The Artwork World’s Most Absurd, Dramatic Moments in 2019


With a blockbuster auction and an exhibition curated by Hailey and Justin Bieber as swan song, the art world is about to say goodbye to 2019. And while Kylie Jenner sings "Rise and Shine" at an opening may be the last art-related absurdity, it was by no means the only one that came about this year, there have been developments in sagas that refused to go back in time. (Salvator Mundi appears to have taken refuge from all the drama on board a yacht, and Maurizio Cattelan's solid gold toilet has surfaced on the news.) And there have been twists of events that were simply unprecedented when a banana became so popular a security risk on Art Basel Miami Beach, here is a summary of all the drama that Cattelan and artists like Jeff Koons performed this year.

Jeff Koons & # 39; "Ass Tulips"

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Jeff Koons poses in front of his 27-ton sculpture Tulip Bouquet near the Grand Palais in Paris, France, October 2019.

Thierry Chesnot / Getty Images

As early as 2016, Jeff Koons announced his plans to give the city of Paris a sculpture commemorating the victims of the recent terrorist attacks. When he found out that he was actually just giving the idea of ​​the sculpture – which meant that the city had to pay the estimated 3.5 million euros to run and install itself – the answer was almost general: "It is very nice but no thanks. " (More or less anyway; others, like the two dozen French artists who condemned the "opportunistic, even cynical" project in an open letter, chose not to use words.)

And yet, the sculpture prevailed. A few months after one of his sculptures became the most expensive work by a living artist ever sold at auction, Koons officially unveiled the Bouquet of Tulips – a 27-ton bouquet clutched in a disembodied hand – in a park behind the Petit Palais , Critics who had been cooking for years at this point became even duller. The description of Bouquet of Tulips by the philosopher Yves Michaud as "11 colored anuses on stems" hit such a chord that it was unofficially called Bouquet of Culipes or "ass tulips". The phrase "11 Trous du c …" or "11 Holes of the Butt …" was even briefly shown on its basis.

Instagram Nudity Policy

In October, Instagram invited a number of figures from the art world gathered at New York headquarters to discuss at the round table how they moderate art-related content. (The current approach has been criticized regularly for years.) This was not a coincidence for good public relations work: the closed-door meeting was instead kept secret, so the participants had to sign NDAs. Of course, word got around anyway – first via ARTNews, which, with a little help from the pioneering feminist artist Betty Tompkins, who had received an invitation but was unable to attend, did an investigation of the meeting. Unbound by an NDA, Tompkins has once again voiced her criticism of the app – this time with much more public attention and with the emphasis on the fact that she and other artists who have been censored for posts with nudity were actually absent. t Violation of the "community guidelines" of the app, as Instagram claimed. "There was this one little section that totally shocked me – and I'm sure that the thousands, millions of other artists on Instagram never read it either," Tompkins later explained W. "I mean, the sentence did no qualification: "Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is fine."

Ironically, Instagram would deactivate her account a few days later because it allegedly violated her guidelines, but this time it was quickly reactivated, and the artist and the app now seem to be getting along relatively well, so as far as the rest of the (lesser known) artists in the world are concerned, this remains to be seen in 2020. (Instagram's guidelines remain unchanged.)

Jeffrey Epstein's Bill Clinton Portrait

The fact that Jeffrey Epstein owned and exhibited a painting by Bill Clinton with heels and a blue dress is by far e one of the least disruptive aspects of the entire Epstein scandal. Yet it hit the headlines just a few days after news of Epstein's death came. The conspiracy theories were innumerable – even after artnet News tracked down artist Petrina Ryan-Kleid, who said that the painting was originally part of her master's thesis, which had nothing to do with Epstein. (Clinton-Epstein conspirators have since found other ways to have fun.)

Hudson Yards "Shawarma"

After twelve years of planning and six years of construction, the highly controversial $ 25 billion were real The settlement, known as Hudson Yards, was eventually made accessible to the public – at least technically. Plebeians only really have access to two parts of the "fantasy city of billionaires": the huge shopping center and the gigantic outdoor structure by Thomas Heatherwick, which everyone can climb. The latter is technically known as "The Vessel", although it soon got a different name: "The Shawarma", alluding to its brown, conical shape.

But the fact that $ 200 million was pumped into creating something similar. A huge, multi-story meat stick – and one with restricted access for disabled visitors – was just the beginning of the outcry. It soon turned out that signing up for The Vessel's ascent required agreeing to a long list of "terms" that alarmed anyone who dared to photograph the structure or even take video or audio recordings nearby Restrictions imposed. (Including those who did not respectfully use the hashtag "#TheShawarma" and essentially generated free advertising.) "When I post ship content on a social media channel", the explanation was partially "I hereby give companies and affiliates have that Right to republish, share, republish the ship's media through such a social media channel and through websites associated with the ship or Hudson Yards (including my name, voice and likeness and all other aspects of my persona) promote and disseminate "

Hudson Yards has since changed the terms of use and is committed to improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is not surprising. When it comes to controversy, the complex has more and more fish to fry.

Maurizio Cattelan's banana

When it comes to a couple like Maurizio Cattelan and Art Basel Miami Beach, chaos is guaranteed. Still, the match in heaven surpassed when Cattelan bought a banana in a local Miami grocery store in December and taped it to one of the walls of the show. At the end of the VIP preview day, the professional provocateur had sold out all three editions of the comedian – two for $ 120,000 and one for $ 150,000. And then, as Cattelan predicted, the banana went global: over the course of its one-week reign, the banana appeared everywhere, from Brooke Shields’s forehead to the envelope of the New York Post. A trade fair visitor ate the banana and tried to present it as a performance art. Ultimately, it had to be taken a day earlier from the fair to finally give the world the chance to think that the Hoopla was part of the imagination of the work. (Or at least to catch up with all memes.)

Maurizio Cattelan's toilet

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" America ", a fully functional toilet made of solid gold, designed by the artist Maurizio Cattelan, installed at the Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, England, September 2019.

Leon Neal / Getty Images

After an overwhelming rejection of the White House, Maurizio Cattelans America – a fully functional toilet made of solid 18-carat gold – found a new home in the former family home of Blenheim Palace Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, America enjoyed it only briefly: just a few days after installing it at a Cattelan exhibition, the toilet mysteriously disappeared, leaving a significant amount of flooding.

First Theft It seemed like a signature from Cattelan – as did his refusal to accept it as another of his pranks. But the artist seemed surprisingly serious until he managed to convince the police. They finally arrested six people in connection with the theft, although all have been released since. The toilet can still be found to this day, although there is a high probability that it has melted. A toilet is much easier to find than the estimated $ 4 million worth of its 103 kilograms of gold.


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