Damien, can I bin that work you gave me?
After destroying all his possessions, artist wants pieces donated by his peers to meet the same fate
When the "young British artist" Michael Landy decided to shred every object he owned in 2001, his own rule required that he destroy the beautiful and expensive works of art that had been given to him by fellow artists such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Gary Hume, as well as the 50 canvases produced in his own studio.
Some of these artists were less than pleased when they heard of the impending fate of their gifts to Landy, and the most angry of them asked for their artworks back.
To save himself from any more lost friendships arising out of his latest project of deliberate destruction, Landy went back to some of the same artists, cap in hand, to ask them if they would donate artworks of their choice that he could throw in a giant wastepaper bin, the contents of which would head for a landfill site.
Surprisingly, his friends responded with vigour, with many eager to give him works they regarded as artistic failures. "I felt completely uncomfortable when some artists were angered by my project," he said. "I emailed Damien Hirst and he responded immediately. I thought he had an 18ft spin painting that he felt was appropriate [for the bin] but it was too big to fit, so he gave me two skull paintings instead.
"Tracey Emin gave me some drawings and a plaster sculpture. I texted her when she was in Australia to ask her, and she said she'd just cleared out her studio. She was disappointed that I hadn't got in touch a bit sooner. Artists get rid of their work all the time, or they paint over work they class as a failure," he said.
Landy, 46, who has also had donations from Peter Blake (a self-portrait), Julian Opie and Cornelia Parker, has placed the work, Art Bin, inside the South London Gallery in Peckham, south London. He has thrown in several portraits he painted himself, with which he was disappointed when they did not bear enough relation to the sitter.
"They didn't end up looking like the people I was painting, which is quite embarrassing, and I also put in some other works that were formally wrong," he said.
Landy said the concept behind the endeavour was to build a "monument to creative failure" and that he was open to receiving other artworks over the next six weeks which he would not turn away, even if he privately thought they were too good to be binned.
"I'm not a bin monitor. I have so far found myself thinking 'wow, that's good', but the success or failure of a work is in the eye of the beholder and I have to follow what the artists deems to be unsuccessful," he said.
Artists have a long tradition of destroying their own works. Frank Auerbach famously attended art auctions to buy back work which he did not like, and would then destroy; while Francis Bacon was famously controlling and disposed of his work in a skip – some of which was later retrieved by passers-by.
Landy has previously sold to Charles Saatchi, and his works were included in the notorious "Sensation" exhibition at the Royal Academy in London.
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