Hitler defaced
May 31, 2008 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Jake and Dinos Chapman have bought a stack of Adolf Hitlers paintings for £115,000 and defaced them with rainbows and butterflies for their new show, "If Hitler Had Been a Hippy, How Happy Would We Be". The show also recreates "Fucking Hell", a huge swastika shaped diorama of tiny plastic nazis torturing and killing each other, which had been destroyed in a fire.
posted by Artw (72 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
And putting them back on the market. £685,000. Pretty good turn around if they pull it off.
posted by delmoi at 8:22 AM on May 31, 2008


Adolf Hitler's stint as a jobbing painter has always been rather overshadowed by his subsequent career in politics.

is a nice opening line for a review.
posted by bunglin jones at 8:27 AM on May 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Point 1: If the artistic statement of a piece of static, visual art lies in its creation rather than its final form, is it still visual art? Has it become performance art, or the remnants of an act of performance art? Or is it something else entirely?

Point 2: Anyone who refers to their own art as "a staggering work of genius" needs to be beaten soundly about the head and shoulders.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:31 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


A thoughtful, measured response.
posted by DU at 8:44 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can I be the first to Godwin this thread? No? It already comes pre-Godwinned? M'kay.
posted by imperium at 8:45 AM on May 31, 2008


Somethimes art is so clever that I can actually forgive it for going out of it's way trying to be ofensive.

This is the oposite of that. I'd be more amused if it had some sort of timelyness to it. As it is, it's kind of like trying to get excited about a vampire movie as political commentary on Vlad the Impaler. Nazis were bad. OK, we got that.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:58 AM on May 31, 2008


HELL hath no fury
Like a chapman spurned,
So come see the second,
'Cos the first one burned.

... and they were completely robbed of the Turner when they defaced the Goya paintings.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:59 AM on May 31, 2008


Point 2b: Unless they are doing it to over agrandize some piece of shit they threw together for humorous effect. (Not saying that's going on here, just trying to help populate the rules tree).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:59 AM on May 31, 2008


Although the Chapmans do come over as a pair of totally annoying gits. (I suspect that's half the points)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:02 AM on May 31, 2008


Fucking Hell has some pretty amazing WTF value when seen in the flesh, so I'm kind of glad they recreated it. Modern Arts gain is WH40ks loss, as they would have been awesome minature painters...
posted by Artw at 9:06 AM on May 31, 2008


I'm surprised to admit that I'm a little annoyed that they destroyed Hitler's paintings, if only for their historical value. And a post about art on Metafilter needs detailed pictures in the links. These 200x200 pictures of exhibition halls are not very satisfying for our curiosity.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:06 AM on May 31, 2008


"If hell exists and Hitler exists in it, he would be spinning if he saw these. It's not his work any more. It's our work," he said.

So art objects are simply consumer items that can be reworked by whoever is rich enough to own them. What if a fascist sympathizer bought Guernica and painted smiles on the faces of the people, turned the horse into a cuddly little bunny, and renamed it "Franco was really just a swell guy"? Would the Chapmans and their supporters celebrate this as a subtle postmodern commentary on the work of art in the age of sampling and remixing?
posted by googly at 9:07 AM on May 31, 2008 [19 favorites]


If they hadn't bought them Patricia Cornwell probably would have snagged them and torn them apart anyway, looking for evidence that Hitler was Jack The Ripper.
posted by Artw at 9:09 AM on May 31, 2008


"It's only art - there are worse things happening around the world."

i've got to admit i like that quote
posted by pyramid termite at 9:09 AM on May 31, 2008


Just to be a wretchedly horrible pedant, the show doesn't recreate 'Fucking Hell' - the original was simply entitled 'Hell'.
posted by Monkeymoo at 9:21 AM on May 31, 2008


Fair point.

In other Hitler art news: Plans to display a figure of Adolf Hitler at a new branch of Madame Tussauds wax museum in Berlin has triggered an outcry in Germany with one Jewish group calling it a "Nazi Disneyland."
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on May 31, 2008


I can't help it; this one made me laugh.
posted by Windigo at 9:44 AM on May 31, 2008


Wait, so they're trying to say that the Nazis were bad?
posted by greenie2600 at 10:25 AM on May 31, 2008


Bought them for £115,000. Check.
Sold them for £685,000. Check.
Profit? £570,000. Check.

Capitalism 1
Naziism 0

yay. go team go. rah rah sis boom bah.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:27 AM on May 31, 2008


In a related story, two artists from Belgium buy up all the known prints of Sex and the City the Movie, and add footage from Nazi propaganda in hopes of lessening the overabundance of schmaltz.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:35 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


"So art objects are simply consumer items that can be reworked by whoever is rich enough to own them. What if a fascist sympathizer bought Guernica and painted smiles on the faces of the people, turned the horse into a cuddly little bunny, and renamed it "Franco was really just a swell guy"? Would the Chapmans and their supporters celebrate this as a subtle postmodern commentary on the work of art in the age of sampling and remixing?"

Unlike Guernica, Hitler's paintings are not considered "priceless."
posted by BrianBoyko at 10:38 AM on May 31, 2008


Man I love these guys. No one since Dali has manipulated their own public image and the perception of their work so precisely to such perfect ends.
And yes, Fucking Hell is less of a recreation of and more of a sequel to Hell.

"So art objects are simply consumer items that can be reworked by whoever is rich enough to own them. What if a fascist sympathizer bought Guernica and painted smiles on the faces of the people, turned the horse into a cuddly little bunny, and renamed it "Franco was really just a swell guy"? Would the Chapmans and their supporters celebrate this as a subtle postmodern commentary on the work of art in the age of sampling and remixing?"

What if indeed!
*lol of joy at art!*
posted by cmoj at 10:49 AM on May 31, 2008


There's a bit of hypocrisy in defacing or destroying another's work while saying about their own that "We couldn't imagine a world without hell and we wanted to rescue the work from the sentimentality that some clothed it in after it was burned."

Got it - when your own work is destroyed, rebuild it so it isn't lost or misinterpreted. As for others, well, screw em. Sorry, this wreaks of stunt art meant to turn a buck.

*by the way, I don't give a wiff about Hitler, but screwing with Goya works pisses me off. If it is about the imagery, deface a copy, not the original. But that's not what it is about is it - it's the novelty of going after a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California with a sledge hammer while effectively selling tickets.
posted by Muddler at 10:49 AM on May 31, 2008


So art objects are simply consumer items that can be reworked by whoever is rich enough to own them.

Was there some point in history when this wasn't the case? And if anyone objects, I've got an attic full of my own masterpieces that you're welcome to save for posterity -- and you don't even have to be very rich to own those.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:50 AM on May 31, 2008


Those paintings rock. Seriously.

There's good money to be made off the Nazis. Just ask the History Channel.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:06 AM on May 31, 2008


I'm surprised to admit that I'm a little annoyed that they destroyed Hitler's paintings

I'm not. Fuck them and fuck anyone who thinks defacing valuable pieces of historical artifact is cute and funny just because they're connected to a horrible person. This isn't parody. This isn't the "Sensation" exhibit. It's taking an actual product of public interest that cannot be replaced and destroying it.

If someone bought Mother Teresa's cloak and then wiped their ass with it claiming the shitstain was "art" I'd understand why people would be a tad outraged regardless of their opinions on Catholicism. I hate our President but if someone someone tried to burn down the White House I'd be the first to call for their ass thrown in jail.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:09 AM on May 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sorry, this wreaks of stunt art meant to turn a buck.

Riiiiiiight. Because all real art is super special and precious. I think I get your point, that it sounds like a specious show and etc., but without seeing it live you can not really know. The Chapman brothers are excellent provocateurs, but also artists making pretty great work about provocation.

The real news is that they re-built 'Hell.' This is cool.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:11 AM on May 31, 2008


Their next art project should be digging a hole so deep they can't get out, as a symbolic commentary of their previous works.
posted by Free word order! at 11:12 AM on May 31, 2008


It's like Flip That House for bad art.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:22 AM on May 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Can someone send them some works by Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao's widow, Charles Manso, etc....anything to keep them busy defacing works of psychopaths rather than artists like Goya.
posted by Skeptic at 11:24 AM on May 31, 2008


Whatever you think, it's better than most art.
posted by mek at 11:33 AM on May 31, 2008


Fuck them and fuck anyone who thinks defacing valuable pieces of historical artifact is cute and funny just because they're connected to a horrible person.

then persuade someone to outbid them next time - as long as we have a system where art is a commodity and can be owned, then that kind of thing can happen unless you're willing to pay more than the defacers are

This isn't parody.

then why am i laughing?

It's taking an actual product of public interest that cannot be replaced and destroying it.

it's not a product of artistic interest - well, until they started screwing around with it - they're half-assed works by a mediocre student that would have been destroyed decades ago if the name adolf hitler hadn't been attached to them

the guy doesn't even have a damn tombstone - and the world should give him one so anyone who wants to can piss on it, freely, legally and with society's full approval
posted by pyramid termite at 11:34 AM on May 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is interesting. It never occurred to me that this might be a consequence of the capitalist paradigm--that the purchaser of work of art is entitled to alter or destroy it.

Imagine if a really crazy rich person bought a $40,000,000 van Gogh and destroyed it. . .they'd probably only get that one chance to pull of such a stunt. But that van Gogh is gone forever. . .
I wonder which of the awesomest works of art are currently in public hands?
posted by flotson at 11:43 AM on May 31, 2008


Hmmm. . . thought two. Theoretically, it would have been possible to have altered/re-presented these paintings in such a way that they became beautiful, or touched a different complex of emotions. I could do with a little more hope, joy, even grief, in my art. Anything that makes me feel a little more connected and human, a little less freaked out and alienated, is always welcome.
posted by flotson at 11:51 AM on May 31, 2008


So art objects are simply consumer items that can be reworked by whoever is rich enough to own them.

Allow me to introduce you to a branch of art I like to call architecture. If I had $20 for every building of historic or aesthetic value that somebody knocked down to make a parking lot I could have probably outbid these guys for the Hitler collection.

That the inverse is also true was proven by Marcel Duchamp almost a century ago.

Which brings us full circle to Pyramid Termite's suggestion. Maybe the park service could find a spot near here as a good place for some public sculpture.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:16 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem is that paint and canvas themselves are most likely seen as being eligible for individual ownership by anyone who believes in private property in any form. Paint and canvas are just replaceable, fungible commodities, after all.

Anyone who wants to protect art needs to either scrap the idea of private property altogether or provide some workable, compelling explanation of when an art work stops being eligible for private ownership, and why, and who is tasked with administering this.

Can an artist lose control over their own art, if becomes a matter of public interest? If not, why can't they transfer their own rights over their artwork to someone else, if they wish?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:40 PM on May 31, 2008


I remember a bit of a fuss over Michael Landy when he decided to shred everything he owned... fine until it came to his art collection, then some people kicked up a fuss.

If I had the money I'd buy up every painting Hitler ever painted... put on a big exhibition then on the final day, burn it to the ground.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:40 PM on May 31, 2008


You know who else had big exhibitions of art they didn't approve of...
posted by Artw at 12:47 PM on May 31, 2008


Maybe the park service could find a spot near here as a good place for some public sculpture.

i don't think they make trojans that big, do they?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:05 PM on May 31, 2008


I'd like to round up all works of art and make a big bonfire. I'd call my creation, Incendiées
posted by nola at 2:25 PM on May 31, 2008


No one since Dali has manipulated their own public image and the perception of their work so precisely to such perfect ends.

See KLF.
posted by humannaire at 2:27 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I didn't think any of Hitler's art had survived. Given that it has, this is a fitting result but let's hope it doesn't become a trend.
posted by tommasz at 2:30 PM on May 31, 2008


Anyone who wants to protect art needs to either scrap the idea of private property

Fallacy of the slippery slope. Having some regulations on what you can do with your own property hardly means the end of private property.

I'm not allowed to crank my huge amplifier at 4AM, I am not allowed to use my own legally purchased chemicals to make bombs or poisons, I'm not allowed to simply neglect my property until it falls on my neighbor, even if I'm prepared to pay compensation to his widow. All of these statements have been true all over the West for generations and yet the idea of "private property" is still so strong that in large parts of the United States you can kill someone for it to protect your property only and face no consequences.

(About the only place where private property is not safe is "eminent domain" - where rich people convince the government to steal your property for pennies on the dollar and give it to them - but I think we can all agree that that's a) bad b) generally being done by the conservative side...)

It's a little baffling that you think that unless the ultra-rich are allowed to buy irreplaceable treasures of the world and destroy them, private property rights will crumble, but I've read enough of your stuff to suppose you believe what you say.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:33 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Since their 'rectification' of Goya was supposed to be a sign of admiration, this can only imply that they rate AH as maybe the number two artist of all time?

It might be some comfort to remember that the Goya stuff they destroyed was, I believe, a nineteen-thirties reprint, albeit from his own plates. Bad enough; they're surely not fit to look at Goya, never mind own any, never mind...

Really the only appropriate response to these embarrassingly desperate efforts is that these people receive no more of the attention they so ardently and talentlessly crave, from anyone, but I fear that's too much to hope for.
posted by Phanx at 2:34 PM on May 31, 2008


I'm not allowed to crank my huge amplifier at 4AM, I am not allowed to use my own legally purchased chemicals to make bombs or poisons, I'm not allowed to simply neglect my property until it falls on my neighbor, even if I'm prepared to pay compensation to his widow.

None of these examples are at all analogous to destroying art that one purchases. All of your examples involve projecting something dangerous or obnoxious on to another's person or property.

It's a little baffling that you think that unless the ultra-rich are allowed to buy irreplaceable treasures of the world and destroy them, private property rights will crumble, but I've read enough of your stuff to suppose you believe what you say.

I didn't say that at all, and your over-the-top rhetoric (e.g. "ultra-rich" and "irreplaceable treasures") leads me to believe you're not thinking about this very seriously.

If you can't articulate the harm caused by destroying art, can't place this harm within the types of harms traditionally accorded legal protection (or explain why an expansion is warranted), don't know how to distinguished protected art from unprotected paint and canvas, don't know who should make this determination to begin with, and can't come up with a satisfactory account of an artist's rights over his own art, that's fine. But until some of these questions start being answered with more than shoddy analogies or rhetoric, you're not going to have a very compelling position.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:54 PM on May 31, 2008


The hilarious thing is that the Nazi's probably would have fit in with hippies. They were socialists and former communists. They supported animal rights. They made national laws about organic food. They were by no means conservative. They just also happened to be big believers in eugenics and racial supremacy.
posted by snookums at 3:50 PM on May 31, 2008


Allow me to introduce you to a branch of art I like to call architecture. If I had $20 for every building of historic or aesthetic value that somebody knocked down to make a parking lot I could have probably outbid these guys for the Hitler collection.

In Britain at least, we already have legal protection for architecturally or historically significant buildings - it's the Listing system. Buildings are graded as to their significance (age, designer, uniqueness, etc) and even when privately owned are subject to restrictions on renovation, etc.

We should have a listing system for art, if there is not already one, and for historical documents as well. Right now, anyone owning a historical document can destroy it at will - regardless of who wrote it or its significance. (Maybe very important documents are held by old political families - and some of them keep those documents from historians though they do not own the copyright and indeed many were created by the politician or magistrate as part of his public career - modern documents would all be public archives).

Most people are familiar with the idea of the 'tyranny of the majority', the idea that democratic processes can badly mistreat people who happen to be in a minority in a democratic society. Many people believe that, because of this effect, we need to have things like charters of rights and high courts to protect these intrinsically disenfranchised people. Well we, as a species, have a 'tyranny of the living'. No matter what you want, your descendants can screw you over without consequence. Similarly, we can rob our own descendants of things that they might want to have or enjoy. This is, in a philosophical level, why we need to have things like the 'listing' system. Whatever our proximal short-term needs, our children and our children's children should have the right to enjoy great works of art, experience important buildings and environments and study notable historical documents.

Finally, when looking at this particular case, I would argue that we have to view the paintings of Hitler as more than just 'works of art'. They are also irreplaceable historical artefacts that give us insight into an important historical figure. The thing about historical artefacts, as well as archaeological sites and so-forth, is that we simply don't know what researchers in the future will be able to do. What happens if, in three hundred years' time, some boffin develops a machine that can examine the mind of an artist by scanning his or her painting? What happens if some future nutcase wants to argue that the world should be run by artists, because water colourists are just incapable of evil? Our voiceless posterity needed those paintings, an they've just been ripped off by a couple of people doing a second-rate imitation of Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q.
posted by jb at 4:13 PM on May 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can't say I understand the fuss. They weren't priceless artworks, they weren't masterpieces, they were just okay-ish paintings that were particularly interesting because they were by Hitler. What would have happened to them if not this? Some gallery may have bought them (uproar!) and had an exhibition and you could have gone along and thought "well, Hitler painted these. Isn't it strange how a person we commonly think of as absolute evil began life with an aspiration toward art and beauty."

You know what? You can still think that. You can still see the original painting (if this is representative of what they've done to them). It's still possible to marvel at Hitler's beginnings. It's also possible to enjoy these new artworks that juxtapose our ideas of Hitler's evil with sunshine and rainbows.

On a side note, I saw the original Hell and I felt physically sick about it. And loved it. It was an incredibly powerful piece of art, and I'm glad to hear there'll be a new version.
posted by twirlypen at 4:24 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


the guy doesn't even have a damn tombstone

Is this true? Can we lobby to give Hitler a tombstone that says Here lies Hiter: what a motherfucker
posted by shakespeherian at 4:33 PM on May 31, 2008


What a wonderful way to honour Hitler's paintings: by mocking them and offending him, were he here today. A hearty "Fuck you and what you held dear, you one-balled, fucked-up little man. You fucking failed again."
posted by five fresh fish at 5:15 PM on May 31, 2008


In Britain at least, we already have legal protection for architecturally or historically significant buildings - it's the Listing system. Buildings are graded as to their significance (age, designer, uniqueness, etc) and even when privately owned are subject to restrictions on renovation, etc.

The listing system differs from art in the sense that as buildings occupy public space, they play a major role in shaping our environment. Consequently, the people with responsibility for taking care of that environment quite reasonably play a role in its maintenance.

Those regulations -- which are mutable and subject to change, with fashion and other pressures -- only apply to the external space though. Nobody insists that the interior of a listed building should be decorated in such a way as to be in keeping with it's historical origins. Because the state quite reasonably makes a distinction between public and private there.

As long as the state is happy for a work of art to remain in private ownership, then it's completely unreasonable to believe that it has any business telling people what they can and can't do with it. What we do have in the UK, is a system whereby if someone wants to sell a piece of important art or an important document outside the UK, they have to give one of our museums the opportunity to match that price. If the work is as important as you say that it is, then the state should be happy to acquire it.

Perhaps you may be suggesting that it's desirable to acquire this work at a sub-market value via some sort of forced redistribution of wealth. Funny, because it only seems like yesterday I was arguing against somebody (five fresh fish, perhaps?) making the argument that all historical documents in the hands of public institutions should be privatized because private owners are better custodians of such things. I don't believe that that's true, but I do think the market is a pretty good mechanism for ensuring that things end up in the hands of those who want them most.

So a perfectly reasonable mechanism for protecting this stuff does exist. We -- collectively -- just don't care enough to make the sacrifices required to enable the state to pay the market price for it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:36 PM on May 31, 2008


Can we get the Chapmans to put a bunch of butterflies and rainbows here?
posted by lukemeister at 6:06 PM on May 31, 2008


How is this different than people burning books they don't like? It seems pretty hypocritical to me.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:15 PM on May 31, 2008


More accurately, how is this different than people writing marginalia in a book?

More accurately, how is this different than people creating a book carving?

And the bottom line is that this was Hitler's art. It deserves no damn respect at all. Making fun of it is better than burying it under the fish pond.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:23 PM on May 31, 2008


"It's only shitty art - there are worse things happening around the world."

Ever thrown out a Harlequin romance? Painted over graffiti? Pitched your child's art into the trash after it hung on the fridge for a week?

Get some perspective. These paintings had minimal historical value and no artistic value (previous to their re-use as an artistic statement).

They had no more artistic value than the stuff I created in the art classes I took at University. And while my mother was silly enough to keep my portfolio when I didn't want it, the truth is that the only way they'll ever be worthy of calling "art" would be for the brothers Chapman to make a mockery of my mediocre skills.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:30 PM on May 31, 2008


If Hitler Had Been a Hippy, How Happy Would We Be?

To answer the question... we wouldn't be one iota happier.
posted by tybeet at 7:27 PM on May 31, 2008


If Hitler Had Been a Hippy, How Happy Would We Be?

To answer the question... we wouldn't be one iota happier.


How can you be so sure? We might be living in a workers' paradise, but under a form of Communism built upon a Russian industrial base that hadn't been decimated by the war.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:40 PM on May 31, 2008


We might be living in a workers' paradise

not with assholes like lenin and stalin running it
posted by pyramid termite at 8:44 PM on May 31, 2008


Well, even a small alteration of the past can alter more than mere decades, so the thing is that we can never know what might have happened had Hitler been a hippy. Lenin or Stalin may have had found totally different power dynamics at play & ruled differently, or have been replaced or succeeded by more benevolent leaders.

To assume that the 20th Century would have played out identically to how it eventually did had Hitler not gained power - only without all that messy war & genocide in the middle - is naive in the extreme.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:50 PM on May 31, 2008


Those regulations -- which are mutable and subject to change, with fashion and other pressures -- only apply to the external space though. Nobody insists that the interior of a listed building should be decorated in such a way as to be in keeping with it's historical origins. Because the state quite reasonably makes a distinction between public and private there.

This is not true - buildings in private estates which are not visible to the public can be listed, and interiors of buildings can also be listed. I have lived in a building whose interior was listed, and which was not visible from any public road. Sometimes only the exterior or facade is listed (most medieval buildings, for example, were so changed before they were listed as to make protecting the interior silly), but more can be. Sometimes the structure is listed - the beams, for example - and change to that is prohibited, while no restrictions are placed on interior decoration (paint, fixtures, etc). Even some works of art have been listed, when they are part of the fabric of the building (frescos, for example).
posted by jb at 8:53 PM on May 31, 2008


What a wonderful way to honour Hitler's paintings: by mocking them and offending him, were he here today. A hearty "Fuck you and what you held dear, you one-balled, fucked-up little man. You fucking failed again."

Yes, what a magnificent political statement the Chapmans have made. How courageous. How sophisticated. How deep! They have struck a blow for justice and democracy, and radically reoriented our understanding of Hitler, to boot!

And the £500K profit is pretty nice, too.
posted by googly at 9:02 PM on May 31, 2008


Lenin or Stalin may have had found totally different power dynamics at play & ruled differently

they both were in power long before hitler got in - if anything, hitler learned a few things from them

To assume that the 20th Century would have played out identically to how it eventually did had Hitler not gained power - only without all that messy war & genocide in the middle - is naive in the extreme.

that's not what i said - but to assume that communism leads to a worker's paradise is real naivety - and to assume that nationalism wasn't going to screw europe up somehow is pretty naive, too - a good part of german society was looking for a hitler and if it hadn't have been him, it would have been someone else - the results might be quite different - but the level of strife and the body count might have still been pretty high
posted by pyramid termite at 9:10 PM on May 31, 2008


nah, more than anything, Hitler wanted to emulate the British Raj.

aside from that, i never meant to imply that a workers' paradise would have come about; more that one simply has no way of knowing what might have happened in Hitler's absence. as you point out though, if Hitler didn't exist, the Germans would have had to invent him, so things might have played out similarly to how they actually did.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:15 PM on May 31, 2008


Alternatively, googly, they could have burned the paintings or dropped a deuce on them and called that art. Any of the alternatives, save presenting them as historic artifacts*, are equally "magnificent" a statement. The Chapmans were restrained in their response and amusing to boot. That's better than fire or shit, IMO.

£500K profit is what art is all about. Few artists are in it to not make money.

*and, really, if we were going to preserve Hitler's crappy student art, we might as well preserve his used razorblades and dirty bedsheets. It's all garbage.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:15 PM on May 31, 2008



Imagine if a really crazy rich person bought a $40,000,000 van Gogh and destroyed it. . .they'd probably only get that one chance to pull of such a stunt. But that van Gogh is gone forever. . .


That's actually the background story of the Myst-era video game "Millennium Auction", where the destruction of a priceless work of art by a crazy rich person causes strict restrictions on the transfer of art. This leads to the hyper-competitive auctions for art still in private hands in the futuristic world of 2006.

review longer review EW review

As for the topic; I think that if the original paintings were evaluated as objects of art as initially conceived by the artist, they're clearly not very good (with the caveat that with art, good can have many meanings- it may be better to say that they don't accomplish what the artist was trying to present.) However, as objects of historical interest, they are irreplaceable. The question is is what is created worth the loss? From an economic perspective, perhaps, but I think there may have been more artistically interesting ways to deface Hitler's paintings.
posted by theclaw at 11:00 PM on May 31, 2008


£500K profit is what art is all about. Few artists are in it to not make money.

Ah, well played, sir. I almost took you seriously in this thread until that point.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:30 AM on June 1, 2008


Flipping Saw the Chapmans on a BBC interview the other night, promoting Fucking Hell and their Hitler paintings.

Came away with three things -

1) these guys are tossers. They described driving by the Saatchi warehouse fire again and again in their car, laughing, as they knew it contained artwork done by friends of theirs who were more famous and equally pants (i.e. Tracey Emin). Then, they found out their own artwork was burned in the fire, and it became a tragedy.

Their justification for the sequel/rehash was some convoluted argument about how hell was an incorporeal place, the first Hell piece was destroyed and became incorporeal, and as such, they needed to make it flesh again from the ether. Then they said, to paraphrase, "and yeah, we feel vindicated in doing this because we sold the second one for £7 million when we only sold the first one for £650K because of the fire publicity". Great... art?

2) Fucking Hell looks interesting, if only because it does have some quite clever, mildly cheeky bits to it. It better have, given it takes up nine enormous cases and contains thousands of miniatures - even by accident, there'd be something interesting to see in all the jumble of ideas.

3) putting poorly coloured teenage doodle on Pee Chees sorts of rainbows in the skies of Hitler's paintings isn't art. I doubt very seriously that it was intended as such by the Chapmans. I think it was a stunt, particularly as Fucking Hell has such a strong Hitler/Nazi motif. When asked, the Chapmans couldn't give any sort of coherent explanation of even the theory or inspiration behind what they'd done, except to shrug and say "well, it's Hitler! He was a bad artist, so we did this to his artwork". Nothing about Nazism, or Hitler as a symbol, or anything even close to a concept other than "aren't we naughty for doing this? Defacement AND Hitler, all in one!"

There's just no there there.
posted by Grrlscout at 6:27 AM on June 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry, originally meant to say "flipping through channels the other night, I saw the Chapmans"... but actually, the feeling is clearer somehow when put as written!
posted by Grrlscout at 6:29 AM on June 1, 2008


Tossers indeed.

I grant that you have to have a certain amount of arrogance to be an artist in the first place, but once you start imagining that your work supercedes all else because of some intrinsic wonderfulness on your part, well, screw that.

The Hitler stuff is basically artefact. Possibly of historical value, but if I had a choice of recapturing some lost artefact from oblivion, his daubs would be pretty far down the list. Doesn't mean that defacing them is a good idea, never mind the fact that they did such a pissed poor job of it. I mean to say, really - rainbows as if done by first graders? This is their idea of wit?

(By the way, I also dislike that stupid IMPei pyramid defacing the entry to Louvre. Le Notre's magnificent sixteenth century classical facade with this ugly glass pimple in front of it. What, they think this improves matters?)

But getting back to the tossers, I remember the first time I heard of them. They had taken a mint set of Goya's Disasters of War and run them through their own special rectification. Okay, not unique work, but Goddamn, I would actually not mind having a few of those works. One less set, but their vision (which could have been achieved with a copy, but would then have been ignored because so obvious and juvenile in conception and execution) will live on, at least for a few years.

I understand they also go for in your face pornography as art, on which I have sneered before as a cheap means for arrested adolescents of getting attention and making the stiffs (such as myself) all bent out of shape.

So, yeah, tossers. Need a good spanking, and then to be ignored.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:19 PM on June 1, 2008


Descrating the Goya prints was appalling. Those have actual, recognized artistic value.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:35 PM on June 1, 2008


That's actually the background story of the Myst-era video game "Millennium Auction", where the destruction of a priceless work of art by a crazy rich person causes strict restrictions on the transfer of art. This leads to the hyper-competitive auctions for art still in private hands in the futuristic world of 2006.

Also the plot of a novel by Alan Stratton.
posted by jb at 4:39 PM on June 1, 2008


I'm surprised by how many people say that Hitler was a bad painter. He started out on landscapes like any other painter. We'll really never know whether he could have been a great painter, because he didn't go far enough down that path. By the way, if you look around really hard, you can find some of his architectural posters he did for the Reich. They're probably a more illuminating look into his psyche.
posted by snookums at 11:53 AM on June 5, 2008


« Older When King James VII of Scotland died in 1700, Loui...  |  The Atlantic Monthly has helpf... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments