In October 2007, Sotheby’s Amsterdam sold The Crucifixion, a painting by a follower of Pieter Brueghel the Younger for €55,450. Originally painted in the mid-seventeenth century, the composition was derived from an original Brueghel.
Recently, the same painting was sold again. This time it fetched a staggering €858, 304. So, why the increase in value?
The painting, which was recently exhibited at the White Cube in London in front of a black mannequin donning a white Ku Klux Klan hood, was altered by British contemporary artists, Jake and Dinos Chapman.
Together the painting and the mannequin form an installation, if you will, entitled, Oi Pieter, I k-k-kan see your house from here and were sold as a complete set.
But this is nothing new. The Chapman boys, throughout their exclusively fraternal collaborations, have ruined other prestigious works of art such as Goya’s The Disasters of War prints. However, The Crucifixion is their most expensive “alteration” to date.
They first exhibited ‘the work’ at Cabaret Voltaire gallery in Zurich last year and in the true YBA (Young British Artists) spirit, they regurgitated it for their exhibition Jake or Dinos Chapman – installed at two separate White Cube locations (Mason’s Yard and Hoxton Square) which supposedly begs the question, which works are by Jake and which are by Dinos?
Given the striking similarities in subject and execution, does it matter? Jake and Dinos are inseparably one in the same. And in the case of the altered Brueghel, it seems they both contributed.
So, what have they done to the painting? Well, they have turned a traditional crucifixion scene into a Bosch-inspired hellish landscape full of monsters, googly eyes, cigarette-smoking women and satanic inscriptions such as ‘666’ emblazoned on the bodies of select figures. It’s enough to make a schoolboy giggle. Naturally, they did not forgo their signature penis motif – they stuck it under the Klan mannequin’s cloak – I suppose in an effort to allude to the notion he is excited to be viewing such a fine work of art.
For those of us who are not impressed by the defacement of masterpieces, thankfully, similar versions of the work, painted in Brueghel’s own hand can been found at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston and the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.
As with most of these YBA generation artists – we get it, we got it a decade ago, enough already, try something new. The impact has waned, we’re all bored and art has moved on.
I was mildly amused by the exhibition at Mason’s Yard but ultimately this seems more like a comment on capitalism, the fickle nature of the art market and those who can afford to manipulate it and less about art. That’s why the Chapmans have got to be ArtSmacked.
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