Good riddance to good taste

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Allen Jones prints: torpedo breasts, high-heeled fetish boots, tight skirts. Seedy piano bars. Men in broad-brimmed hats and kipper ties. His achievement has been to shoehorn tastelessness into art or, to put it more kindly, to banish tastefulness.

Before Jones's Pop Art of the Sixties, art was pretty and was bought by the pretty rich. You could, of course, hark back to Duchamp's urinal (1917) as the heavy object that shattered the polished vitrine of fine art, as well as the moustache and beard that he added to the Mona Lisa. They are an art-historical succes de scandale. But even avant-garde Cubism and Dada adhered to the laws of form and composition in order to qualify as art. What was lacking was a platoon of artists willing to follow Duchamp through the hole in the glass and capture the dominant images of everyday life - the motifs of consumerism, the blatant excesses of low-life fashion.

Jones's stuff is, of course, old hat. We've moved on. But his datedness, paradoxically, is the point. He spotted the aesthetic of the time - tight, shiny, fetishistic - and stretched it to its limits. At the time, those who did not share his eagle eye latched on to one aspect of his work: sex. Today, as the reaction to Stehli's work demonstrates, the joke is on them.

Jones had been an established name for 10 years before he produced Table Sculpture, which, along with others in the series, sold quickly and are now in major museum collections. But at the opening bash for the sculptures at the Arthur Tooth gallery in London in 1970, some art fanciers who should have known better were unsure whether to treat his work as art. Jones recalls a woman whose eye caught his as she was about to put her empty wine glass on the now-famous glass tabletop. "Should I or shouldn't?", she signalled to him through the crowd. "It's up to you." Jones signalled back with a shrug. And did she plonk her glass on his art? "I can't remember," says Jones.

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