Friday, October 12, 2007

Is it art or vandalism? Love or rape?

Exhibit A is an approximately white canvas, one panel of a triptych, which many would consider artless, even if they were willing to concede its value as conceptual art.

Exhibit B, the "after" shot, shows the same painting with a large lipstick smudge painted by artist Rindy Sam. Her modification is arguably artful; I don't know enough about painting to judge it on formal or technical grounds, but certainly one could admit her gesture of audacious intervention in a heterotopic space is consistent with the field of 20th century conceptual art.

She called this an act of love, and said she thought the artist would've understood. Perhaps she was thinking of Marcel Duchamp, who is reputed to have claimed that his painting on glass "The Bride Stripped Bare..." was improved when it was cracked as a result of being accidentally dropped in transit to an exhibition. Or of Man Ray, who, when someone took him up on the challenge implied in the title of his sculpture "Object to be Destroyed," cheerfully made another.

As far as I've been able to learn, Twombly has made no comment on this case. Sam is being punished/published by the French government (who proposes to rehabilitate her into a model citizen by means of civility classes) and sued by the owner for more than the estimated value of the painting.

I imagine, though, that that value is now a moving target. She has probably increased it significantly by drawing international attention. I certainly hadn't heard of it before yesterday, or I would have cited it in my master's thesis -- the title of the triptych, "Phaedrus" references Plato's dialogue in which Socrates decries writing as a secondary, empty form of communication that can never simulate the presence of speech. (Really, wasn't Twombly inviting this response, at least on the level of fantasy?)

I think the owner should play this up as much as he can for the next few weeks, and then sell the painting, drop the law suit, and split the profits with Sam. (Maybe that's what they'd planned all along?) And if he's so enamored of the unmodified painting, he can commission Twombly to paint him another. Should take all of 5 minutes, so how expensive can it be?

1 comment:

belinda said...

The problem is that art at that level is wholly a commodity, and as such is subject to propiety laws. So yeah, she transgressed by damaging someone else's property. the trick now is to do away with the object. To have art as an act rather than a thing.