The Emperor’s New Clothes or why Modern Art is shit – part deux

I was browsing Oxford’s Museum of Modern Art website for some of their art, as well as an art auction house called Bonhams.

Here I present to you some fine modern ‘art’, sold for hundreds of pounds. Try not to shit yourselves.


Artist: Mohammed Ashfaq
Title: Shift

Inspired by aspects of both Islamic and modernist art, Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq’s monochromatic drawings and sculptures employ abstract geometric shapes and patterns which invite deep contemplation. Ashfaq created this edition, SHIFT (2016), his very first etching, to coincide with Modern Art Oxford’s 50th anniversary programme KALEIDOSCOPE.

To make the print, the artist applied his intricate drawing technique to a copper plate, resulting in a highly textured black circle which reflects light in infinite ways

Price: 900 pounds (~$1,100)

Someone paid $1,100 for a gray circle on a black background that has as much connection or relevance to Islamic art as bacon-flavored whiskey. They also claim its an ‘abstract geometric shape that invites deep contemplation’. Whoever bought this ‘art’ should contemplate deeply why they paid all that money for a piece that could’ve been produced by a cheap printer running low on black ink.

Artist: Gunther Uecker
Title: Oval

Oval 1958, is one of the very first works by the towering artist Günther Uecker to feature his signature standing nails. Furthermore lots 5 and 6 by Günther Uecker offer an unrivalled insight into two crucial periods of his artistic development. As rare and important early artworks by this highly influential artist, they also transport us back to a key moment in the development of the European avant-garde of the second half of the Twentieth Century. Here we see the early manifestations of Uecker’s signature style, the obsession with materiality and process which have defined his practice ever since. These were, and continue to be, works of the future, produced at a time of intense ambition and optimism, when artists truly believed that they could change the world: as Uecker himself wrote in 1961, “the intentions of today are the realities of tomorrow”

Price: 557,000 pounds ($677,082)

Don’t let the sticker price shock you. The buyer is getting Gunther’s trademark signature ‘standing’ nails, not the usual lying-down nails we are all used to. You can tell by the angle of the nails that Gunther was once an unskilled carpenter, out of work and out of money, until he accidentally hit a nail into an old wooden toilet seat cover. Once he saw the rusty angled nail standing there awkwardly, he had an epiphany;

“The dilapidated toilet seat covers of today, are the cha-ching!! sounds of tomorrow”.

Artist: Karla Black
1st image: Fed 
2nd image: Nothing is a Must

Black explains her haptic approach to making in relation to psychology, and cites Melanie Klein’s play technique – a method used to analyse very young children through their negotiation of the physical world rather than through language – as a contextual source. For Black, this sublingual articulation mirrors the sculptural process and offers the possibility for the work to achieve its own communication and agency. Nothing Is A Must is made from chalked sugar paper. It’s uplifted exaggerated form is like an open bag, made simultaneously monumental and flaccid.

Price: Unlisted (too embarrassed to charge money for this)

Quick: What do you call a bag full of window-padding hung by scotch tape, and a tarp hung by what looks like a schizophrenic homeless person trying to find shelter in an art gallery full of pretentious white people?

Sublingual Articulation, of course! That was my first thought as well. The fine print claims that the ‘uplifted exaggerated form, is monumental and flaccid’, sort of like a penis that’s aroused upon expectations of seeing quality art, and subsequently deflated upon finding a ball of cotton stuffed into a plastic bag.

Artist: Alighiero Boetti
Title: Mimetico

Created by extending ready-made camouflage fabric over a stretcher or board, as with the present example, Mimetico from 1968 is highly conceptual, and can be analysed in numerous ways. In utilising a ready-made fabric, Boetti questioned the role of the artist in the creative process; he chose a fabric conceived to imitate the natural world, and the creation of a work of art from a pattern designed to disappear into the background is delightfully paradoxical. The philosophy of Arte Povera was outlined by Germano Celant, who organised a ground-breaking 1967 group exhibition in Genoa: “Language is acknowledged and reduced to a purely visual element, divested of historical and narrative superstructures. The empirical quality of artistic enquiry, rather than its speculative aspect, is exalted.

Price: $91,169

The fine print says that Al Boetti’s masterpiece can be interpreted in numerous ways. I concur. Heres my take.

The camo-pattern represents the ‘post-war’ art movement’s war on taste, beauty and elegance, using artillery shells full of bullshit to intellectually overwhelm man’s natural recognition of aesthetic beauty. Also, the brown spots shown over green landscape represent horrific brain tumors that one must obviously be afflicted with, in order to shell out almost 100,000$ for a scrap of army surplus pants stretched over a canvas that one can buy at Michael’s for 10$.

Artist: Ettore Spalletti
Title: Senza titolo, rosa

Exquisitely elegant, and yet immensely profound, the work of Ettore Spalletti is often compared to the precious Renaissance frescoes which decorate the many ancient churches of his homeland, Italy. Like these frescoes, Spalletti’s paintings emit a quiet beauty, their peaceful intensity inviting silent contemplation, almost minimalist but also utterly sumptuous. Spalletti’s works require a huge amount of time and effort, and their smooth surfaces (which comprise a mixture of pigments and chalk) are built up and rubbed down, polished and buffed to perfection. Only at the very end of the creative process does the final, all-important colour emerge. In works such as Senza titolo, rosa of 2010 we find the soft palette of Giotto or Piero della Francesca restyled into the abstract, reworked for the modern age.

Price: $ 49,000 - 73,000

“Senza titolo, rosa”

My Italian is a bit rusty, but if I remember correctly, this translates to “I can’t believe I’m getting away with this shit, Rosa”

The auction house compares this “utterly sumptuous” white square to Renaissance frescoes. Lets take a look.

The resemblance is.. its mind boggling. Tears fill my eyes to see Spaletti so skillfully imitate the colors, shapes and emotional motif of his Renaissance progenitors. Nero was known to have uttered “Qualis artifex pereo” (What artist dies in me) on his deathbed. Spalletti’s words should be “what artist never lived in me”

Artist: Karla Black
Title: Unknown

Sorry to pick on poor Karla, but this one was such a gem. It instantly reminded me of the Christmas gingerbread house that my 2-year old made this past December. Except my kid’s house.. ahem, art, was more profound, had better aesthetic quality and was structurally sound, whereas Karla’s ginger house of cotton-candy horrors looks like it may implode on itself at any moment. You be the judge.

.. and finally, I leave you with this.


3 thoughts on “The Emperor’s New Clothes or why Modern Art is shit – part deux

  1. lmao!

    “Someone paid $1,100 for a gray circle on a black background that has as much connection or relevance to Islamic art as bacon-flavored whiskey. ”

    “The fine print claims that the ‘uplifted exaggerated form, is monumental and flaccid’, sort of like a penis that’s aroused upon expectations of seeing quality art, and subsequently deflated upon finding a ball of cotton stuffed into a plastic bag.”

  2. I wish stupid people would wake up and open their eyes – What a load of trash and money exchanged hands – unbelievable

  3. I think that the people who pay such ludicrous amounts for low-quality artwork probably understand how bad the works they purchase are. They just pretend they are good to appear refined and trendy. No-one could possibly believe that these things are art.

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