‘Involved in a Sexual Act with a Dog on a Bed of SS Helmets’: MACBA Barcelona Show Canceled Over Pornographic Artwork Ridiculing Spanish King Juan Carlos

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“It’s a work of art inscribed in the great tradition of works about art and power.”

— Valentín Roma, one of the curators of the exhibition

MACBA director Bartomeu Marí proposed that the sculpture be removed. When the artist and the curators declined, he canceled the exhibition. 

Lorena Muñoz-Alonso and Brian Boucher report: An artwork depicting the former Spanish king Juan Carlos and Bolivian Labor leader Domitila Chúngara involved in a sexual act with a dog on a bed of SS helmets has led the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) to cancel the exhibition “La Bestia y el soberano” (The Beast and the Sovereign) on the day it was meant to open (see After 20 Years, Portrait of Spain’s Royal Family Is (Nearly) Finished). The offending artwork, Not Dressed for Conquering, is a sculpture by Austrian artist Ines Doujak.

“I don’t want to spend time describing the piece, which I consider inappropriate and contradictory to the museum’s line.”

“It’s a work of art inscribed in the great tradition of works about art and power,” Valentín Roma, one of the curators of the exhibition told El País.

[Read the full text here, at Artnet News]

“Art has been caricaturing the archetypes of power for centuries, which is what Doujak’s work is doing” (see Why Self-Censorship of Controversial Artwork is Wrong).

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“I have always fought to defend contemporary art and its role in the reality that surrounds us, but in this case, I completely disagree with the inclusion of this work in an exhibition that reflects on the concept of sovereignty in all its aspects.”

— MACBA director Bartomeu Marí

The exhibition was to include more than two dozen artists and artist duos or teams, including Juan DowneyLeón FerrariGenesis Breyer P-Orridge, Mary Reid Kelley, and Wu Tsang. In an open letter, the curators assert that the museum management was fully informed of the show’s theme and contents:

The curators never hid any information about the exhibition to the director of the museum: he was informed by Paul B. Preciado and Valentín Roma of the concept and the full list of works of the exhibition. The director had validated the project and not only its text and description but also the list of artists were already published in the MACBA’s internet page months ago.

MACBA director Bartomeu Marí claims he had not seen the artwork until Monday.

“I don’t want to spend time describing the piece, which I consider inappropriate and contradictory to the museum’s line,” Marí told El País. “I have always fought to defend contemporary art and its role in the reality that surrounds us, but in this case, I completely disagree with the inclusion of this work in an exhibition that reflects on the concept of sovereignty in all its aspects.”

The show was curated by Hans D. Christ and Iris Dressler, co-directors of Stuttgart’s Württemberg Kunstverein, along with writer Paul B. Preciado and Valentin Rome. Read the rest of this entry »


Inside Art Basel Hong Kong

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Kristen Ang and Dean Napolitano report: The third edition of Art Basel Hong Kong kicks off March 15, with artists, collectors, gallerists and others descending on the city for the three-day fair. The event, which was held in May the first two years, was pushed up to March this year.

“May was a real obstacle in terms of trying to realize the full potential of the show in Hong Kong. I think we’ll have a higher quality of works because these are galleries that have access to better material. I think that even the galleries who were here in the previous years will continue to bring better and better material as they feel like the market becomes more and more sophisticated.”

— Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s director

WSJ’s Wei Gu and Paolo Bosonin give a preview of the must-see works at this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong fair’s shift to March allows some prominent Western galleries to attend for the first time, Mr. Spiegler says. Read the rest of this entry »


What Is Art For?

CAMERAPHOTO ARTE, VENICE/ART RESOURCE, NY Opening a window onto the Venetian past: Carpaccio’s The Healing of the Madman.

CAMERAPHOTO ARTE, VENICE/ART RESOURCE, NY Opening a window onto the Venetian past: Carpaccio’s The Healing of the Madman.

John Armstrong writes:  For decades, Western culture has been reluctant to assign an inherent value or a purpose to art—even as it continues to hold art in high esteem. Though we no longer seem comfortable saying so, our reverence for art must be founded on a timeless premise: that art is good for us. If we don’t believe this, then our commitment—in money, time, and study—makes little sense. In what way might art be good for us? The answer, I believe, is that art is a therapeutic instrument: its value lies in its capacity to exhort, console, and guide us toward better versions of ourselves and to help us live more flourishing lives, individually and collectively.

Resistance to such a notion is understandable today, since “therapy” has become associated with questionable, or at least unavailing, methods of improving mental health. To say that art is therapeutic is not to suggest that it shares therapy’s methods but rather its underlying ambition: to help us to cope better with existence. While several predominant ways of thinking about art appear to ignore or reject this goal, their ultimate claim is therapeutic as well.

Art’s capacity to shock remains for some a strong source of its contemporary appeal. We are conscious that, individually and collectively, we may grow complacent; art can be valuable when it disrupts or astonishes us. We are particularly in danger of forgetting the artificiality of certain norms. It was once taken for granted, for instance, that women should not be allowed to vote and that the study of ancient Greek should dominate the curricula of English schools. It’s easy now to see that those arrangements were far from inevitable: they were open to change and improvement.

Read the rest of this entry »


Zhang Daqian’s ‘Lotus’ Sells for $10.4 Million

By Jason Chow

A set of four hanging scrolls by 20th-century Chinese ink painter Zhang Daqian sold for $10.4 million, more than five times its pre-sale estimate, at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong on Tuesday afternoon.

Titled “Lotus,” the four large paper scrolls – each more than five feet high and 2.5 feet wide – depict lotus flowers in various state of bloom. Completed in 1947, the work was estimated to achieve $1.9 million, but brisk bidding in the room pushed the price far above that figure before going to an Asian private buyer.

In 2011, Mr. Zhang was the top-selling artist in the world at auction, but sales of his works fell to $241.6 million in 2012 from $782.4 million the year before. As a result, the artist’s sales ranking dropped to No. 4 after Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and Gerhard Richter, according to figures compiled by Artnet.

Sales of Mr. Zhang’s works are once again going strong. On Monday night, Sotheby’s sold 25 works by the artist for $42 million at a sale in Hong Kong. The most expensive work sold was “Daoist Goddess Playing Panpipe,” a 1955 painting that fetched $9.5 million.

via Scene Asia – WSJ.