Sunday, May 29, 2005

Ticket to Sea World: $2 Million

disclaimer: i am no art critic

The shark in the tank - it's a piece of art. Some call it a masterpiece in fact. Not Rudy Giuliani. He almost shat his pants and then vomitted at the sight of his own fecal matter after the shark, a rotting cow's head and a Virgin Mary with cowshit smeared all over it appeared side by side at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in an exhibition titled "Sensation."

But I am here to comment on the shark in the tank. When I first saw it, I thought it was cool. It was an exceptionally creepy looking fish that kept me out of the water for about a week. But that was it - nothing but a fierce looking predator. As Terry Tempest - writing for The Nation - put it, "If it were in a museum of natural history, it would be called an exhibit, an exhibit in which the organism is featured as the animal it is. Call it art or call it biology, what is the true essence of shark?"

Indeed. What is the essence of shark? These types of questions validate the work of British artist Damien Hirst - who is to blame for the pickled shark. Need more validation? How about this. That shark in the tank - last spring New York bizzillionaire Steven Cohen purchased it for about $13 million (a bargain in this billionaire's opinion). How then is something that could be easily confused for an aquarium exhibit be deemed a priceless piece of collectable culture?

Ponder the shark's title for a moment: The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. This was actually the rejected subtitle of Jaws III: Jaws in Disney. The title's use of language again validates the piece as a statue of waxed philosophy. But the truth of the matter is that the shark is ridiculous and the title supports the humor. I refer to an article in BlackBook in which art critic Glen O'Brien writes that, "Funny is the new serious. Ask anybody in the art world...Art as a joke is the natural consequence of art being something that you have to 'get.'" He writes that so much of contemporary art is a joke, something that is absurd in comparison to how serious we take pop-culture and how we acquiesce to horrible images in the media. But to see the ridiculousness in a $13 million shark is to enter an elite club of critics who "get it." Radar Magazine "gets it" here, with a funny promotion and the aforementioned Steven Cohen will soon "lose it" because reports claim that the shark's skin is peeling and its organs are liquid because Hirst never embalmed it correctly and never intended to truly preserve his piece. That's funny.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you write that "funny is the new serious" in art, but I think "oh I could do that" is the new art reaction. Look at the shark that sold for $13 million and tell me you didn't think "oh I could do that"

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't think the reaction of "oh i could do that" is really a "new" reaction. that sort of feeling, "oh i could do that" has been a part of modern art since the beginning of de stijl movement in the early 1910s. see piet mondrian, and continued through the abstract expressionism of de kooning, motherwell, and pollock, just to name a few, in the 1940's through 1960's. and even to the post-modern contemporary art exhibitions of the early 1980's and 1990's. see joesph cornell and thomas hirschorn. art is now much more theory than practice. not to mention it is a sham perpetrated by the wealthy.

10:52 AM  

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