defacing famous works of art: yes or no?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Virgil-TB2, Jun 3, 2008.

  1. Virgil-TB2 macrumors 65816

    Virgil-TB2

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    #1
    Here's a topic that I haven't seen raised and might give us a bit of a break from "3G mania."

    It seems these two brothers (artists) have taken the watercolour paintings of Adolph Hitler and defaced them by adding rainbows and hearts and all manner of pop symbolic nonsense in the backgrounds.

    Chapman brothers Deface Hitler's Paintings

    [​IMG]

    Now on the one hand I can see both the fun and the "art" in this being an artist myself, but is this any different than drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa? I mean that's also probably something that many people have had a hankering to do at one time or another, but if someone actually did it there would of course be quite an outrage about it, right? Why is it okay to do this just because it's Hitler's stuff?

    They owned the paintings, so it's legally okay, but it still doesn't sit right with me. It reminds me of that scene in "The Magic Christian" where Peter Sellers buys a multi-hundred thousand pound painting by an old master and then proceeds to cut the nose out with a pair of scissors.

    I'm only posting this because as an artist, I can see where they are coming from but it still kind of stinks that these guys are going around defacing irreplaceable art works. I mean sure, it's funny, but now the art is lost forever, and I think *that* was probably the purpose, not art per se.

    I don't think these guys are really "artists" at all but rather just a couple of wankers out to be controversial and make a name for themselves. What do you think?
     
  2. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #2
    I don't see much merit in this as an artistic exercise, but it's not like they are attacking the Pieta with a ball-peen hammer. The original works of art are not famous, the person who painted them was.
     
  3. Queso macrumors G4

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    #3
    Hitler was a rubbish artist, at best just a pavement watercolourist hawking his wares to tourists. The works are only famous thanks to his later attempted genocide (nothing to be proud of, right kids?)

    I love what the Chapman Brothers have done. Happy colours and rainbows in otherwise dreary pictures. A small attempt to dispel the evil of the hand that drew them.
     
  4. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

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    #4

    Dino and Jake Chapman are a little more than that. And given the general wretchedness of these watercolours, the use of the word 'defacing' is a stretch at best.

    If they had been painted by someone other than Hitler, it would be a non-story. Nice to have an art thread, though. :)
     
  5. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #5
    Rubbish art or not I think it's wrong to **** up the only copy of another person's work.


    Lethal
     
  6. Queso macrumors G4

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    #6
    The original artist did far worse. I think that's sort of the point.
     
  7. NC MacGuy macrumors 603

    NC MacGuy

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    #7
    They bought them, they can do what they like with their property. More historical pieces than art anyway.
     
  8. MrSmith macrumors 68040

    MrSmith

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    #8
    I would have used 'twats', but 'wankers' works just as well.

    I think that's kind of irrelevant. Is it OK to deface any art not done by a master?
     
  9. Queso macrumors G4

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    #9
    When the defacement itself is such a powerful statement yes. It's similar to the repeated defacement of Harvey's Myra Hindley IMO. When the art generates that big a reaction the reaction itself becomes part of the art.
     
  10. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #10
    Bad or not doesn't make a difference, IMO. There was an original intent/message w/those pieces, even if it was poorly executed, and now it is gone forever.

    No one is arguing any of those points.

    Of course them profiting massively off of Hitler is another discussion entirely.

    Lethal
     
  11. adroit macrumors 6502

    adroit

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    #11
    Agreed. These guys are fools of the lowest caliber.
     
  12. NC MacGuy macrumors 603

    NC MacGuy

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    #12
    Agreed. They should have been archived as historical pieces and not auctioned to any crank to do as they please.
     
  13. Queso macrumors G4

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    #13
    Forgive my insensitivity, but you do understand that this is Hitler right? Considering the millions of people gone forever due to that man, the improvement of a few of his paintings are pretty small fry.

    Please also read my comment above. Call it performance art if you will.
     
  14. Virgil-TB2 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Virgil-TB2

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    #14
    what if it isn't Hitler's stuff?

    It's worth noting (because a lot of folks have brought up the point), that while these two have a kind of love affair going with Hitler and the Nazi's, they also do this with other artworks.

    There is a note at the bottom of the article I referenced that says they have done the same thing with a series of portrait paintings by old masters.

    The Hitler paintings cost them over 2 million dollars before they changed them, and while the old masters portraits are probably not Rembrandts they must have cost quite a bit also. So we have millions of dollars of older artwork being bought up and "corrected/defaced/improved/ruined/whatever" by these guys.

    What if they do it to a Rembrandt? Or what if one of those old portraits they screwed with turns out to be a lost master or something? Does that make anyone's answer any different?

    I know there is nothing one can do about it, but it just annoys me as an artist to think that some douchebag could buy one of my works after I am dead and change the meaning completely, erasing my contribution to the time stream or whatever.

    It's just so gosh-darned rude. :mad:
     
  15. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #15
    In one regard I thank them.

    I always thought the term "house painter" meant siding, soffits and fascias.
     
  16. vanmacguy macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Yeah but two wrongs don't make a right though huh?

    I agree that it's wrong to mess with someone else's stuff. The current few generations are going to be known through history as the ones that had no respect for anything.

    Yeah it was Hitler, but they're still 'treasures' of the past and have some merit.

    I think it's wrong.

    My two cents.
     
  17. SkyBell macrumors 604

    SkyBell

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    #17
    I know nothing about art, but it looks like that was a fairly good picture before it was defaced. Sad that someone would want to do this. :(
     
  18. Queso macrumors G4

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    #18
    The second wrong is a direct protest against the first. The Chapmans don't want Hitler's paintings to be part of the time stream as Virgil-TB2 puts it. There's also the argument that our priorities as a society are pretty screwed if we're prepared to venerate such mediocre contributions simply because they were created by celebrities famous for other actions, so in a way what they are doing is protesting against the modern world's skewed values.
     
  19. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

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    #19

    That's not going to happen. Besides, I guess it depends on how you see art; whether it's something frozen for posterity at creation. I have no problem with it, personally... there are countless tales of far more important pieces being 'revised' or censored by lesser hands over the years.

    Still, that's what art does, amongst other things. Provokes discussion, asks you to consider the nature of things... much like this thread.
     
  20. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #20
    Attempted?

    OMG. :eek:
     
  21. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #21
    Hitler ****ed up the only copy of several million people's lives, so it seems only fair.
     
  22. MrSmith macrumors 68040

    MrSmith

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    #22
    Many died at the hands of the Mongols so should we destroy every piece of Mongolian art and culture in our museums?
     
  23. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

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    #23
    Actually, although a person buys a painting, the artist retains certain 'moral rights' to the work (let's leave out of this who the artist was, shall we?)

    The owner does not have the right to deface the artwork, or use it for a commercial purpose contrary to the artist's wishes.

    Test case (for Canada, at least)

    Snow v. The Eaton Centre Ltd. et al. (1982) the artist Michael Snow created a large metal sculpture of 60 geese in flight. The owner, a department store/mall put scarves on the geese for Christmas. The artist sued and won, because the owner had violated the right to the integrity of the artwork.

    http://www.zvulony.com/moral_rights.html

    http://www.caslon.com.au/mrcasesnote.htm

    Similar would apply to an artwork being used for commercial purposes, or being made part of a work that perverted the meaning of the work.
     
  24. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #24
    That's hardly a parallel case, is it? If Genghis Khan personally had produced some crappy watercolours before he tried for world domination, I don't suppose the history of art would have suffered for their destruction, nor would it make much of a dent in Genghis Khan's or Hitler's legacy.

    Who the artist was is central to this example. The artist in this exceptional case forfeited all moral rights when he extinguished those of twenty million others.
     
  25. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #25
    I really don't care if it was Hitler or a deaf guy on the corner selling crappy paintings to make ends meet. I'm talking about the art not the creator. "D. W." Griffith was horribly racist and Ed Wood was just horrible at making films but I wouldn't agree w/anyone who wanted to take the only copies in existence of "Birth of a Nation" or "Bride of the Monster" and do irreversible damage to them.


    Lethal
     

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