Get your own Hirst for just £1.86!

An exhibition uses readymade objects to question the excesses of the contemporary art market

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.

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders