The banana taped to a wall by one artist, sold for $120,000 and then was eaten by a second artist. Must the first artist, then, replace the original banana with a phony second banana? Who would be so foolish to ask this question? Duchamp’s snow shovel, a ready-made (which is to say there is no artist who touches or is touched and who feels in the process of creating the work), as with his urinal, turned out to be multiple shovels and urinals. Ditto with Hirst’s stuffed shark, which matters not, because it is about the concept, the smart men say.
Interestingly, this accomplishes several things.
Artists, who see their making of art as an activity of human expression or of a process of becoming and who would never sell their soul, are eliminated. Artists like Koons (an idea man as he calls himself) take the place of artists like Van Gogh, Cèzanne, Kollowitz, and Monet who inveighed against the “bourgeoisie,” scoffing at the attempts of the speculator to get “their hooks” into them, as the cautious Cèzanne would often say. And so studios become factories, factories become studios, assistants become workers commanded to follow Frederick Taylor’s time-motion-studies until they are then dumped and replaced by robots.
Speculators invest “deeply” in newly discovered idea-men and women – now Executive Artists – and with them coordinate the production and exhibition of their work with museums and luxury fashion manufacturers, in the interest of maximizing profits. Agents in the know gush over art fairs and auction house-spectacles that follow, circuses all. Billionaire collectors are absolved of their crimes. They are Art Men and Women, after all, the better people. And that blister returns where a rose used to be.
The banana also provides a way for the bourgeoisie to elevate the art system’s most important concept. Average people will say they don’t get it and the ultimate truth is made clear once again. The people on top get it; they deserve to be there where they are. The people on the bottom know nothing and thus they too deserve their place in the hierarchy. All is well. The hierarchy is just.
Jerry Fresia is an artist living in Bellagio, Italy. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org