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Happy April 1st
April 1, 2007 5:31 PM   Subscribe

The great Nat Tate hoax. 9 years ago, writer William Boyd and singer David Bowie (easily two of the coolest persons alive) joined forces to perpetrate one of the most elaborate art hoaxes to date: the "rediscovery" of Nat Tate, American Artist. A Boyd-penned biography was bombastically presented in Jeff Koons' gallery (who wasn't in on the joke)...to be enthusiastically lapped up by NYC's glitteratti. If only they had bothered to check the date...
posted by Skeptic (63 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
writer William Boyd and singer David Bowie (easily two of the coolest persons alive)

bestest april fool evar!!!!!
posted by unSane at 5:50 PM on April 1, 2007


David Bowie still alive?
How can they tell?
posted by Dizzy at 5:56 PM on April 1, 2007


Y'all just step right the fuck off my man Bowie.
posted by cortex at 6:27 PM on April 1, 2007 [7 favorites]


"Tin Machine".
Neener-neener-neener!
posted by Dizzy at 6:31 PM on April 1, 2007


Also cf., Marvin Pontiac.
posted by mykescipark at 6:40 PM on April 1, 2007


I'm not a Bowie fan but the Nate Tate Hoax is cool.

Regardky mykescipark's link:

"It was only then, when I trusted in my own voluminous knowledge, did I realize that Pontiac was indeed Lurie."

Um, it's not as if John disguised his voice in any fashion. Any critic with even a passing knowledge of his career would be able to tell who it was.
posted by dobbs at 6:45 PM on April 1, 2007


David Bowie still alive?
How can they tell?


I think you mean to dis Keith Richards, sir. You'd better not be talkin' smack about Ziggy.
posted by Mikey-San at 6:48 PM on April 1, 2007


cortex is my new hero
posted by piratebowling at 6:51 PM on April 1, 2007


I had a coupla slices of some bad cake, frosting all hinky, damp paper-plate, did some things and said some things I regret, but I got it mostly under control now and just want to say I LOVE MR. BOWIE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE FORGIVE ME.
posted by Dizzy at 7:02 PM on April 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow I never thought of Bowie as "divisive." I mean - I love me some Bowie, and I will smack the bitch out of any of you hoochies who pile on but...

Who knew there'd be that many of you piling on.

Oh wait, it's the interwebtrons.
posted by abulafa at 7:31 PM on April 1, 2007


seriously, bowie is one of the most well preserved people i've ever seen, especially when one considers his lifetime of hardcore drug abuse.
posted by shmegegge at 7:38 PM on April 1, 2007


There have been several cases, some deliberate and some accidental, which show that a lot of modern art is hollow and stupid. In one case a packing crate a piece of art came in was taken to be art and was put on display. There have been paintings created by children or by chimps or elephants which were declared by art critics to be amazingly subtle and provocative. One major painting by a "name" artist hung upside down for a long time and no one noticed.

Which strongly suggests that a lot of it is pretentious baloney, snobbery, emperors' clothing. Like the art critics who claimed to know about "Tate" because they didn't want to be seen as ignorant, sophisticates talk about how great some piece of "fine art" is because they don't want to admit that they don't understand why anyone else says that.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:47 PM on April 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


bad cake?
posted by you at 7:49 PM on April 1, 2007


Really? I never found Bowie very interesting.

Lot's of packaging, not much substance.

But I'm 36, maybe if I were 46 I'd feel differently. It's kind of like Star Wars, it doesn't hold up at all now (terrible acting, poor direction, weak plot) but when you were 8-11 years old looking up at that big screen it sure seemed amazing.
posted by django_z at 8:06 PM on April 1, 2007


David Bowie - one of my first concerts ever. I'll date myself by admitting that it was the (gag) Glass Spider tour and I was, oh, maybe 11? I went with my childhood best friend, one of those girls who towered over the rest of us and developed early. As you can imagine, that led to early and frightening sexual encounters for her, but she was a year younger than me and the bad boyfriends were still ahead of her at that point. Meanwhile, I was a life-long tomboy and although I couldn't explain my passion for David Bowie, I suppose in retrospect that it was largely due to his androgyny and queer aesthetic. Little did I, the naïve baby-dyke realize, Bowie's queer aesthetic had died with China Girl, and all that was left was his penchant for overblown theatrics, but I still liked the concert. Still, I was pretty overwhelmed by the arena size at that age. My friend and I were there with her mom, which we were almost but not quite old enough to be embarrassed about, and right in front of us on the huge, already beer drenched lawn was this posse of bulldaggers. My friend's mom took one look and called them dykes on bikes – I guess the leather jackets were a give away?

I was the kid who aspired to grow up and get a job aboard the Rainbow Warrior - an early crusader against all injustice – so I told my friend's mom that I didn't think it was nice to call those girls dykes. My friend's mom matter-of-factly said, "Well, they are."

I can't remember all the dykes, but one of them had choppy red hair and a black leather jacket with band names written across the back. She took a liking to my friend and I and asked if we wanted to watch the show from her shoulders. I guess I felt too old to say 'yes', but I spent most of the show watching her and her gang since the only thing I could see on stage was an enormous and dopey looking spider draped over the speakers. The butch and her pals laughed and lunged around and got drunk, periodically checking in on me and my friend. And I watched them with increasing fascination.

Whenever I discuss the question of whether sexual orientation is genetic or stems from environmental causes, I tell people that the bull daggers at the David Bowie concert made me gay. I know, I was probably born liking men in dresses and butch rockers, but these gals cemented it for me.

Anyway, mildly amusing hoax. Thanks for the memories.
posted by serazin at 8:13 PM on April 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Really? I never found Bowie very interesting.

Well, I guess he gets some points for working with Lou Reed. But really, Mr. Bowie's shark jumping moment has long past. (discuss ... )
posted by R. Mutt at 8:48 PM on April 1, 2007


...usually I can handle it, have a slice or two first thing in the morning, then use some 2% to bring me back down if I've got a full day.
My grocer, who I've been buying from for years, said it was "Canadian" Duncan-Hines, which is why it cost a bit less because it was untaxed, and the UPC code looked spot on.
Found out later it was from Burhanistan and cut with artificial sweetener and expired yeast---I could've died.
A couple kids from two towns over weren't so lucky.
Mixing up a batch of Bundt but using powdered eggs to save money.
You could smell the batter for miles.
posted by Dizzy at 8:53 PM on April 1, 2007


Bowie's career BEGAN with shark jumping.
posted by unSane at 8:54 PM on April 1, 2007


OK, he also gets points for covering Iggy Pop songs on hugely profitable pop albums (ie ...china girl), thereby paying Iggy's rent.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:00 PM on April 1, 2007


loving the alien
posted by vronsky at 9:08 PM on April 1, 2007


Anyone who can easily write off David Bowie is deaf.
posted by brevator at 9:15 PM on April 1, 2007


Which strongly suggests that a lot of it is pretentious baloney, snobbery, emperors' clothing.

No, it suggests that per your usual practice, you've assembled a bunch of anecdotal, probably apocryphal stories as strawmen to validate your fear of all that challenges your limited intellect.

It's true, mind you, that Bowie hasn't been interesting in the slightest since "Scary Monsters," but he can rest on his laurels all he likes. You pull off anything 1/100th as magnificent as the Berlin trilogy, and you get a free pass too, no matter how many years of smug, self-satisfied, rockless pap you crank out in the big downstream.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:20 PM on April 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


How can you hate Ziggy Stardust? Even when he got "normal" in his Young American days he was amazing. Man, I used to idolize you guys, but now... I just don't know.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 9:12 PM on April 1, 2007


OHHH April fools! I get it! None of you really hate him. I was had, I admit it.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 9:13 PM on April 1, 2007


I read the 'biography' some time ago and thought it was a lovely story. even though it's fiction it really was a good read and i'll have to read it again.

i would be interested in any other fake biographies people have enjoyed
posted by quarsan at 9:58 PM on April 1, 2007


No, it suggests that per your usual practice, you've assembled a bunch of anecdotal, probably apocryphal stories as strawmen to validate your fear of all that challenges your limited intellect.

I think you misunderstood Steven C. Den Beste's argument, and lashed out in an uncalled-for personal attack. Unless that was an April fools joke...

Welle's F for Fake is another great prank calling the art world onto the mat.
posted by carsonb at 10:05 PM on April 1, 2007


i would be interested in any other fake biographies people have enjoyed

As featured in F for Fake, Clifford Irving wrote a fake Howard Hughes autobiography, and a real one on another pranking fakster, Elmyr de Hory.
posted by carsonb at 10:08 PM on April 1, 2007


@ R. Mutt: well, he did co-write those iggy songs.
@ dizzy: that's cool, what's it from please?
posted by aquanaut at 11:06 PM on April 1, 2007


Just me being silly, a-naut!
posted by Dizzy at 11:18 PM on April 1, 2007


quarsan, Ern Malley has been covered here on MeFi.
posted by tellurian at 11:34 PM on April 1, 2007


From here:

"The longest period of time for which a modern painting has hung upside down in a public gallery unnoticed is 47 days. This occurred to Le Bateau, by Henri Emile Benoit Matisse (1869-1954) of France, in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, between October 18 and December 4, 1961. In this time 116,000 people had passed through the gallery."

Congo the Chimpanzee.

And this:
The director of the State Art Museum of Moritzburg in Saxony-Anhalt, Katja Schneider, suggested the painting was by the Guggenheim Prize-winning artist Ernst Wilhelm Nay. "It looks like an Ernst Wilhelm Nay. He was famous for using such blotches of colour," Dr Schneider confidently asserted. The canvas was actually the work of Banghi, a 31-year-old female chimp at the local zoo. While Banghi likes to paint, she is not able to build up much of a body of work as her mate Satscho generally destroys her paintings before they can get to the gallery. But this one survived long enough to give Dr Schneider a red face. "I did think it looked a bit rushed," she told Bild newspaper.

Of course, this isn't the first time monkey art has fooled an expert. The classic case occurred in 1964 when newsmen from Sweden's Göteborgs-Tidningen obtained some paintings by Peter, a four-year-old chimp at the Boras zoo. They hung the paintings in a gallery, claiming they were the work of avant-garde artist Pierre Brassau. And soon the works were drawing critical acclaim. One critic wrote: "Brassau paints with powerful strokes, but also with clear determination. His brush strokes twist with furious fastidiousness. Pierre is an artist who performs with the delicacy of a ballet dancer."
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:03 AM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is what that Matisse painting looked like.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:05 AM on April 2, 2007


Let's try that again.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:05 AM on April 2, 2007


shmegegge writes "seriously, bowie is one of the most well preserved people i've ever seen, especially when one considers his lifetime of hardcore drug abuse."

django_z has the answer.

django_z writes "Lot's of packaging, not much substance" abuse

Seriously, the Thin White Duke's cocaine period only actually lasted a couple of years. He's too astute a businessman to be putting too much of his profits into the hands of gangsters.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:15 AM on April 2, 2007


Another:
Once upon a time a popular art hoax involved getting critics to praise a work of art, and then revealing that the work was really created by a monkey or a child, thereby proving what poor judgement the critics had. For instance, in the 1960s critics were embarrassed by the cases of Pierre Brassau, the monkey artist, as well as Willie the Painting Worm. But I don't think that kind of hoax would work today because critics seem to be voluntarily lining up to heap praise on works by animals and infants. Paintings by asian elephants are fetching thousands of dollars, and now a 4-year-old girl in New York, Marla Olmstead, is creating a buzz in the art world, having just had her own gallery show. That's one of her paintings to the right. The owner of the gallery said it was his most successful show ever. The NY Times reports that "Marla has sold 24 paintings totaling nearly $40,000, with the prices going up. Her latest paintings are selling for $6,000. Some customers are on a waiting list." I guess this proves that art is whatever critics say is art.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:22 AM on April 2, 2007


unSane writes "Bowie's career BEGAN with shark jumping."

Battle cries and champagne just in time for sunrise,
Who'll love this lad unSane?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:23 AM on April 2, 2007


All Bowie haters can go back to their little Sigue Sigue Sputnik MySpace pages.
posted by Dagobert at 1:35 AM on April 2, 2007


Which strongly suggests that a lot of it is pretentious baloney, snobbery, emperors' clothing. Like the art critics who claimed to know about "Tate" because they didn't want to be seen as ignorant, sophisticates talk about how great some piece of "fine art" is because they don't want to admit that they don't understand why anyone else says that.

That's a very childish attitude. Billy Childish, that is.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:27 AM on April 2, 2007


But I'm 36, maybe if I were 46 I'd feel differently.

That may be true to some extent -- every generation throws a hero up the pop charts -- but I also love Bach and it isn't just because I'm 350 years old.

Free Byrd!
posted by pracowity at 2:38 AM on April 2, 2007


Which strongly suggests that a lot of it is pretentious baloney, snobbery, emperors' clothing. Like the art critics who claimed to know about "Tate" because they didn't want to be seen as ignorant, sophisticates talk about how great some piece of "fine art" is because they don't want to admit that they don't understand why anyone else says that.

It's basically possible to say highly . . . mistaken . . . things like this the above by ignoring the fact that all art is produced within a cultural context, and is judged based on the entire context provided (and implied) and not just the physical artifact. This is why when somebody paints a guy on a cross we assume it's Jesus and not a man cheering a plus sign as bit of agitprop for positive integers. It's why when someone folds and origami crane and tells you that's what it is, you contemplate it as a crane even after you reflexively think it looks liker a pterosaur, and it's why you assume that the twenty bucks you got from the bank machine is probably not a forgery.

It's also why arguments like the above are not actually worth taking seriously, thanks to their corrupt assumptions of critical responsibility and the fact that, well, they're just not very well thought out. If that 20 bucks you got ends up being counterfeit, the cops to not accuse you of being a fool who only *thinks* he knows the value of money. They try to find the guy who passed you the money. If the origami artist goes, "Ha! It looks like a crane but this extra bend means I was really making a Transformers Dino-Bot!" it doesn't mean you're a fool. It means the guy who folded the "Dino-Bot" is a jerkwad. And if someone gives you a canvas painted by a monkey and says a famous artist did it, and you thereupon judge the work based on reconciling it with the artist's technique and creative history and render your opinion based on what this work means in terms of the artist's creative history, being told, "OMG IZ APE PWND LOLZ" doesn't reveal anyone to be a fraud except for the asshole who committed the prank.

This is pretty different from claiming to have raw factual knowledge of a person who doesn't exist.
posted by mobunited at 3:58 AM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


This just in: 90% of art society promotion and name recognition, film at 11.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:09 AM on April 2, 2007


I think you misunderstood Steven C. Den Beste's argument, and lashed out in an uncalled-for personal attack.

Less justified than his impugning the intellectual integrity of literally millions of artists, critics, and enthusiasts in one go? How is that anything but offensive? The guy deserves to be called on it.

As to his "argument," it's entirely typical of his style: make a strong claim; toss out a few dimly-remembered, decontextualized and largely irrelevant factoids in its defense, only when called on it; and lack the grace to admit wrongness as the claim is disproven. Bozos like this may get over bigstyle in society at large, but here on Metafilter they can be refuted point-for-point, which is great.

Unless, that is, you think the fact that at some point in the last century some hapless gallerist once hung a Matisse upside down for 47 days somehow refutes the validity of modern art in toto. If that's the case, then I truly can't help you.

Toward Den Beste himself I feel only pity - pity for everything he's missing out on, for the evident paucity of his aesthetico-moral sense.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:48 AM on April 2, 2007


unSane writes "Bowie's career BEGAN with shark jumping."

Battle cries and champagne just in time for sunrise,
Who'll love this lad unSane?


Wikipedia:
"The Laughing Gnome" was a single by David Bowie. Released in 1967, the song was a novelty single, as Bowie desperately tried to find a commercial breakthrough. The track consisted of the singer meeting the creature of the title and having a conversation, with the gnome’s high-pitched voice (provided by Bowie and studio engineer Gus Dudgeon) delivering a number of deliberately terrible puns on the word ‘gnome’.

Despite this wanton abandonment of Bowie’s musical standards, at the time “The Laughing Gnome” would not provide Bowie with the much-wanted hit single.
Bowie made valiant efforts to de-jump the Shark (my favorite work of his is actually the songwriting and production on Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes") but you can't get past the gnome.
posted by unSane at 5:53 AM on April 2, 2007


The joke's on Bowie. Nat Tate got an operation and has been known as Karen Eliot for decades.
posted by ardgedee at 6:03 AM on April 2, 2007


Yes, ardgedee, that's certainly true. It's always sex o'clock.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:12 AM on April 2, 2007


As it happens, I own a painting by a monkey, and it's fantastic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:39 AM on April 2, 2007


You think "The Laughing Gnome" is bad? What about "Sell me a Goat?" Jesus.
posted by fidelity at 7:08 AM on April 2, 2007


So, the Nat's out of the bag.
posted by klangklangston at 7:20 AM on April 2, 2007


You snarky toolboxes can have your Decemberines. I'll take my Bowie. Thank you.

But seriously, multiple users dissing Bowie? Where the hell am I?
posted by ghastlyfop at 8:13 AM on April 2, 2007


Um, AstroZombie, wrong thread, dude.
posted by unSane at 8:28 AM on April 2, 2007


Um, unSane, try to keep up.
posted by unSane at 8:29 AM on April 2, 2007


Monkey paintings are always appropriate.

But, yes, this is the right thread:

The canvas was actually the work of Banghi, a 31-year-old female chimp at the local zoo. While Banghi likes to paint, she is not able to build up much of a body of work as her mate Satscho generally destroys her paintings before they can get to the gallery.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:44 AM on April 2, 2007


This is very very cool.

I will always heart Mr. Bowie. Haters be damned.

He invited me to tea once. Such a nice gentleman. Of course he didn't mean it. He was merely being polite. He looked fabulous in his silk robe sitting there talking about his love of butch guitarists. I stood there like an idiot not taking the hint.

So. I was chased away. Chased out the door to wait in the car like a child by the notorious Mr. Big . Big, I know you read MeFi from time to time, you bastard! You made me drive you to the Sorento then you won't let me glom on to your cool celebrity interview!

Ah. What could have been... Me and David... BFFE

posted by tkchrist at 9:58 AM on April 2, 2007


Mr. Bowie has jumped the shark so many times and come right back around for another pass that the shark and he are on a first name basis, and frankly, the shark is a little sick of him.

If there's anybody in popular culture who has reinvented themselves as many times and as successfully as him, I'd like to hear about them.

Also: Prank? Awesome.

Also: Mobunited? Great metaphor, I'm totally stealing that.

Also:
Metafilter.
Pretentious baloney, snobbery, emperors' clothing.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:31 AM on April 2, 2007


Seriously, though, to posit that the fact that a painting deemed museum worthy can be mistakenly hung upside down and still look "right" enough to pass inspection for a while is *not* a testament to art being crap, but rather to the fact that the formal structures of these paintings are sophisticated enough that the works hold together regardless of how they are displayed.

It's extremely common for artists to flip their work upside down and sideways while they are producing it, in order to make sure that the forms and colors hold together throughout. It's a somewhat objective composition test. (As for paintings by monkeys and so on, I haven't given this much thought.)

Oh, and to bring this back on track, I love David Bowie, and because of him I could never bring myself to date anyone for very long who didn't look better than me in makeup.
posted by stagewhisper at 1:06 PM on April 2, 2007


Compatibility of David Bowie with Celine Dion

Physical 100%
Emotional 86%
Intellectual 94%
Overall 93%
posted by R. Mutt at 1:25 PM on April 2, 2007


Compatibility of David Bowie with Karl Rove

Physical 98%
Emotional 57%
Intellectual 90%
Overall 82%
posted by R. Mutt at 1:28 PM on April 2, 2007


I just wanted to note that Bowie would be extremely cool even if he sang like Alvin & the Chipmunks. His coolness is entirely unrelated with his musical ability.
posted by Skeptic at 4:28 PM on April 2, 2007


I glory in my plebeian tastes.
I wallow in the crass, the banal, the mundane.
I feel no shame at all in in cleaving to the middlebrow.
And I derive great pleasure and satisfaction from the impotent spluttering of those who think they are my betters.

This is my declaration of independence from the tyranny of pretension and snobbery.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:37 PM on April 2, 2007


Too late, Steven C. Dan Beste, you already paid your $5.
posted by unSane at 6:49 PM on April 2, 2007


Too late, Steven C. Dan Beste, you already paid your $5.

Enmity aside, LOL.

Steven, you wouldn't know the mundane if it bit you on the ass. Anytime anyone self-consciously strains to live the lifestyle of the Regular Joe (and I'm afraid this goes for you, too, jonmc, friend though you are), what you're engaging in is nothing more or less than a species of performance art. Somewhere between Karen Finley circa '91 and, oh, say, Larry the Cable Guy - but no more authentic.

On Bowie: See, I don't think he's "cool." I think he's actually anti-cool, and quite desperately so.

Let's establish some ground truths, first, so nobody mistakes where I'm coming from: "Space Oddity" will always be nonpareil, Ziggy taught me to live AT MAXIMUM VOLUME, I bow to no one in my admiration for the Berlin period, and right up until Scary Monsters there were moments of genius shot through it all (though it never hurts to surround yourself with folks like Iggy, Eno and Fripp).

My gratitude is deep and lifelong. It's like the situation in the Woz thread: anybody who's racked up that much good karma never needs to explain or justify him- or herself ever again.

But let's not mistake that with thinking the guy is currently cool, or interesting in any way. Since about 1985, Bowie has lived out this awful parody of a man who was once relevant, is no longer, and deep down inside, knows it.

He stays on top of things. He tries to keep the ball in play. He hands out copies of Nine Inch Nails or Nirvana or Arcade Fire records to his friends and musical co-conspirators - and the message is "I want to sound like this. I want to be edgy and fresh."

But you know perfectly well that anybody who was genuinely cool wouldn't give a fuuuck. Did Francis Albert Sinatra ever once kowtow to the moment? Did Elvis release a disco single? Would Iggy flail so hard to be seen as a Serious Art Patron and Fashion Icon?

You know the truth, all of you. You already know it! It's OK. It's not disloyal. You can admit it. You can let it into your heart, without selling out your genuine love for him: David Bowie hasn't even accidentally skated within fifteen klicks of cool since "Ashes to Ashes."
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:14 AM on April 3, 2007


I'd like to put forward the controversial notion that arguing about whether and at what point in time Bowie is/was/isn't/wasn't 'cool' is maybe kind of missing the point that he's actually pretty cool in a not-having-to-desperately-validate-your-'cool'ometer sort of way.

Creative, stylish dude with a good sense of humor. Happens also to be a musician with great and good and not-so-good albums. Not sufficiently Pitchforkian, I guess, but I like him.
posted by cortex at 8:55 AM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


(And of course I have to admit a sort of johnny-come-lately take on the whole thing; Ziggy Stardust came out seven years before I was born, so I wasn't inundated with the man when he was the king of the world.)
posted by cortex at 9:28 AM on April 3, 2007


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