A few months ago I was invited to an art gallery for a media preview of a forthcoming exhibition. The invitation said refreshments would be provided so I accepted. The attraction of the media preview, apart from the refreshments, would be that we media people could meet the artist and ask him questions. There were the usual motley collection of journos just out for a freebie and there were one or two intense types with notebooks. Presumably these were the real art critics.
Anyway, we started off in the first gallery to view the first “work” and have it explained to us by the artist. We all listened politely. Then we moved through to the second and third galleries and the same thing happened. The artist explained how he had been feeling at the time and what he was attempting to say through his art. And gripping stuff it was too. Finally we got to the last gallery and the artist’s piece de résistance as far as this exhibition was concerned. It was a work that dominated the entire gallery and one that had been commissioned for the sort of price you might expect to pay on a three bedroom Clifton apartment. The artist explained what it all meant, the intense types scribbled away in their notebooks and the rest of us wondered what the refreshments would be. Then it was our turn to ask questions.
Now, as you may know, I am not usually at a loss for words but on this occasion I couldn’t think of a single question. Well, that’s not strictly true. I could think of plenty of questions but none I could ask without risking a lifetime’s banishment from the gallery’s invitation list. What I really wanted to ask was….do you really think we fell for all that baloney when you were explaining what these works meant?….have you ever considered getting a proper job?….don’t you think a child of five could come up with something as good?…..do you really mean to tell me that people pay good money for this load of old cobblers? Thinking back, I should have asked the questions because it would have livened things up considerably.
Without wishing to reveal myself as a total philistine I expressed some of my artistic doubts sotto voce to some fellow journos over the refreshments and was delighted to discover that they also hadn’t a clue what it was all about. The word “pretentious” came up a few times.
So that’s the clue as to how to succeed in modern art then. Float a dead shark in formaldehyde, exhibit your unmade bed, get 200 mannequin’s heads and light them in different colours or dump a pile of bricks on the gallery floor and give it a title like “after the earthquake…Haiti 2010” and you can’t go wrong. Mr Saatchi will be banging on your door begging to buy all your works for the next ten years.
Which is why I’ve asked (well told actually) Shelli to get out there and find a large corporate sponsor for my new exhibition “Dog poo on my shoe” which will feature different types of shoe that have trodden in different types of dog poo. It won’t mean a thing to you unless I am there to explain it but, trust me, it has deep societal significance and is as poignant a comment on the current state of South Africa as you could wish for. Just give me a few more weeks to think why.