September 9th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: A way out of the debt trap

COVER STORY: Inside the World Economic Forum

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Petrol prices puncture GST optimism

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Radical groups organised for Forum protests

Straws in the Wind

LABOR PARTY: New book, old view of ALP



DOCUMENTATION: “I’ve always felt like an IVF guinea pig”

MODERN ART: “Anything goes”: gallery

Milk: will wheat be next?

EAST TIMOR: Rebuilding East Timor

'Kursk' disaster timely reminder to next US President

As the World Turns

LITERATURE: The magic of Harry Potter

BOOKS: The triumph of spin over substance

Books promotion page

“Anything goes”: gallery

by News Weekly

News Weekly, September 9, 2000
A row has broken out over a so called “art” exhibition at the Lisson Gallery in London, one of the UK’s most prestigious galleries.

The London Times Arts Correspondent, Dalya Alberge, described the exhibition as having feathers, fins and thousands of eyes; some would argue it should really be in a zoo.

“A collection of live chickens in a coop, piranhas swimming around a fish tank and a fly, called ‘Henry’, trapped in a tiny wire cage, make up a new exhibition by three artists.

“It is a good job that the word ‘gallery’ appears outside the Lisson — famed for supplying cutting-edge art to the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize — because few peering through the window would guess that works of art are on display,” Alberge said.

“Dutch artists Jeroen Offerman has ‘housed’ Henry, the fly, in a miniature cage of silver-plated copper-wire, barely larger than a couple of match-boxes. It lives on strawberries and water, but once it dies, a new ‘Henry replaces it.

“Koen Vanmechelen, from Belgium, is showing a cockerel, three hens, an incubator and a genealogy, with photographs, to show the cockerel as Belgian, French and English descent.

“The piranhas and their tank are the work of John Latham, who made his name in the 1950s with SKOOB art — books spelt backwards. He has given the piranhas texts to read as they swim around.

“Nicholas Logsdial, the gallery’s chairman, said: ‘Anything is valid as art, if the intention of the artist is interesting and it’s done with serious intention and endeavour’.”

One of Australia’s leading portrait artists, Paul Fitzgerald, described to News Weekly how symptomatic the Lisson Gallery’s exhibition is of much of modern art.

Mr Fitzgerald said, “Time was when aspiring artists, firstly had to have a certain natural talent. If they had no natural ability to draw, in order to express their artistic passion, they automatically turned their attention to music or poetry.

“Before they achieved the sponsorship of a recognised art gallery, they would have to put in some years of practice, and or study, at an art school or under an accomplished artist. No more!

“The Lisson Gallery chairman’s definition of art was identical with that of the spokesman for the Tate Gallery, Simon Wilson, when he was challenged over declaring a dilapidated ice cream cart a fine work of art.


“Wilson did add a rider. A gallery director or some such authority should approve the work. Artists Joroen and Keon handsomely passed Wilson’s test.”

Mr Fitzgerald said that when we link this Lisson Gallery exhibition with the gargantuan prices being paid for canvases covered with one flat colour and the degenerate works of Serrano (that were to be exhibited at National Gallery of Victoria) you cannot help reflecting on the prophetic words of Alexander Sozhensitsyn:

“Before erupting on the streets of Petrograd, that cataclysmic revolution erupted on the pages of the artistic and literary journals of the European capital’s Bohemian circles.

“It was there that we first heard scathing imprecations against the Russian and European way of life, the calls to sweep away all religious and ethical codes, to tear down and trample all existing traditional culture”.

“If we cease to hold dear the great cultural tradition of the foregoing centuries together with the spiritual foundations from which it grew, we will be contributing to a highly dangerous fall of the human spirit on this earth, to a degeneration of mankind into some kind of lower state.”

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