There’s Art, and Then There’s Hogwash

In this essay, the great Andrew Stuttaford reviews a piece of “art” commissioned to go in front of the European Central Bank. Here’s a picture of the thing:


It’s the tree with the ball in the middle and the beach ball-looking thing near the top.

Here’s some more “art” by the same “artist,” a certain Italian dude named Giuseppe Penone. I particularly appreciated the pile of unidentifiable snorg in the left foreground:


Here’s what maestro Penone says of his work:

“The indistinct nature of the marble encloses infinite millennial existences compressed by the relentless weight of gravity, existences supported by the pure white calcium that has structured its form. The whiteness of the calcium envelops our thoughts, appears in our smiles, articulates our movements. The marble belongs to us, nurtures and sustains and attests to our existence. A tree trunk of marble, of calcium, encloses in our thought, the carbon, the plant, and the plant the mimicry of the color of the bronze, the green of the foliage and the trees, the flow of matter ….where courses the subterranean life of the world. ”

In justifying spending the nearly one million euros on the tree shown at top, a Central Bank spokesdrone said:

“It is not about decorating the headquarters, it is about helping the cultural world,” a spokeswoman said, citing European Union treaty article 167, which states that the union will contribute to “the flowering of the cultures of the member states”.

She added: “Public institutions in many countries have the obligation, or are encouraged by guiding principles, to commission works of art when they construct a new building.

“In times of austerity we think it is important to spend money on art because it is a unifying theme between countries.”

Andrew Stuttaford responds to it all with:

I don’t know what is worst about this; the condescension, the arrogance, the waste, the eurobabble, the characteristically dodgy legal rationale, the jabber passed off as erudition or the junk passed off as art.

Stuttaford makes the point that the European Central Bank wasted a bunch of money on a pile of junk. His point is on the nose. Works of “art” like the tree are not meant to do any actual good — if we can agree that further enriching an already rich purveyor of schlock junk called “art” — is not of real benefit. These things are meant to feed the voracious egos of rich European technocrats.

I have no problem with further enriching the rich, but when we spend a million euros let’s get something for it that produces five, ten, 100 million more euros, thereby enriching everyone.

Tax breaks, for example.

In one sense I admire the artist Penone. He certainly knows his target market! He knows that rich, powerful European Democratic Socialists want to be thought of as sophisticated, worldly and most of all, deep. Penone’s flapdoodle above, about what his “art” means, is certain to appeal to the vast and vainglorious ego of the typical ECB technocrat.  Sure enough, they shelled out nearly a million palourdes for the junk.

Nothing is a more articulate expression of the ECB’s, and all the EU’s governing bodies’, inability to manage wealth than that tree.

The other expression of that financial ineptitude: people rooting about in dumpsters for their next meal in Greece, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal… the decay and increasing decrepitude of the entire western side of the European continent.

I dunno, maybe Penone can produce art, but he’s chosen not to anymore, in favor of getting rich by ripping off the many fat, rich, stupid, hayseeds that abound in the “art world,” and at the ECB, which is itself plundering the European people.

— xPraetorius


5 thoughts on “There’s Art, and Then There’s Hogwash

  1. Just a brief note. I don’t know if I have pointed this out before but the expression ‘on the nose’ means to many that something is wrong, smelly and/or a bit fishy. Just FYI. By the way you should see the modern art section of the Adelaide museum now that is on the nose.
    Also, totally agree that thing is not art. Itis a scam and the artist’s blurb is just typical modern art BS talk.

    1. Great to hear from you again, UL! Thanks for the origin of “on the nose.” I didn’t know that, but it sure makes sense. I have to check out the Adelaide!

      I had to laugh at the artist’s blurb. It brought to mind those great “Bad Prose” competitions where the challenge is to write some prose that’s so bad that it’s brilliant.


      — x

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