Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Art! Fuckers!

The Classified: Contemporary Art exhibition at the Tate is great.

It's all about advertising really.

In the first room there's this excellent Mark Dion cabinet of things. I wanted to own this. I think that's from working in advertising, it means when you see art, you want to buy it.

It turns it into a commercially viable object, and therefore makes it less threatening. Or accusatory even.

I don't know, but I reckon Charles Saatchi has a bad case of this.

There's a couple of really big Hirsts in it. One is a whole room, a sculpture you can be in, and as modern consumers we're all experts at reading environments, so all your environmental senses light up, and you think 'I'm in a hospital' and that is part of it.

There's also 'The Chapman Family Collection' which is a dimly lit room full of sculptures that look like tribal African art, but as you go further into the room you see that they all incorporate elements of the McDonalds brand identity.

I insist on my right to take pictures with my mobile in galleries, even though it's not my right. But given my history of high-concept camera phone art I reckon the rule is legally unenforceable in my case.

So we might look at African art and think 'oh how primitive, look at the way they use personifications to connote different ways of being or feeling'. Obviously we now classify this behaviour as branding, but it is the same behaviour.

Sometimes when I'm in the Westfield (I am often in the Westfield) I walk around thinking that you really need to believe in something to create a building like this. In the same way that people believed in a God terrifying enough for it to be worth building cathedrals for.

And when you think about buying an iPod, and the way that you want the latest iPod, but can't ever really have the latest one, because that only exists in a kind of timeless place where things never grow old, you realise that the whole commerical process is votive and utterly primitive, no matter how many apps you download.

My sister got the same feeling in the Westfield and she really is religious. But then, it is an excellent shopping centre.

The part of this that makes it relevant to you is that, according to their own argument, there's no difference between what the Chapmans do and what you do in a creative department. In fact, I believe there's no difference in what it takes to become the Chapmans and what it takes to become an advertising creative. They went to art school, they did apprenticeships with Gilbert and George and then they started working.

I think the art world, seen from where they are must feel just like the advertising world feels from the inside. You struggle to get into it, and it seems like people that really do it are a whole different species and talented in ways you could never be. And then when you finally do get into it most of it is shit and hype, apart from the one or two people who you admire who maybe died before you got to meet them. The rest is just administration.

If anyone wants to talk about the difference between Banksy and the Chapmans we can do that.

Banksy makes art for London Lite readers.


Ben said...

Art these days often seems to consist of contextualisation. Since Tracy Emin's bed (and probably before) you can just take anything you like, claim it as art and there you go.

I don't buy it. It just feels like they're taking the piss.

I like a bit of craft. The Chapman Brothers' Hell 2 was craft+concept and endlessly engaging.

I could be missing the point.

But there is no point.

Anonymous said...

Banksy also charges for every use of his art in media.
He comes he trashes your backyard, but if you trash his trash you get charged.
Funny that.

Brian Sewell said...

The Chapmans make art for Metro readers

- not much difference in Banksy's simplistic (advertising inspired) one-line pictures, and a one-line joke about the juxtaposition of religious african artifacts featuring macdonalds logos. Either way, it's hardly profound

the Dion thing is good though

Gordon Comstock said...

Ah, but, Brian Sewell, that's just what I thought you'd say.

The Chapmans Family collection feels different when you're in it. It feels like something big. And you can only get that feeling from being there with it, rather than just thinking about it.

Banksy has never ever made me feel anything but irritated. He just doesn't work on that level.

Cleaver said...

The problem for artists who still insist on using their art to try and communicate a "meaning" is that we do that sort of thing so much better than they do.

I'll take your word for it on the execution, but really: "McDonald's-themed african statues"? If that idea came across your desk in a student book, you'd tell them they were trying a bit too hard.

Call me a raging conservative, but i'm looking for a bit more richness in my art.