[Funny] You call that art? That's just trash!

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From the Chicago Tribune

You call that art? That's just trash!

By Warren Hoge, New York Times News Service

October 22, 2001

LONDON -- An installation that the popular and pricey British artist Damien Hirst assembled in the window of a Mayfair gallery on Tuesday was dismantled and discarded the same night by a cleaning man who said he thought it was garbage.

The work -- a collection of half-full coffee cups, ashtrays with cigarette butts, empty beer bottles, a paint-smeared palette, an easel, a ladder, paintbrushes, candy wrappers and newspaper pages strewn about the floor -- was the centerpiece of an exhibition of limited-edition art that the Eyestorm Gallery showed off at a VIP preopening party on Tuesday night.

Hirst, 35, the best known member of a generation of conceptual artists known as the Young British Artists, had put it together and signed off on it, and Heidi Reitmaier, head of special projects for the gallery, put its sales value at "six figures" or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It's an original Damien Hirst," she explained.

Hirst has won prizes, drawn attention and attracted headlines with artworks that have seen him preserve sheep, shark, cows and parts thereof in formaldehyde. Also on display at Eyestorm is his new do-it-yourself kit with brushes, canvas, paints and enumerated instructions for producing your own versions of his paint spot pictures.

"There were a lot of people here smoking and drinking and just hanging out Tuesday night," Reitmaier said. "And when we came back Wednesday morning, we realized that someone had come through and, well, sort of tidied up."

The cleaning man, Emmanuel Asare, 54, told The Evening Standard: "As soon as I clapped eyes on it, I sighed because there was so much mess. It didn't look much like art to me. So I cleared it all in bin bags, and I dumped it."

Reitmaier said that Asare had not thrown everything away. "He just sort of set it aside." The gallery owners retrieved as much of it as they could and, working from photographs made the day before, put it back together.

Far from being upset by the mix-up, Hirst greeted the news as "hysterically funny," Reitmaier said. "He has already signed off on the new one, and since his art is all about the relationship between art and the everyday, he laughed harder than anyone else."

Asare will keep his job, said the gallery's public relations spokesman, Alison Smith, who suggested there was a deeper meaning to his custodial act. It could, she said, "encourage debate about what is art and what isn't, which is always healthy."

The resurrected work of art is as identical to the original as possible, with one exception. There is an added element, a sign standing by its side.

It reads: Keep Off.

Copyright 2001, Chicago Tribune

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), October 22, 2001


I have to clean out my bunny's litter box in an hour. What's the name of that art gallery again?

-- K (infosurf@yahoo.com), October 22, 2001.

I always thought my house was, well, lived in at best. Now I learn that it's actually a work of art.

-- margaret (tmcde@aol.com), October 22, 2001.

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