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Dec 022011

What is art? While its boundaries are hard to encompass, Webster’s defines art  as:

  1. Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.
  2. An occupation requiring knowledge or skill.
  3. The conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.

This vague nature of the definition has made it possible for all types of  twisted abominations to be labeled  as art and sold at ridiculously inflated prices.

As a result those who want all the perks of being an artist but don’t want to do all of the work  have taken a shortcut. Rather than dedicate themselves to enriching art they have chosen to be smart asses at art’s expense. They become Conceptual and or Appropriation Artists. They remind me of that butt-hole Samurai in Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo who carried a gun around thinking he was hot shit in a champagne glass.  In reality he was cold diarrhea in a Styrofoam cup.


Conceptual Art

The term Conceptual Art came out  in the late 1960’s to describe   types of art that no longer took the form of a conventional art object. Conceptual artists do not set out to create drawings,  paintings, or sculptures to fit their ideas into an existing form.  Tut tut! Instead they think “beyond the limits” of  retards capable of only using  traditional media. These modern Art Gods transcend primitive techniques and  work out their concept  with whatever materials that pop into their head. They give the concept priority over tradition, skill, and discipline.  Like an NBA team of midgets that can’t dribble or dunk and refuses to follow the rules.

An important difference between conceptual art and real art boils down to the question of artistic skill. The sad truth is that skill plays absolutely no role in conceptual art. All you need is  hostility toward tradition and the poker face to take your own bullshit conceptual art seriously.

Appropriation Art

Appropriation Art is the direct taking over into a work of art a real object or even an existing work of art. The practice can be tracked back to the Cubist collages and constructions of Picasso made from 1912 on, in which real objects such as newspapers were included to represent themselves. Appropriation was developed much further in the “pieces” created by the French artist Marcel Duchamp around 1915.  His most infamous piece ” Fountain” was a men’s urinal signed, titled, and presented on a pedestal.

“Fountain” by Duchamp 1917

Later, Surrealism began to make extensive use of appropriation in collages and objects like as Salvador Dalis and his Lobster Telephone. In the late 1950s appropriated images and objects begin appearing extensively in the work of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.  However, the term seems to have come into use specifically in relation to certain American artists in the 1980s, like  Sherrie Levine and the artists of the Neo-Geo group particularly Jeff Koons. Sherrie Levine reproduced as her own work other works of art, including paintings by Claude Monet and Kasimir Malevich and a remake of Duchamp’s “Fountain”. Her aim was to create a new situation, and therefore a new meaning or set of meanings, for a familiar image.

“Flag Encaustic” Jasper Johns oil and collage on fabric mounted on plywood,1954-55

Robert Rauschenberg’s untitled ‘combine’, 1963. Oil, silkscreened ink, metal, and plastic on canvas, 82 x 48 in.. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

“Fountain” 1991 Sherrie Levine bronze urinal, modeled after Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 Fountain.

Balloon dog sculpture by Jeff Koons

Then came Damien Hirst. El Diablo

Damien Hirst. Evil Asshole. This guy really lives up to the name “DAMIEN”

British artist Damien Hirst is a conceptual appropriation artist. He’s also a total douche. He is the most prominent member of the group known as the Young British Artists, who dominated the art scene in Britain during the 1990’s. He is  is reportedly the world’s richest living artist, with his wealth valued $430m in  2010.

Yet he can’t draw, paint. sculpt, sketch, anything even remotely interesting and anything he does create is bullshit appropriation.

For the Love of God is a “sculpture” by Hirst is a cast of an actual human skull he purchased at a Gothmart in England. The cast is made entirely of pure platinum.

Hirst covered the skull  with 8,601  diamonds  obviously because a solid platinum human skull just wasn’t pimped enough.  To his credit Damien made sure the diamonds were legitimate source and not conflict diamonds so he could sleep at night when he sold the the finished piece for  $100 million. This is the highest price ever paid for a single work by a living artist.

(L) “For the Love of God” by Damien Hirst (R) Collage by Cartrain

In 2008, a 16 year old London Graffiti Artist calling himself Cartrain created a collage using an image of Hirst’s skull and was selling prints online. Hirst sent his lawyers in and had the collages removed from the online gallery and had the remaining artwork inventory sent to him. Not only that, Hirst then demanded Cartrain pay him for any of the sales of the collage. Remember Cartrain is 16 years old and Hirst is worth over 400 million dollars.

The story gets better. The kid wasn’t going to take it lying down.

In July 2009, Cartrain walked into Tate Britain and jacked a box  of Faber Castell 1990 Mongol 482 series pencils from Damien Hirst’s installation, Pharmacy. Cartrain then made a ransom demand.

“For the safe return of Damien Hirsts pencils I would like my artworks back that  Hirst took off me in November. Its not a large demand he can have his pencils back when I get my artwork back.  Hirst has until the end of this month to resolve this or on 31st of July the pencils will be sharpened. He has been warned.”

Cartrain was subsequently arrested for $100,000 worth of theft  and  faced charges for what would be the biggest art theft in British history. Hirst wanted the kid’s balls nailed to wall. But strangely in December 2009 The Metropolitan police dropped all charges against Cartrain.

Cartrain now uses the pilfered pencils to sign his print edition artwork and is a personal hero to those of us here at Man vs. Art.

Listen to the podcast for where I go “DEEP into the rabbit hole” about this whole affair.

“Pharmacy” Installaton by Damien Hirst

Were Cartrain jacked the pencils from.

The million dollar box of pencils Hirst and Scotland Yard were crapping themselves over.

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