When it first appeared beside the church of San Giorgio Maggiore last spring I was intrigued by the many questions raised by the artist Marc Quinn's large inflatable "sculpture" of Alison Lapper. It wasn't just that here was an example of the human form that would not have been treated monumentally and heroically in the past, but whether the whole sense of heroism that was present in Quinn's original Carrara marble version of this sculpture (displayed in Trafalgar Square) was lost in its translation to a material more evocative of the floating cartoon figures in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade than Michelangelo's David.
Additionally, the office of the Patriarch of Venice raised the related question of whether this inflatable version was more advertisement (for Quinn's show on San Giorgio Maggiore) than art. I wrote about all this last May, and wasn't really sure what to make of the piece, though the subject herself and importance of depicting a fuller range of the human form and manner of being inclined me to think this piece did at least potentially do one of the best things art can do by making us see and think about things we often overlook (http://veneziablog.blogspot.it/2013/05/marc-quinns-alison-lapper-pregnant-on.html)
But after visiting the piece last week, I now think that it's time for it to go--as I suspect it soon will, as the Quinn show closed at the end of September.
Of course it's not that the subject of the piece has changed, but that the material in which it's embodied--always subject to questions about its suitability and the messages it carried--has now become so faded by exposure to the elements as to lose whatever capacity it once arguably had to convey heroic monumentality. Not only has the color of the piece changed from a vaguely marblesque mauve to a blotchy pink, but the seams in the figure have become so visible as to become themselves a primary focus of one's attention--which can't really be considered a good thing, unless somewhere in the world there's a culture whose heroic ideals are embodied by a beach ball.
|A comparison of the appearance of Quinn's work at the end of May, left, and at the middle of October, right|
And maybe I'm being unfair, but my visit to the inflatable piece last week reinvigorated all my doubts about an artist who bothered to produce a life-sized solid-18-carat gold sculpture of Kate Moss.
|Description of Marc Quinn's large inflatable work attached to its large base|
The placard above states that "if people lose interest in [the work] and are unwilling to give it the attention and resources it demands the work will cease to exist in the physical world", but of course this is blatantly false. Venetians have had no more to do with the persistence of Quinn's sculpture in a place they don't want it, than they did with the long unwanted residence of Charles Ray's "Boy with Frog" at the tip of La Dogana.
In both cases I seemed to think the sculptures were of more interest and had more artistic merit than were generally accorded them by other residents of Venice, but it's the false self-congratulatory populist rhetoric by the artists of both works that finally irritates me. Neither "Boy with Frog" nor the pretentiously-entitled "Breath" depended upon the willingness of "people" to "give [them] the attention and resources [they] demand" (such as an armed guard), but on the largesse of private foundations who kept them in place in spite of Venetian response. And it's this in spite of that Venetians have gotten sick of: the billboards that remain for years on cherished monuments in spite of the fact that all work behind them is finished, the growing number of cruise ships and tourists who flood the city in spite of acknowledged dangers and damages....
Indeed, if "the collective consciousness" of the vast majority of Venetians were allowed to actually express its opinion of Quinn's work on San Giorgio Maggiore it would have done so long ago not by "holding it up" in any way, but in a simple quite literally deflating gesture. And but for the fact that the subject of the work merits thoughtful consideration, I'd almost be willing to say at this point that the artist's windy pretension might benefit from a good pricking--that would set it off on an appropriately frantic comic flatulent flight, like an overinflated untied balloon let loose over the basin of San Marco.