It was nearly three years ago that I commented on the pretentiousness of modern art (see here) and now it is time to do it again. And for a second time, the world of art has been exposed by a humble, hard-working, honest member of the Tate Britain’s cleaning staff. Three years ago, a cleaner threw away a pile of rubbish because he mistook it for a, errr, pile of rubbish. But of course the pile of rubbish was actually constructed by Damien Hirst, and was therefore of great artistic value, illustrating the chaotic world of a genius’ studio. Yeah, right – pass me that shovel, there’s some bull-shit that needs shifting. I took a quick look in our kitchen bin tonight, and came to the conclusion that it illustrated the slightly chaotic world of a suburban family that receives too much junk mail and has a daughter who’s a bit too fond of frankfurters and spaghetti hoops.
This latest example of a cleaner not realising the artistic merit of a piece concerned a bag full of scrap paper and cardboard which formed part of an exhibit by 78 year-old German artist Gustav Metzger. The exhibit, said to demonstrate the “finite existence” of art, also included a large piece of nylon burnt by acid… so of course I’ve been cursing myself for not finding the time to get along to the Tate Britain to have a look at that. The see-through polythene bag, which was sitting on the floor beside the rest of the “installation” was picked up by the cleaner and thrown out. Well, I said it last time, some people have the gift of seeing things for what they really are. That comment doesn’t apply the curators of the Tate Britain and Tate Modern – as far as they’re concerned, if you can sniff up a load of phlegm and cough it out on a dinner plate, you can create art (the other analogy I considered, but decided against using, was far cruder).
As if to prove that we live in a world gone mad, the Tate Britain has offered compensation to Metzger. The artist, who was dismayed at the destruction of his work, had to create another bag of rubbish to replace the lost piece and make his work complete again. We really do live in different worlds. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and work on an “installation” – I have an old rag in the garage that I used to rub furniture wax onto a pine shelf. I thought that if I draped it over an old piece of skirting board and balanced that on top of a half-empty tin of Dulux Soft Linen paint, I could sell it to the Tate Britain as a work depicting the fact that I hoard too much crap in my garage.