Value

Cildo Meireles

‘I like dealing with paradigmatic things’, Cildo Meireles has said, ‘material things that are recognized by the public in their everyday lives, things that are at the same time matter and symbol. Money, for example.’ From the blatant exhibition, on a pedestal, of a wad of banknotes secured with rubber bands, Money Tree 1969, to the gold thread and gold nails inserted, respectively, into a great mass of straw in Fio (Thread) 1990–5 and plain wooden crates in Ouro e Paus (Gold and Wood) 1982–95, the conundrums of value have continued to fascinate Meireles. Money Tree ‘points towards the problem of the value of the art object and the discrepancy between use-value and exchange-value’. It consists of 100 one-Cruzeiro notes and was offered for sale for twenty times that amount. One wonders what it would fetch today; in inflationary Brazil at the time it was made, Meireles joked, money was the cheapest material. Much later, for Occasion 2004, the artist contrived a scenario in which the public would be faced by money in the most direct way. This ensured that our attention would be drawn away from speculative thoughts about the art object, and back to ourselves. We encountered a small, elegant, open receptacle containing new banknotes in the centre of a brightly lit room lined with three big mirrors on three of the walls,producing endless recession images. One of the mirrors was two-way. Viewers reacted in various different ways to the presence of the naked cash, and then, leaving the room and looking back through the two-way mirror, saw other people where they themselves had been a moment before, becoming voyeurs. As a last clandestine fling, Meireles became an ironic counterfeiter, printing a large number of bills – Zero Cruzeiro 1974 and Zero Dollar 1978– the latter with the help of the designer/engraver João Bosco Renaud. Reducing official value to zero, the subversive Cruzeiro notes are embellished with the portraits, not of some illustrious figure of the Brazilian pantheon, but of two individuals effectively excluded fromBrazilian society, whose civil rights are minimal: a Kraô Indian on one face and the inmate of a mental asylum on the other (Meireles knew both these men).

Cildo Meireles: On the nature of things by Guy Brett and Vicente Todolí. Click to read more

Money Tree

Money Tree

Zero Cruzeiro

Zero Cruzeiro

Occasion

Occasion

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Democracy Has Bad Taste

Although we live in an era when anything can be art, not everything is art

In the 2013 BBC Reith Lectures, Playing to the Gallery, the Turner Prize-winning cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry speaks about the role of art in today’s global landscape.

grayson perry2

In this first instalment, entitled Democracy Has Bad Taste, Grayson Perry tackles the question of what makes art “good” and who decides it. This question is particularly tricky in this era when preserved sharks and urinals can be found on display in galleries. Beauty is no longer a valid criteria, as Perry explains:

“In the art world sometimes it can feel like to judge something on its beauty, on its aesthetic merits can almost feel like you’re buying into some politically incorrect, into sexism, into racism, colonialism, you know class privilege. It almost feels it’s loaded, this idea of beauty, because it’s a construct because where does our idea of beauty come from?”

Grayson Perry talks about the politics of the art world, describing the rigorous validation process that a work of art goes through before arriving on gallery walls. He discusses various criteria and tools which can help us (people outside the “art world”) to understand and appreciate art.

Click here to listen to the lecture or here to read the transcript.

One of Grayson Perry's exclusive drawings for the 2013 Reith Leactures

One of Grayson Perry’s exclusive drawings for the 2013 Reith Leactures