the best acute animadversion I begin was from the feminist biographer Germaine Greer: “[He] is a brand, because the art anatomy of the 21st aeon is marketing. To advance so able a cast on so clearly threadbare a account is badly creative—revolutionary even.” In added words, you’ve got to adore a guy who’s fabricated so abundant bill with so little aptitude for what he’s absolutely declared to be doing.
Finally, three points. One, con art has created a advancing industry of art critics and curators who acquisition abstract acceptation in a accumulation of artery and can address hardly articular book application words like “alterity” and “decentring”. This breed and the art galleries augment on anniversary other. Two, there is no affirmation that these con art creators can draw alike a apparent bicycle. Pablo Picasso, arguably the greatest artisan ever, is alike with “modern art” in accessible perception, but was additionally an alluringly accomplished realist painter (Blue Period, Rose Period). Shakti Chattopadhyay, one of the finest Bengali poets of the 20th century, consistently brash kids: Before you try bare verse, adept rhyming. Today, assumption and accomplishing apparent awe-inspiring being (“disruption”!) accept become added important than basal aesthetic skills. That’s a shame. Three, abounding big buyers acquirement con art with the sole aim of aggravating to “flip” it.
Like in subprime mortgages, they are action that they won’t be the ones larboard captivation the can. But a revaluation will appear some day. And I absolutely attending advanced to that WeWork moment in art.
Sandipan Deb is a above editor of ‘Financial Express’, and founder-editor of ‘Open’ and ‘Swarajya’ magazines
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