Week 9 Postmodernism: Artist as celebrity: Brit Art

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  • When Art and business collide, this is often regarded as selling out, what do you think?What makes an artist a celebrity?Whatother professions can you think of is it seen as “selling out” if you make lots of money from your job. Is itusually just known as “success”.
  • Objectives:To explore Andy Warhol's legacy through yBa artists who embody the notion of artist as celebrity and commercial brandthe artist's use of persona to build up a myth, artists increasingly embracing consumerism and commerce and their use of mass media long frowned upon by the world of fine art
  • Taking Warhol's dictate that "Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art" as a starting point I will examine how subsequent generations, and in particular the young British artists, embraced the idea despite the popular conviction that it is a betrayal of what fine art should be.
  • Some, including Hirst and Tracey Emin who were part of the Young British Artists (YBA) movement of the 1980s and 1990s, set out to make money from the very beginning. They made a play for success and for being art stars even at a very early point in their careers
  • ‘Money is massive,’ he declaredWhat makes Damien Hirst a celebrity?
  • Manycontemporary artists have shown a fascination with commerce, the media and celebrity. Like Warhol, they have found that marketing and publicity provide a way of engaging with the modern world far beyond the narrow confines of the studio, gallery and museum. There has subsequently been much discussion surrounding the complex relationship between contemporary art, marketing, and the mass media.
  • And although Warhol is a key precursor to the YBAs and their U.S. peers, there were others before him who embraced the notion of celebrity and of building the myth around the artist, notably Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali.
  • The emergence of the young British artist was due to a number of factors, firstly these were artists who knew how to use the mass media to create their own brand and persona, and also their subsequent rise coincided with new Labour’s put the ‘Creative Industries’ at the heart of thefuture of Britain, and as such the yBas were packaged alongside the Britpop wave in music.They were once the future of British art. The Young British Artists – YBAs – vowed to shake up, remake and reform the stuffy world of contemporary art. But then along came Cool Britannia and the beginning of the end. Some were seduced by money, others by fame, and before long the YBAs were gone.
  • Julian Stallabrass in High Art Lite, a somewhat scathing appraisal of the yBa scene refelcts upon the fact that “Jonnie ShandKyddd, a relative of Princess Diana, has produced a book of photographs of artists idling on the scene, drinking and falling about…The very fact that this book of” WHAT HE CONSIDERS TO BE”banal and poorly taken photographs was published, and by a major publisher at that, is a register of the extent to which the artists themselves have become a focus for curiosity as personalities, as stars.”
  • SO TO RETURN TO THE ONCE ENFANT TERRIBLE OF THE BRITISH ART SCENE Damien Hirst, he was one of the art stars to emerge from the fine art course at Goldsmiths College in South London, which he attended between 1986 and 1989. Conceptual art was a pervasive influence and so as you will recall from our lecture on conceptual art, it was the artist’s ideas that counted most: any medium could be used and the task of making the art works was a secondary matter that could be delegated to assistants once finances permitted. It was due to tutors such as Richard Wentworth, Jon Thompson and Michael Craig-Martin that students came to regard themselves as professional artists and to focus on cracking the commercial gallery system. To promote himself and his friends, Hirst organised a now legendary student show called Freeze (1988)In 1988, at a time when public funding for art was not readily available (and had been reduced by the Thatcher government), a group of 16 artists, were invited by Hirst to take part in the exhibition. Most of the commercial galleries in London showed a lack of interest in Hirst's project at the time, which led to the show being held in a Docklands warehouse. The event resonated with the 'Acid House' warehouse rave scene prevalent at the time, and drew significant publicity by the connection. It also gave rise to a huge interest on the part of many artists in being curators. Suddenly it seemed Hirst had single handedly created a new career-path and possibility for unknown artists to put a cool-sounding new job-title on their resumés and CVs. Artist-run exhibition spaces and galleries sprang up in the mid 1990's in London based on this idea.
  • The label yBa turned out to be a powerful brand and marketing tool, but of course it concealed huge diversity. The art writerJulian Stallabrass prefers the more sarcastic and disparaging label “High Art Lite” to the acronymyBAIn his book Stallabrass critiques the lack of complexity in the work of the young British artists.Stallabrass states that there is certainly no common programme to this art: there are no manifestos, no group statements, and no shared style. Yet there are distinguishing characteristics that he identifies as: An overtly contemporary flavour to the art, despite it’s ‘Britishness’ is not provincial and thus appeals to an international market The artists have a new and distinctive relation to the mass media and frequently use materials drawn from mass cultureThey present conceptual work in a visually accessible and spectacular form
  • To Take Stallabrass’s point that: An overtly contemporary flavour to the art, despite it’s ‘Britishness’ is not provincial and thus appeals to an international market Validated by Jay Jopling:“...a great piece of art can transcend various ephemeral, cultural situations. To give you a clearer idea... I’m not at all interested in issue-based art ... I’m interested in art which has a certain degree of universality and is able to transcend certain cultural and generational differences.”
  • Stallabrass“To court a wider audience, high art lite took on an accessible veneer, building in references and forms that people without specialist knowledge would understand – and even sometimes , in its use if mass culture, incorporating material that those with specialist knowledge would generally not understand…” (p9)The opening of The Tate Modern,London in May 2000, further fueled the spread of enthusiasm for the work of the yBa artists.One particular artists involved in both the 'Freeze' and 'Sensation' exhibitions was Tracey Emin. Her later work entitled 'My Bed' caused a great deal of shock, when shortlisted for the 1999 Turner prize. Charles Saatchi later bought this piece for £150,000.In 1999 Emin was shortlisted for the prestigious Turner Prize, causing a raging controversy in the art world over her piece entitled, "My Bed." Critics were scathing in their censure of the piece, but it did have its supporter as well. "My Bed" (Figure 4) was a double bed, ostensibly Emin's actual bed in which she had lain for four days while contemplating suicide. The bed had no frame and was instead a mattress laid atop a box made of wood. The soiled sheets are ripped halfway off, exposing the striped ticking of the mattress beneath. A small bedside table rests on a blue, soiled rug next to the bed. On the table is an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts as well as photographs, over- the- counter medications and condoms. The rug is also strewn with other artifacts from Emin's life, including her dirty, bloodied underwear, Polaroid photographs, stuffed animals, a tube of KY Jelly, empty cigarette cartons, crumpled papers, used condoms and empty vodka bottles. The final touch is a rope noose hanging above the bed, a silent testament to Emin's pain and narcissistic exhibitionism. It is not only Emin's artwork that evokes pop culture and the world of celebrity. For Tracey Emin has not been content to remain within the sphere of the art world, but has become a demi-celebrity herself.
  • What really made Damien Hirst famous far beyond the art world were shock-horror sculptural installations using dead animals— cows, lambs, fish and sharks—presented whole or sliced into parts, preserved in formaldehyde in large vitrines. (The animals were "presented", not "re-presented"; hence, no modelling skills were required. Hirst’s aim was to introduce reality into art directly, not to depict it.) As Hirst pointed out, humans have often killed animals in order to look at them (but was this any reason to continue the practice?). These works resembled exhibits found in natural history museums and were easy to understand and so became popular but they also attracted vandals, cartoonists, and parodic advertisements and angry protests by animal rights activists. Damien Hirst’s steel and glass vitrines had the rational structure and polished finish of minimal art but inside was dead flesh. The vitrines that protected viewers from the smells of corpses and chemicals were paradoxical because they enabled viewers to see inside but not to enter, smell or touch. Gordon Burn discerned a connection with celebrity:  “Celebrity is about control and distance; it is about adding space to the space that inevitably exists between human beings and remaining apart from the flock. It is about degrees of separation and personal insulation and choosing, as Jeff Koons apparently did, to place the flesh cell of your person inside a second, more unbreachable container tank.”
  • Saatchi was Hirst’s main patron and ensured that his favourite received plenty of press coverage. Hirst also had a flair for self-promotion and marketing. Like his patron, he was an entrepreneur who curated mixed exhibitions with absurd titles and undertook a variety of business ventures.
  • When giving interviews Damien Hirst tends to make contradictory statements and admits his opinions may be different the next day so any quotes must be read with caution. About art, fame and celebrity, Hirst has remarked:“Art’s about life and the art world’s about money, and money and celebrity are just tiny aspects of life. So if you keep your perspective on that, it’s fine. I think art should be able to deal with celebrity. I don’t think you should ever let celebrity become more important than art but I think it’s a part of it. I think a desire to be famous is a desire to live forever which is very fundamental to art.”
  • In and Out of Love (1991) In this work canvases were hung with chrysalises in a closed room; the butterflies, hatched, fed off sugared water, flew, bred and died – some inadvertedly by art lovers. In a separate room, their bodies were painted into the bright colours of other canvases.  The work was symptomatic of various recent developments on the British art scene. Non-art objects, or beings, brought into contact with traditional fine-art materials and modes of display, such as the gallery and private views.
  • like Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst was willing to endorse products, such as Absolut Vodka, and to make advertisements for billboards and television, to direct pop music videos (Country House for Blur) and to design record cover albumsStallabrass has argued that Hirst’s work now functions like a logo for the artist’s personality and that he is able to market his work successfully because of his celebrity status.Hirst: work and identity are not strictly seperable, he is the pioneer of this approach and its most prominent exponent.(This is different from the celebrity artists enjoyed by British artists in the past, there have of course been previous isolated examples in Britain and the USA) Hirst: unusually for a contemporary artist receives a great deal of mass media attention and not for the usual reason that contemporary art gathered column inches in the past, that public money has been wasted on it. He is as much known for his lifestyle as for his art and he takes care to ensure they are thoroughly entangled.
  • In the summer of 1991 for his graduation show from the Royal College of Art, the artist exhibited a blue Heritage plaque in an otherwise empty studio which commemorated his own presence as a sculptor. The title Cave refers to an allegorical picture of Plato, which describes a model of perception. A group of prisoners have been chained in a cave since childhood with no experience of reality other than the flickering shadows cast by the people and things moving along a path in front of a fire situated behind them. In the plaque, the artist was represented by a retrospective view of his life.
  • A waxwork portrait of Gavin Turk as Sid Vicious singing Sinatra’s My Way in The Rock n’Roll Swindle, in the pose of Elvis playing the part of a cowboy in a movie as a silk screen by Andy Warhol…"I wasn't interested in being a celebrity, to the point where my work was trying to criticise celebrity which stops you being able to see the real value of things. Art is about the public. Sometimes art loses value as it obtains such ridiculous [monetary] values. It becomes elite."
  • Turk highlights the Duchampian idea that questions the connections between artists and the work:“In the beginning I tried to create an artists who had the same name as me. I was interested in the cliché of art, the myth of the artist, stereotyping, all art as types of signature. And at first there was a quite clear and comfortable degree of separation. The artist Gavin Turk had a studio and made art under a certain kind of licence. Now it has become much more problematic to sustain a separation between myself and the artist Gavin Turk.”
  • ‘Sensation’ exhibition at London’s Royal Academy of Art in 1997 was a public airing of the private collector Charles Saatchi, the only major collector of contemporary art in Britain during this period whose dealings affected the entire art market.
  • Populist, careerist? Does this mean that there was a complicit and wilful avoidance of difficult, theoretical or ideological work?Self promotionThe yBas are credited with the revival of the knowing ‘shock’ tactic.MARCUS HARVEY and his painting of Myra Hindley, a serial killer whose victims were young children. “Myra” is made from the hand prints of a child whose age matched those of Hindley's victims. The juxtaposition of opposites- of life and death, innocence and corruption- creates unbearable poignancy. This work provoked such outrage when it was shown in “ Sensation” in 1997 that it was splattered with eggs and ink. Harvey is not glorifying the monster but asking how a set of features becomes an icon of evil.MARC QUINNGained instant notoriety with a self-portrait: “Self” (1991) . It consists of nine pints of blood (that is the amount contained in a human body) taken from his veins over a period of five months, poured into a cast of his features and frozen solid. Instead of conferring immortality like a portrait n stone or marble would, “Self” is fundamentally unstable. “Dependent on a life-support system it emphasizes the fragility and transience of life. Unplug the refrigerator unit and the sculpture would disappear.yBa, a media confection, elaborately crafted? Did it lack coherence other than the drive to ride the wave of attention? It seems to have its roots in art education and in responses to the recession, which from the 1990s put the art market into prolonged hibernation.A product of 90s recession; commercial galleries scaled down, relocated or closed; career and financial expectations of artists changed; empty premises, warehouses.
  • Sam Taylor-Wood, whose photographic self-portrait posing with her trousers down and the words ‘Suck, Fuck, Spank, Wank’, came to sum up the boisterous hedonism of the YBAs
  • Hirst’s says of celebrity status: “You’ve got to become a celebrity before you can undermine it, take it apart, show people that there’s no difference between celebrities and real life. Celebrity is a fucking lie. It’s like; I’ll do a magic trick, and I want it to be amazing. But if anyone asks me how to do it, I’ll show them exactly how to do it. I want you to be amazed twice. Once you’re amazed because it seems impossible, and then, you’re amazed because it’s fucking easy. That’s what it’s like.”Damien Hirst quoted by Gordon Burn. (6 Sept 1997) The height of morbid manner. Guardian (Weekend), pp14-21
  • Artists have always been obsessed with money, from Leonardo da Vinci’s patronage by the Medici, to Salvador Dali being dubbed ‘Avida Dollars’ by a bitter André Breton in 1939. Andy Warhol said that ‘Good business is the best art’; his spiritual love child is the banker turned artist Jeff Koons, famous for the curio-kitsch he peddles to the super-rich, and a big hero to both Hirst and Emin. But Stallabrass points out that Hirst differs from Warhol in one major respect: ‘Warhol never claimed his work had any deep value. He openly said all his work was about money. Hirst, on the other hand, will sign a cigarette butt and tell you it’s art.’In 2008, hours before the world’s financial crash, he sold an entire show at Sotheby’s for £111 million
  • Week 9 Postmodernism: Artist as celebrity: Brit Art

    1. 1. Postmodernism in Art:An IntroductionArtist as celebrity:Brit art and self branding
    2. 2. Trading originality for celebrity?Hirst, the richest contemporary artist in the world, valued at £235million in 2011
    3. 3. Objectives:To explore• Andy Warhols legacy throughyBa artists who embody thenotion of artist as celebrity andcommercial brand•the artists use of persona tobuild up a myth, artistsincreasingly embracingconsumerism and commerce andtheir use of mass media longfrowned upon by the world of fineart
    4. 4. “Being good in business is the mostfascinating kind of art. Making money is artand working is art and good business is thebest art.” Andy Warhol
    5. 5. Material World Tracey Emin Money Photo Spider Legs (2001)
    6. 6. “Money is massive” Damien Hirst
    7. 7. The Shop that Eminopened on Bethnal GreenRoad in 1993 with fellowartist Sarah Lucas, sellingobjects made from beercans and cigarette packetsand T-shirts saying‘Complete Arsehole’ onthe front.This experiment incommerce lasted just sixmonths
    8. 8. Fame and Fortune
    9. 9. CoolBritanniaNew Labour put the ‘CreativeIndustries’ at the heart of itsvision for the future of Britain
    10. 10. “Jonnie ShandKyddd, a relative of PrincessDiana, has produced a book ofphotographs of artists idling on the scene,drinking and falling about…The very factthat this book of banal and poorly takenphotographs was published, and by amajor publisher at that, is a register of theextent to which the artists themselveshave become a focus for curiosity aspersonalities, as stars.”Julian Stallabrass, High Art Lite
    11. 11. ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’, Damien Hirst (1991)
    12. 12. Stallabrass states that there iscertainly no commonprogramme to this art: thereare no manifestos, no groupstatements, and no sharedstyle. Yet there aredistinguishing characteristicsthat he identifies as:• An overtly contemporaryflavour to the art, despite it’s‘Britishness’ is not provincialand thus appeals to aninternational market• The artists have a new anddistinctive relation to the massmedia and frequently usematerials drawn from massculture•They present conceptualwork in a visually accessibleand spectacular form
    13. 13. “...a great piece of art cantranscend various ephemeral,cultural situations. To give you aclearer idea... I’m not at allinterested in issue-based art ...I’m interested in art which has acertain degree of universality andis able to transcend certaincultural and generationaldifferences.”Jay Jopling
    14. 14. Tracy EminMy Bed(1998)
    15. 15. “Celebrity is about control and distance; itis about adding space to the space thatinevitably exists between human beingsand remaining apart from the flock. It isabout degrees of separation and personalinsulation and choosing, as Jeff Koonsapparently did, to place the flesh cell ofyour person inside a second, moreunbreachable container tank.”Gordon Burn. (31 August 1996). Hirst world.Guardian (Weekend), pp. 10-14
    16. 16. “Art’s about life and the artworld’s about money, andmoney and celebrity are justtiny aspects of life. So if youkeep your perspective on that,it’s fine. I think art should beable to deal with celebrity. Idon’t think you should ever letcelebrity become moreimportant than art but I thinkit’s a part of it. I think a desireto be famous is a desire to liveforever which is veryfundamental to art.”Steve Beard. (1-7 September 1977).Nobody’s fool *interview with DamienHirst]. Big Issue, pp. 12-4.
    17. 17. Damien Hirst In and Out of Love (1991)This work was symptomatic of various recent developments on theBritish art scene. Non-art objects, or beings, brought into contact withtraditional fine-art materials and modes of display.
    18. 18. Stallabrass has argued thatHirst’s work now functionslike a logo for the artist’spersonality and that he isable to market his worksuccessfully because of hiscelebrity status.
    19. 19. Gavin TurkRelic (Cave)The original blue plaque fromCave installation encased in aBeuysianvitrine.In the summer of 1991 for hisgraduation show from the RoyalCollege of Art, the artist exhibiteda blue Heritage plaque in anotherwise empty studio whichcommemorated his own presenceas a sculptor. The title Cave refers to an allegorical picture of Plato, which describes a model of perception. A group of prisoners have been chained in a cave since childhood with no experience of reality other than the flickering shadows cast by the people and things moving along a path in front of a fire situated behind them. In the plaque, the artist was represented by a retrospective view of his life.
    20. 20. "I wasnt interested in being a celebrity, to the point where my work was trying to criticise celebrity which stops you being able to see the real value of things. Art is about the public. Sometimes art loses value as it obtains such ridiculous [monetary] values. It becomes elite.” Gavin TurkGavin TurkPop (1993)
    21. 21. Turk highlights the Duchampian idea that questions theconnections between artists and the work:“In the beginning I tried to create anartists who had the same name as me. Iwas interested in the cliché of art, themyth of the artist, stereotyping, all artas types of signature. And at first therewas a quite clear and comfortabledegree of separation. The artist GavinTurk had a studio and made art under acertain kind of licence. Now it hasbecome much more problematic tosustain a separation between myselfand the artist Gavin Turk.”
    22. 22. ‘Sensation’ exhibition atLondon’s Royal Academy of Artin 1997 was a public airing ofthe private collector CharlesSaatchi, the only major collectorof contemporary art in Britainduring this period whosedealings affected the entire artmarket.
    23. 23. Marcus Harvey, Marc Quinn, ‘Self’ (1991) ‘Myra’ (1995)Populist, careerist? Does this mean that there was a complicit and wilfulavoidance of difficult, theoretical or ideological work?
    24. 24. Sam Taylor-Wood,whose photographicself-portrait posing withher trousers down andthe words ‘Suck, Fuck,Spank, Wank’, came tosum up the boisteroushedonism of the yBas
    25. 25. Hirst’s says of celebrity status:“You’ve got to become a celebrity before you can undermine it,take it apart, show people that there’s no difference betweencelebrities and real life. Celebrity is a fucking lie. It’s like; I’ll do amagic trick, and I want it to be amazing. But if anyone asks mehow to do it, I’ll show them exactly how to do it. I want you tobe amazed twice. Once you’re amazed because it seemsimpossible, and then, you’re amazed because it’s fucking easy.That’s what it’s like.”Damien Hirst quoted by Gordon Burn. (6 Sept 1997) The height of morbid manner.Guardian (Weekend), pp14-21
    26. 26. ‘Warhol neverclaimed his workhad any deep value.He openly said allhis work was aboutmoney. Hirst, onthe other hand, willsign a cigarette buttand tell you it’s art.’ Stallabrass

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