Monday, June 19, 2006
Artist laughs his head off at the RABy
David Hensel could not help but chuckle when he went to see his sculpture on display at the Royal Academy.
At first, after wandering through the Summer Exhibition, he concluded that it was nowhere to be seen. But eventually he found it. Or rather, he didn't.
The empty plinth (top) and One Day Closer to Paradise (below)
What he did find was the sculpture's empty plinth and wooden base displayed as "Exhibit 1201".
Mr Hensel had never considered the empty plinth a work of art in itself. But the exhibition selectors evidently did. So, too, did visitors, who pronounced it beautiful.
No one seemed to notice, or mind, that the sculpture itself, a laughing head entitled One Day Closer to Paradise, was missing. "What apparently happened was that they had become separated and the selectors judged the empty base a good enough sculpture in its own right to include it in the show," said Mr Hensel.
"How this happened is not yet clear. The rest of the sculpture is lurking somewhere in the basement, but rather than finding this a reason to blame the organisers, I am very amused, because it says something about the state of visual arts today."
The plinth, cut from a slate mortuary slab, took less than four hours to make, the tiny wooden base for the sculpture, fashioned from boxwood, less than an hour.
But One Day Closer to Paradise, made from jesmonite, took rather longer - two months in fact. No one was less surprised than Mr Hensel that a rather odd-looking, bone-shaped bit of wood should be accepted for the world's largest open-submission contemporary art exhibition.
Yesterday, the Royal Academy, with great candour, said no error had been made on its part.
"David Hensel's work was submitted to the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2006 as two separate pieces," it said in a statement.
David Hensel: 'Delighted'
"Given their separate submission, the two parts were judged independently. The head was rejected. The base was thought to have merit and accepted; it is currently on display. The head has been stored ready to be collected by the artist. It is accepted that works may not be displayed in the way that the artist might have intended."
Clearly amused, Mr Hensel said: "Anything, even if it is not intended to be art, can still have a presence. I like the look of the plinth and support. I can recognise it as a nice object. But I never thought the selectors would choose it as an exhibit."
An essential part of the London art calendar, the Royal Academy's summer show is visited by more than 100,000 people and attracts about 9,000 entrants, including unknown and emerging artists alongside more established names. Mr Hensel, 61, a member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, intended his work to illustrate an unknown man contemplating the journey to paradise.
"Perhaps that is what happens when you ascend to heaven," he said. "You become invisible, like my sculpture."
He added: "That an empty plinth makes it to the exhibition is the stuff of cartoons and is also a comment about the apparent vacuous nature of some contemporary art.
"I am delighted to have made an empty plinth that isn't empty, where the exhibit itself is merely invisible."
Visitors to the Royal Academy have praised the empty plinth for its beauty, unaware they were praising an unintentional mistake. "The sculpture is a mixture of heavy stone with a light piece of wood on top. I like the total effect. It is a really nice contrast," said one Danish visitor.
Amy Woolley, 27, from south London said: "In a context like this, it is difficult for it to work on its own. But if it was in more of a minimalist show, it would definitely seem more beautiful."
But David Connolly, 34, from Streatham, was a step ahead. "It is a joke. Maybe they have lost the piece that was meant to go there."
Mr Hensel, from East Grinstead, West Sussex, exhibited a bronze cherub in the Summer Exhibition two years ago.
Happily, it was displayed in its complete form.
Geplaatst door anonymous op Monday, June 19, 2006