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May 13, 2007

What is Art?

Excellent, seriously, a very jolly jape indeed. Trying to find an answer to that age old question of what exactly is art?

Basic set up. Brian Haw, protesting nutter in Parliament Square. Mark Wallinger used 15 assistants and £90,000 to recreate, in perfect detail, the posters that Haw had used. This copy is now the odds on favourite to win the Turner Prize.

So, let's go and get Haw to create another poster ad see whether the galleries will buy it?

George at the information desk smiled when he saw us.     "You're having a laugh," he said. "I am sure     there will be no value. Wallinger is the artist. His work is about     Brian Haw, but what you are doing is... like calling the     artist's model the artist himself." We demanded a second     opinion. Down came an official Tate spokesman. George, it seems,     wasn't joking. Apparently, because Mr Wallinger had spent six     months leading a 15-strong team recreating Mr Haw's work in     painstaking detail, then put the result in a gallery, it was Art. Mr     Haw's original wasn't.

"It's a different context, isn't it?" said the     spokesman. "The material Brian shows is part of a protest. What     Mark has done is take that protest material as a starting point, and     re-create it to create an artwork by putting it in a different     context." Of course. Silly us. We tried to re-create a sense of     profitability by placing our artwork in a different context.


And so to Sotheby's, "the premier auction house for fine     art". As we unveiled our masterpiece at the valuation counter,     the smart young man from the contemporary art department seemed     rather cross that we might wish to quote him. Let's just say     that his gist was that Mark Wallinger was a recognised artist, Brian     Haw wasn't, and we might like to leave now, taking our     "priceless original" with us. Watched by the smiling     security guard, we did.

And there is the answer, the same one we've been getting for a century and more. Art is whatever is created by the artist. Even a full and direct copy of someone else's scribbles and designs becomes hallowed as "art" if it has been touched by a member of the priesthood.

An old Chesterton quote comes to mind (from memory): When people stop believing in God they don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything.

May 13, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink


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This 'jape' is less original than the 'artwork' they are taking the piss out of. I can remember the Telegraph doing something similar with Tracey Emin's bed, and I suspect at some point in 1917 there was a Telegraph and Morning Post reporter trying to flog urinals around London's galleries.

Posted by: Matthew | May 13, 2007 10:21:15 AM

Surely then, that makes it art after all. Being not original, they are painstakingly copying someone else's endeavour so it must be art, or is it purely the imprimature of "the artist" that makes it so ? Hell, one should spend 15 months carefully working out how to use a colour photocopier, add one "famous" name as a signature, and, there you have it !

Total and complete unmitigated rubbish, almost the entire modern art scene is so far up its fundamental orifice that it it probably couldn't find the way back out again with a searchlight.

Posted by: Ed snack | May 13, 2007 11:28:10 AM

Couldn't he sue them for copyright infringement?

Posted by: Tim Almond | May 13, 2007 4:19:41 PM