You Want Fries With That?

I make no claim to being an art expert.

But that doesn’t stop me from writing about art.

I learn a lot every time I research a blog post topic, and here’s something that I believe is true:

There are such extremes in the art world that the phrase from the sublime to the ridiculous is completely appropriate.

The sublime, for example, was a mid-July story about the discovery of a previously unknown van Gogh self-portrait discovered on the back of another van Gogh painting.

The ridiculous, for me, is just about anything connected to the world of contemporary art, like a recent story from this and many other sources:

Yes, you read the headline correctly.

Welcome to Michael Lett, “a contemporary art gallery in Auckland, New Zealand” according to the gallery’s Facebook page.

As the story goes, an Australian guy who considers himself an artist named Matthew Griffin ordered a McDonald’s cheeseburger, walked into Michael Lett Gallery, took out a pickle from his burger, and flung it onto the gallery’s ceiling:

Fine Arts, Sydney – the gallery that represents Griffin – refers to this as a “sculpture” in their press release.

I know this image of the press release is impossible to read, so I’ve enlarged the important part:

The sculpture’s title – showing very creative thinking here – is:

Pickle

The Fine Arts, Sydney gallery explains:

“The show includes four new works by each of the four artists the gallery represents, each exhibited for the first time.  The themes these works touch upon, including Pickle, are related to transience, distance, and time.  From here, flinging the pickle from the ground up is an example of distance.”

I know that when I first saw this image:

The thought that immediately came to my mind was, “Distance! Yes, of course!” and I’m sure that’s true for you, too.

Actually, the thought that came to my mind was…

#@!*&!#%…?

Here’s yet another so-called contemporary artist creating his so-called contemporary art, and being treated as though he has credibility, if the price tag on this “sculpture” is anything to go by:

That’s $10,000 in New Zealand dollars.

And what do you get for your $6,275/$10,000?

Not Griffin’s Pickle, according to this story:

“…any purchaser of the work won’t receive the exact pickle from the exhibit but will be given ‘instructions on how to recreate the art in their own space.’”

So you give “artist” Matthew Griffin $6,275/$10,000 and he says,

“Go to McDonald’s, buy a cheeseburger, go home, extract a pickle from the cheeseburger, and throw it at the ceiling.”

See Matthew Griffin.  See Matthew Griffin pictured right.  See Matthew Griffin pictured right, laughing all the way to the bank.

Lest you think the art world isn’t taking Pickle seriously, let’s hear from Ryan Moore, the director of Fine Arts Sydney, the gallery that represents the pickle flinger:

“‘People don’t have to think it’s art if they don’t want to.  Anything can be an artwork, but not everything is,’ he told news.com.au.  ‘What makes an artwork is when whatever an artist makes or does is able to be used as art:  when the object or action is thought about or talked about as an artwork.  And that’s what we are doing here, which I think is great.’”

I’m sure Moore thinks his commission on this $6,275/$10,000 “sculpture” would be “great,” too.

Here are some additional enlightening comments from Moore about Pickle:

“…a deliberately ‘provocative gesture’ designed to question what has value…’”

“…questions ‘the way value and meaning is generated between people.’”

Reminder:  What he’s talking about here is a pickle, clinging to the ceiling with nothing but the assorted sauces and inherent stickiness it was served with.

“Generally speaking, artists aren’t the ones deciding whether something is art is not – they are the ones who make and do things.  Whether something is valuable and meaningful as artwork is the way that we collectively, as a society, choose to use it or talk about it.

“As much as this looks like a pickle attached to the ceiling – and there is no artifice there, that is exactly what it is – there is something in the encounter with that as a sculpture or a sculptural gesture.”

The “gesture” that comes to my mind involves my middle finger, but I’ll let that go for now.

And here’s the last of gallery director Moore’s insights:

“It’s not about the virtuosity of the artist standing there in the gallery throwing it to the ceiling – how it gets there doesn’t matter, as long as someone takes it out of the burger and flicks it on to the ceiling.”

Let’s thank Ryan Moore for providing us with many examples of artspeak, and if you want to know more about that, just google “artspeak sucks” and this and other articles will clarify:

“True artspeak is impenetrable to any sane person, who will recognize it as words arranged nonsensically and purported to be profound.  People don’t know what artspeak means, because artspeak means nothing.”

And how about reactions from people who speak intelligible English, rather than artspeak?

Reviews of Pickle – as the Newshub headline suggested – have been mixed.  According to this article:

Pickle viewer comments included:

“I got kicked out of a McDonald’s by the police for doing this when I was a teenager, now it’s art.”

“That thing is going to leave a nasty stain on the ceiling.”

It appears that the nay-sayers were outnumbered by Pickle lovers:

“…many praised the artist for his brilliant work with one simply calling it ‘superb’ and another saying ‘love it.’”

“One commenter added:  ‘I’m siding with the genius crowd on this.  Genius.’”

“Another added:  ‘I hate pickles.  I love this.’”

At this time, it’s unknown if anyone purchased Pickle.

Or rather, purchased the right to be “given instructions on how to recreate the art in their own space.”

Now…

Before you book your plane tickets for Auckland, New Zealand to visit the Michael Lett gallery and view Pickle

The exhibition closed on July 30.

But – to help alleviate your disappointment, a reminder:

Your space has ceilings, and your town has McDonald’s, and McDonald’s has cheeseburgers, and cheeseburgers have pickles, and that leaves us with just one burning question…

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