Archive for the ‘Art News Comment’ Category

More than 100 people have commented on Jonathan Jones’s piece, “Should Banksy be nominated for the Turner Prize?”, over the past two days, despite the fact we’ve heard his arguments before. The question of Banksy’s artistic worth, it seems, is something we are all still itching to debate.

Jones has confessed in the past to being “pretty harsh” about Banksy, and to publishing more articles about this “unimportant graffiti and street artist than I care to count”. Writing about Banksy is, Jones says, the “thorn of being an art critic in modern Britain”. “Cy Twombly is the only graffiti artist I care about” (3 June 2008)

However, it is a thorn that has generated a lot of material for Jones’s blog, culminating in the latest piece on his decision not to nominate the street artist for this year’s Turner Prize competition.

His reasons for considering the artist are twofold: one, he would like to be convinced of Banksy’s worth, and two, he would welcome the media attention such a nomination would surely generate. However, he concludes that Banksy no longer generates the same column inches as before, and finally says:

The reason I don’t like street art is that it’s not aesthetic, it’s social. To celebrate it is to celebrate ignorance, aggression, all the things our society excels at. For middle class people to find artistic excitement in something that scares old people on estates is a bit sick.

The vast majority of people responding to this piece argue indignantly in favour of street art, pointing out that it is not the same as “tagging”, and is aesthetic as well as social. An early comment by mroli (15 April 09, 4:12pm) reads:

Are old people on estates scared by street art? I don’t think they are. Certainly not the kind of street art that Banksy perpetrates. How on earth does it celebrate ignorance? How does it celebrate aggression? Don’t nominate him if you think he’s crap, but not nominating him because he is a “social” artist, that encourages discussion, is open to everyone, whose work is essentially disposable and yet adopted as permanent is madness.

Another comment accuses Jones of blatant self-promotion, for the article reveals nothing new about Jones’s relationship with street art, and instead seems to be a thinly veiled boast about his role in nominating artists for the Turner Prize shortlist.

And now, to bring up a blog entry Jones wrote about lazy arts reporting in September 2007, which was always going to come back and bite him on the arse. “Imagine how little news about visual art would appear in the papers,” says Jones, “if the following generic stories were banned:

  1. The most expensive work of art ever
  2. Anything about graffiti
  3. Lost masterpiece rediscovered
  4. Contemporary artists as plagiarists
  5. Art historian/archaeologist makes earth-shattering discovery Restoration stories”

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Thirty-eight years ago, the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) installed Robert Morris’s interactive artwork Bodyspacemotionthings in its Duveen Galleries, and all hell broke loose. Visitors went “beserk” playing on the walls, seesaws, stilts and tunnels, getting splinters in their bums and bruises.

Robert Morris: Bodyspacemotionthings

Photo: Tate

On May 22 this year, Bodyspacemotionthings is coming back to Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

Assistant curator Kathy Noble told the Independent: “It was a landmark moment in Tate’s history. The idea was to encourage viewers to become more aware of their own physicality.”

Concerned art fans will be reassured to learn the new version of the work will be made with contemporary materials instead of the rough wood of the 70s.

This is a sly move on the museum’s part. Bodyspacemotionthings will doubtless be even more popular than Carsten Höller’s slides (2006), if only because of the controversy surrounding Morris’s original.

UBS Openings: The Long Weekend will run for four days from 22 May.

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Shepard Fairey’s Obama poster was named as the Brit Insurance Design of the Year on Wednesday night.

obama poster
Photo: Steve Rhodes

However, there is some dispute over whether or not Fairey deserved to win. He used an Associated Press (AP) photograph taken by Mannie Garcia to create the poster, and AP has accused him of copyright infringement.

The question is: If he didn’t take the photo, does he deserve to win a prize for the poster?

The answer is yes. Artists and designers often use other people’s images in their own work. It’s what they do. Andy Warhol, for example, used images from newspapers and magazines to create his print screens. Fairey should acknowledge Garcia’s photography skills, but the credit for this poster goes to him, and him alone.

And it is without a doubt the most iconic and historically important design of the last year.

As Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum said: “The Obama poster is a reminder of how extensively the design world impacts our everyday life. It has become an international emblem of recent history.”

Source: Creative Review

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Fans of Tony Hart gathered outside Tate Modern yesterday to pay tribute to the DIY art enthusiast, who died earlier this year. Over 200 people turned up to build a plasticine army of Morphs, some of which rode skateboards or read newspapers. One wore a black armband as a mark of respect.

Hart’s daughter, Carolyn Williams, came down to Bankside to judge Best Morph in Show. A Morph holding a pink carnation scooped the prize. Williams was particularly please to learn the “flash mob” tribute had been organised via Facebook. She said:

This is exactly what he was all about. Getting people together to join in and make a picture, to make something. It’s so great.

Morph at Tate Modern. Photo: flashboy Morph at Tate Modern. Photo: flashboy













Hart inspired so many children – and parents – to get their hands dirty and start making art. I used to make my own Morphs out of smelly, dry, months-old plasticine, and I think this tribute is a great way to put the new flash mob trend to use.

Click HERE to see a video of the Morph flash mob on the BBC’s website.

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For the Love of God

Damien Hirst: For the Love of God

Damien Hirst is in trouble with some angry artists, including Tracey Emin’s ex Billy Childish, after he threatened to sue a 16-year-old under copyright laws.

The teenager, who calls himself Cartrain, sold a collage over the internet last year that included an image of Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull, For the Love of God (2007).

Hirst reported the boy to the Design and Artists Copyright Society and made him hand over the £200 profit he made from the sale.

Now Billy Childish and former KLF band member Jimmy Cauty have joined with other artists to publicly object to Hirst’s aggressive protection of his brand.

They too have created a series of works depicting For the Love of God. Cauty wrote to The Independent: “Unlike Cartrain and his gallery we are not intimidated by lawyers and if an injunction is issued, we will simply ignore it on the grounds of free speech.”

While Hirst is well within his rights to (try to) control the use of these images, his actions smack of bullying. It is also ironic that he should threaten to sue someone for appropriating his artwork when he himself has been sued for the very same reason.

Back in 2000, toy company Humbrol said Hirst’s sculpture, Hymn, was a direct copy of its Young Scientist Anatomy Set. Hirst paid an undisclosed sum to two charities – Children Nationwide and the Toy Trust – to settle the dispute.

In fact, an artist of John LeKay claimed in 2007 that the idea to create jewel-encrusted skulls was his, not Hirst’s. If true, that would mean Hirst is fighting to maintain authorship of a work of art that he stole from somebody else in the first place.

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For once, I agree with Jonathan Jones: The new public art commission in south east England, dubbed the Angel of the South, is a monstrosity.

Angel of the South

Mark Wallinger: Ebbsfleet Landmark Project (Angel of the South)

Costing £2m, Mark Wallinger’s giant white horse will be approximately 164ft (50m) tall – twice as big as its counterpart, the Angel of the North, which was designed by Antony Gormley and completed in 1998. The BBC announced today that former Turner Prize winner Wallinger’s design for the southern sculpture had been selected from a shortlist of three.
Out of Order

Richard Deacon: Individual

The other two artists were Daniel Buren and Richard Deacon.

Why they didn’t choose Deacon is beyond me. Although the white horse is an ancient symbol of Kent, Richard Deacon’s organic forms would have rivalled Gormley’s 
powerful sculpture in a way that Wallinger’s horse cannot.

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Rachel McCarthy, 50, mother to a grown-up daughter, once posed nude for Australian artist Ron Mueck. Her creased belly features in Tate’s permanent collection; along with the grey granny pants she wore for the job (not her choice).

Nowadays, Rachel spends most of her time campaigning for artists’ models in the UK to get better pay and working conditions. She works for the Register of Artists’ Models (RAM), which started off as five life models in a pub and now provides a global register of models, as well as jobs pages and guidelines for best practice.

According to RAM, average life modelling fees are:

  • London: £11.06 per hour
  • Rest of England: £9.77 per hour
  • Scotland: £8.48 per hour
  • Wales: £7.80

Adult education facilities are making cutbacks. Even if they’re lucky enough to be put on the payroll at a school or college, models are usually taxed at the emergency rate. They can claim this money back, but Rachel says a lot of models don’t.

Last month, French life models protested against the pittance they earn by stripping off outside the cultural department of the Paris town hall. However, effective strikes can’t be organised in Britain (or, indeed, in France) because there is no union for models. There is no cohesion. If a model puts his or her foot down over pay and the college or artist is unhappy, then that model will find themselves out of a job. Employers know there is a queue of models waiting to take their place.

Listen to what Rachel has been doing to promote better pay for models:

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