Transgressing The Boundaries: An Art Exhibition
Like the Wicked Witch of The West from Wizard of Oz, we have our own flying monkeys who run our errands, just this week they traversed the realm searching for interesting art pieces for they were needed for our exhibition. From 16th-century Germany through to the horrible 20th century to the present day, they flew and thanks to their efforts, we present you a curation that crosses the bounds of space and time. You will find what was essential, what was controversial and what was straight-up creepy, all in one place. These works force us to reconsider the very nature of art.
Fountain by Marcel Duchamp
In 1917, the Society of Independent Artists, which claimed to accept any artwork if the artist paid the fee, received an anonymous submission named Fountain which was an upside-down urinal signed “R. Mutt, 1917.” The board decided that it was a practical joke and not a true work of art and rejected it. In protest against this decision, board member Marcel Duchamp resigned. He later revealed himself to be the creator of the Fountain. This story is a legend in the world of art.
Why did our flying monkeys select this? Well, there are three reasons: firstly, their sense of humor is a bit messed up. Secondly, Fountain challenges us to rethink what we think about art. There is nothing artistic about a urinal but the fact that Duchamp chose it and placed it in a certain way makes it a work of art. By recontextualizing the urinal, Duchamp created a new object altogether.
It raises a question, does art need to be made? If there is no artistic finesse behind a work of art, is it really art? This question divided the art world in the early 20th century, Fountain itself is now a classic. Duchamp’s art was against what he called retinal art. What happens in such art is a form of deterritorialization, a urinal invades art: the everyday invades the special, the vulgar invades the beautiful. The third and final reason why our flying monkeys selected this art(?) was because Duchamp’s name has some affinity with the word Chimp. (See how this article about art is invaded by elite monkey humor?)
The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili
In 1996, a decade and 69 years (that's a nice time) after Duchamp’s Fountain, the world witnessed an 'outrageous' painting by Chris Ofili titled The Holy Virgin Mary. When our flying monkeys started telling us about this painting, we almost choked on our coffee. They said, and we quote, “Ooga booga” wait, quoting them probably is not the best idea.
Apparently, this painting faced a lot of backlashes because it is the perfect example of vulgar invading the holy. What you see around the figure of Mary is not little angels but cute cutouts of cute butts from pornographic magazines. The two rough spheres you see supporting the painting at the bottom are made of organic elephant dung.
On this sexualization of a holy figure Ofili said, “When I go to the National Gallery and see paintings of the Virgin Mary, I see how sexually charged they are. Mine is simply a hip-hop version.”
Comedian by Maurizio Cattelan
A banana duct-taped on a wall by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan was sold for $120,000 at Art Basel back in 2019. Why our flying monkeys selected this one is... obvious. Because banana.
Remember Duchamp? The urinal guy? Yes, this relates to him. This work is Duchampian in the sense that it asks us to reconsider what art really is. Even a child could have made this but for something like this, the expertise and artistic excellence is not what counts but the idea does.
This conceptual art was made into a performance art when David Datuna ate it. If the banana is eaten, does the art not exist anymore? No, silly, the object is not what is actually valuable here but the idea. Three editions of the idea have been sold, basically three people can just follow Cattelan’s instructions to tape a banana on a wall and call what they make an original Cattelan. Similarly, Duchamp’s Fountain itself has multiple original editions. The whole banana thing was then all about the ideas. It puts a strain on the narrow perception of art and that makes it valuable.
Ambassadors by Hans Holbein
Hans Holbein was a German artist who was King Henry VIII’s official painter. King Henry VIII is the simp who broke away from the catholic church for a chick and changed the entire history of England. The painting has a rich political context and it would be great to discuss it in detail but our flying monkeys did not bring this painting because of all that nuance.
When we asked what is so cool about this one they said “Memento Mori” which translates to “remember you will die.” Monkey life is difficult. Anyway, what is super cool about this work is a skewed skull. Why is it skewed? Well, now use your imagination.
This painting is life-sized, the skewed skull, is not concentrated in your field of vision as it is on this screen rather it is stretched across it but when, after taking a good look at the picture you move ahead and leave the painting behind, the skull, because of this changed perspective, takes shape. As you move ahead, you must remember that death is right around the corner, looking at you. There are even cooler things in the painting which you can read
Man and Woman by Jogen Chowdhury
Chowdhury is an illustrious contemporary painter from India who mixes erotic with grotesque. Our monkeys did not like the slender and beautiful bodies that are often found in great paintings, they wanted something closer to nature because they themselves are close to nature.
In his work there is wrinkled and sagging flesh, unlike the perfect bodies of painters of, say, Renaissance. A perfect contrast can be seen between the Monalisa and his Monalisa in My Dreams .
All around us we see models who go through intense re-touching to set unnatural beauty standards so, it is works like this that show that these bodies are subject to ageing and decay.
Cortège of the Third Realm by Jompet Kuswidananto
This installation is by an Indonesian artist Jompet Kuswidananto. If you look carefully at it, you will notice that these are saddles, lashes and even tails but no horses. This work demands the viewers to finish it using their own imagination. People from different cultures will associate different things with horses, like cowboys, Rajput boys, warriors and so on.
Our monkeys chose this one because it is a pure contrast to Duchamp’s Fountain we just saw. Our monkeys are kinda astute. If being detached from context made Fountain so cool, it is a whole 180 degrees for this one. This installation works precisely because it is drenched in context but the context itself is missing. It allows a variety of meanings depending upon the viewer.
Thank you for checking out our exhibition, if you found the random monkey-ness of it distasteful, then we should tell you that it was intended. Art is considered to be snobbish and belonging to high society but it does not need to be so, the thing with good art is that it is for everyone, even monkeys.