Get your own Hirst for just £1.86!
An exhibition uses readymade objects to question the excesses of the contemporary art market
Sunday 30 September 2012
To some it was a standard porcelain urinal, to others a landmark of 20th century art, a cornerstone of the avant garde. The French artist Marcel's Duchamps' Fountain provoked an international scandal when it was rejected for exhibition on the grounds that it was not art. Nearly a century on and a distinguished British art historian and critic is challenging the public over whether art can be produced by those who have a talent for drawing or those who can simply draw breath.
Edward Lucie-Smith questions whether art-lovers who forked out £1.75m for a Damient Hirst spot painting would not have done better hanging up a £1.86 spotted table-cloth from Sainsbury's instead. He advises they also avoid laying out tens of thousands for Tracey Emin's words in neon lights, by seeking out similar objects on eBay for under £20.
The art expert plans to mock Hirst and Emin by staging an exhibition with ordinary mass-produced objects similar to their so-called "artworks" but at a fraction of the price. Other exhibits include a spotted toilet-seat bought in Tesco for under £25. While the dozen exhibits (10 "Emin-like" neon pieces and two "Hirsts") are pointedly humourous, his serious point is that – at best – these artists simply rehash Duchamp's urinal joke, at the buyers' great expense.
"In choosing these objects from ordinary commercial sources, I am directly in the tradition of Duchamp, the inventor of the readymade [object], who is now regarded as being one of the most important 20th-century artists," Lucie-Smith said. Duchamp's urinal was a prank, he said: "It was submitted to a non-juried exhibition where they were saying 'We'll take anything'… to find out what they wouldn't take."
Lucie-Smith is posing a similar question. "Art is all about perception. Once you say 'This looks like a Damien but isn't', people cease to take it seriously."
None of the mass-produced exhibits, Lucie-Smith said, are copyrighted to the designers by the manufacturers. Nor do objects "pretend to be works by the artists concerned", he added. "They can, however, be regarded as satirical comments on some aspects of their work, both in terms of banality of content and of the huge prices asked for Hirst and Emin 'originals'."
He pointed to the irony that Duchamp's urinal has a toilet-seat heir. He may put the toilet-seat in one of the toilets, rather than a gallery at the Bermondsey Project in London, where the exhibition opens this week.
Hirst, one of Britain's richest men, sells his objects for up to £10.34m. Tate Modern's recent Hirst exhibition drew 463,087 visitors, its most-visited solo show. Emin made her name with an unmade bed and has seen her work sell for up to £157,250.
Controversy surrounding their works is growing in the art world. This year, Julian Spalding, a former museum director, advised collectors of Hirst and Emin to "sell while you can", dismissing their work as "con art" – a play on the term "conceptual art", the so-called art of ideas.
Lucie-Smith argues that abolishing the need for skill and craft, our culture simply focuses on celebrity. As a result he is staging his satirical show alongside an exhibition he commissioned from the Stuckists, artists who promote traditional artistry and whose numbers are growing – in 52 countries, since their founding in 1999. "I think it is time at least some Stuckist artists came in from the cold," he said, referring to their being looked down on by conceptual art's élite establishment.
The White Cube Gallery, which represents both Hirst and Emin, declined to comment.
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers Age of Ultron: 'After credits' scene leaks online days before public release
Groundhog Day musical to premiere at Old Vic from Matilda theatre director
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate