From Marcel Duchamp to Maurizio Cattelan, Gavin Turk to Gary Hume – artists have long re-appropriated objects and used craft in their artworks. Resultantly it has caused many to question the role of the artist and authorship: when an artist does not make his or her own work, what does it mean for the nature of art, and for the status of the artists? One of the earliest examples comes in the form of Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), a mass-produced porcelain urinal, re-represented as art. Controversial yet celebrated, criticised yet critically acclaimed, the double-edged sword of the artist/artisan is a debate that has had critics and art-goers in a state of flux for years. Tackling these questions head on and for the first time, is Michael Petry’s latest book, The Art of Not Making: The New Artist/ Artisan Relationship. With 320 illustrations, artwork analyses and interviews with artists and craftsperson about their creative collaborations, the Art of Not Making provides an extensive look into this intriguing subject matter.
“Artists appropriate images from the world and therefore shape how you experience the world; you look at a bin liner and you think of it as being a Gavin Turk,” explains the artist on his trompe l’oeil fabrications. Made out of painted bronze Turk’s creations have included an empty chip box, a homeless person in a sleeping bag, and a pile of rubbish bags. Unsightly and seemingly unattractive these artworks are in fact produced by highly skilled bronze-casters and intricately made. “Whether I am using my own work or someone else’s work is no different. It is all a matter of interpretation in terms of ownership in art,” Turk explains. “Artists just simply re-signature, re-authorise the visual experience until another artist does another signature on top.” Whether you agree with this statement or not, you are left to make the decision through works which include Richard Wilson’s Stack Shack (2006-10) shacks literally stacked and made out of cast aluminium; Do-Ho Suh’s The Perfect Home II (2003) a replica of a New York apartment made out of translucent nylon; Peter Blake’s Alphabet (2008) made out of ‘found’ letters using wool, silk and artificial silk; and Maurizio Cattelan’s Hollywood sign (2001), the exact same size and style of the original placed above Palermo in Sicily. These among numerous others, which fall in the category of Glass, Metal, Stone, Textiles and Other Materials, not only address an interesting debate but also present an intriguing anthology of artists of varying ages, levels and approaches whom have utilised this artist/artisan relationship.
The Art of Not Making: The New Artist/ Artisan Relationship by Michael Petry published by Thames & Hudson is out now.
Text by Lucia Davies