Right now I should be staring at an arts council funding form to try and get some money to invest in ‘my practice’ and to find a decent showing space for the work I am doing right now. For numerous reasons, most of which would get me into trouble if I explained them in the detail I would like to, this is pushing my buttons and really pissing me off, let’s just say the words, disloyal, corrupt, ingratiating and hypocritical appear at some point in the tirade of bile that would spew forth. So instead I am pondering the notion of how we display art.
I’ve been working on a series of metre square canvases recently, I’m really pleased with how the are going and in my head I have this perfect space for them. White walls, skylights for perfect natural lighting, enough space for the paintings to breath but not so much as to feel lost. Big window onto the street with laser cut title, tasteful perfect bound catalogue and an unobtrusive invigilator, freindly enough so that people will walk in off the street, intimidating enough to politely suggest that the paintings are worth a four figure price.
The reality will be very different I expect, their life will consist of a brief few weeks on a wall somewhere while people eat and ignore them before they end up creating a storage headache for me. Sadly, this us the way many pictures begin their lives, piled up on a wardrobe, stacked up in a garbage, gathering dust in a corner in the vain hope that some day the artist will ‘make it’, sadly, most don’t and of those that do, it often isn’t in the artist’s life time.
I have this recurring nightmare of what will happen to my work when I die. After all, it’s all I really have to show for my blink of an eyelid on this planet. My vanity would like to believe that one of my family, friends or a distraught lover will rescue everything, lovingly curate it and bring it and my dead self to the public’s attention. Let’s face it, it would be so much easier for my work to find approval without me doing annoying things like pointing out what arseholes I think many people are. A dead Chris is a good Chris! Erm, yay! The sad reality will more likely be some bemused landlord annoyed at the pile of old tat that they have to deal with, followed by an unceremonious chucking in a skip or some slack jawed, web footed, junk shop owner carting them off.
Probably the most ignominious fate that can befall a work of art is to fall into the hand of someone like the ageing trustafarian who occasionally raids the junk and charity shops of my home town in search of paintings to make ‘his own’ by daubing his own amateurish scrawl on top of them, assuming that he can palm off this technique as his own rather than that developed by the early situationist artists because anyone who lives outside the metropolis is a bit backwards and wouldn’t spot it! Wrong! I made a point of getting hold of a few of his ‘works’ and painting over them in return, sometimes karma needs a helping hand.
Sometimes I think that it might be interesting to show work in something like the environment in which it originally ‘lived’ , Van Gogh’s masterpieces piled up in a spare room at brother Theo’s, Picasso’s blue period word stacked under a bed in some Paris hovel, Basquiat’s paintings crawling with cockroaches in a squalid New York loft. It would be an interesting excercise in showing the reality for 99.999% of the world’s artists.
There are sadder fates that can meet an artwork though, like the Renaissance masterpieces stolen by the mafia to be used as security deposits in organised crime transaction for example or the impressionist paintings that sit in temperature controlled Japanese bank vaults, now no more than fancy bank notes or share certificates. It is a strange irony that art worth tens of millions meets the same fate as that worth nothing in the eyes of the artworld. To stash a picture away, unseen is the cruelest of fates for a work of art, it’s a visual medium, made to be looked at, and without that it is nothing.