Faithful readers of my blog will recall that I am enamored of collaboration, always a sucker for a chance to match wits with a fellow artist. So imagine my interest to read about art collaboration in the big-time art world (by which I mean written about in the New York Times). Going through some old newspapers I found two articles that I want to share with you.
The first is a glowing story about a guy whose new show consists of works that he "meticulously stole from 77 artists: paintings, sculptures, sketchbooks, video, architectural objects, artmaking devices and more. Equal parts group show and conceptual installation, prank and boundary-pusher, it raises messy art world questions about aesthetic ownership and influence, the division between curator and artist, and the value of nontraditional and repurposed work."
That's right -- this guy, whom I'd rather not make even more famous by naming, went around to his friends' studios and stole something while they were getting a glass of water or answering the phone. After he started this "project" he described it to a gallery owner, who immediately offered him a show. She explains: "one of our missions is to bring the creative community together, and we're very interested in process -- in terms of this show, each artist's individual practice and how they influence each other." She says she thinks of the artist/perp as both curator and conceptual artist, because "He's very thoughtful about each acquisition."
The artists whose work was stolen all thought this was a jolly endeavor, the story tells us.
So isn't this a great idea? Don't just steal your friends' ideas, steal the whole damn painting. The story goes on at length about how this artist has such a hard time coming up with ideas that he's forever visiting psychics, bugging his friends, even paying one of them $200 for a suggestion. Don't you just want to hug him, he's so dim-wittedly adorable?
Sorry, folks, but it makes me want to puke. Shame on this dope, but twice shame on the gallery owner. If she thinks "bringing the creative community together" means facilitating theft, and if carefully choosing what you're going to steal proves what a great artist you are, then I think she needs a crash course in remedial ethics. And shame on the NYTimes writer for glamorizing the whole thing: not only does this raise messy questions about aesthetic ownership, how about plain old it's-my-piece-of-paper ownership?
Tune in tomorrow for another New York Times take on collaboration.