Sunday 4 December 2016

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Modern art is excrement but worth its weight in gold

In the conceptual art world, peddling literal faeces has replaced basic skill and talent,

Published 09/12/2012 | 05:00

Last Tuesday evening, I made a speech about excrement – or scatology, if we're being posh. It was at the London launch of my latest satirical crime novel, Killing the Emperors, and I was trying to explain to my audience how ludicrous the world of conceptual art is and how difficult it is to satirise.

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I can't write about this without indulging in a bit of crude language, but before I get on to the, as it were, nitty-gritty, I should mention what I said about one of our own, Dublin-born Michael Craig-Martin.

Craig-Martin is described as the first conceptual minimalist and was the inspiration and tutor in bullshit (or art bollocks as it is familiarly known) for top salesman Damien Hirst – he of the dead animals, spots and medicine cabinets – who has made over £300m (€372m) from the credulity of people with more money than taste. In the Seventies, Craig-Martin exhibited a half-full glass of water on a shelf and called it 'An Oak Tree'. When the National Gallery of Australia bought it, he declared it on the customs form as vegetation and it was rejected, so he had to rebrand it temporarily as glass.

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