Art, Artery, Artillery…
The visitors to Spain are seen stumbling at a 13ft-tall statue of King Felipe of Spain at the ARCO Art Fair in Madrid! Well, one of the principal conditions for purchasing the item there was that the buyer would have to burn down the statue within one year, and should record the activity in a camera!
The questions that naturally arise here, Would anyone pay EUR 200,000 to burn a statue of the Spanish Monarch, and if it is so, Why?
Santiago Sierra and Eugenio Merino, who had sculpted the statue, argued that the buyer would purchase a process, and not a product! It is to be noted that British graffiti artist Banksy’s painting, titled ‘Girl with Balloon’, was auctioned for just over EUR 1.1 million at Sotheby’s in London in 2017. However, a part of the painting shredded itself to ribbons immediately after the hammer fell! Later, the artist revealed that a contraption to destroy the work was hidden in the frame. “It was shredded by a mechanism apparently hidden within the base of the frame, with most of the work emerging from the bottom in strips,” stressed Banksy. According to the England-based street artist, vandal, political activist and film director, “the passion for destruction is a creative passion”.
The statue of King Felipe
Banksy claimed that it was Picasso’s statement… well, he is wrong! Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin, the Russian revolutionary anarchist, had issued the statement many years ago! Many had destroyed creations of others as a symbol of protest in the past. Mary Raleigh Richardson entered the National Gallery in London on March 10, 1914 and slashed Velázquez’s famous painting ‘The Rokeby Venus’ with a chopper she had smuggled into the gallery. Later, the Canadian suffragette said: “I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history. Justice is an element of beauty as much as colour and outline on canvas…” Pankhurst was the leader of moment for women’s suffrage in contemporary England. Again, the action of Lazlo Toth with Pieta by Micheagnialo Buonarrotti, although a sign of insanity, was a somewhat similar action… this incident may even be extended at the stabbing of the left shoulder of Monica Seles… and then the story of the Bamian Buddha’s & the Taliban.
Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei became famous in 1995 by dropping a 2000-year-old ceremonial Han Dynasty Urn on the floor. The act, popularly known as ‘Dropping the Han Dynasty Urn’, shocked many art lovers across the globe, as they believe that it is very unethical to destroy any artefact under any circumstance. However, Ai had argued that he wanted to remind the world about the evils of the Mao Regime. “This historical artefact became more exposed in a way the traditional methods of preservation couldn’t expose it,” said the artist.
Dropping the Han Dynasty Urn
Gustav Metzger was a German artist (and political activist), who had developed the concept of ‘Auto-Destructive Art’ and the ‘Art Strike’! Together with John Sharkey, Metzger initiated the ‘Destruction in Art Symposium‘ in 1966 and got recognised for his protests in the political and artistic realms. In the 1970s, he used a paint spray gun and acid on nylon sheets, which began to disintegrate after a few seconds…
Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely is famous for his sculptural machines or kinetic art; officially known as ‘Metamechanics’. His art satirised the mindless overproduction of material goods in advanced industrial society. Tinguely’s best-known work – a self-destroying sculpture, titled ‘Homage to New York’ (1960) – partially self-destructed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Destruction in Art Symposium
British artist Michael Landy destroyed all his possessions as a part of the ‘Art Bin’ project at the South London Gallery in 2001. The event is best known as the performance piece installation ‘Break Down’. Landy and his associates took two weeks to destroy 7,227 objects as they destroyed all his belongings, except the garments! Landy actually planned to establish the fact that the materialistic world was swallowing us and a person’s identity was being too dependent on his/her wealth.
American artist and educator Raphael Montañez Ortiz, too, performed a series of seven public destruction events, including his piano destruction concerts, during which he was seen destroying a piano with a hammer. French performance artist Pierre Pinoncelli urinated, and struck the urinal with a hammer at a show in Nîmes (France) in 1993. These artists were of the opinion that their acts were a symbol of protest against revolutionary and anti-institutional (or anti-establishment) activities, which, themselves, chose to turn into an institution!
Many people, including goons, artists, protesters and common men, destroyed artefacts in the past… sometimes, they received money for doing so. While some people destroyed artefacts to trigger controversies, the others did so as a part of protests. However, it is a dangerous trend!
If we consider the destruction of art as a new creation, then people, some day, might destroy a statue of William Shakespeare and try to establish the act as a breakthrough installation!
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