The Emperor’s New Clothes

The Arts

It had to happen. The Hayward Gallery, itself no stranger to the world of fatuous modernity, is about to ask punters to shell out eight quid a ticket for ‘invisible’ art from Yoko Ono, Yves Klein and Andy Warhol.

Art about the Unseen 1957 – 2012 opens on June 12 and includes an empty plinth, a blank picture and an unseen labyrinth. The artwork includes a canvas that has been created by the artist staring at it for 1000 hours, an invisible installation designed to evoke the afterlife and the presence of Andy Warhol’s celebrity aura (an empty plinth).

Says Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery, ‘This exhibition highlights that art isn’t about material objects,’ which is funny because I was taught to treat it as the most visual medium of all. As the show is sponsored by Mastercard, perhaps they’ll let you use an invisible credit card to pay the entrance fee. I won’t be seeing it, but nor will anyone else apparently.

9 comments on “The Emperor’s New Clothes”

  1. Rick D says:

    …wow. Imagine what da Vinci could have done with such materials to work with! Brings to mind one of my favourite plays — Yasmina Rezas ART. Better, I think than the more recent GOD OF CARNAGE and the resulting film adaptation. I wonder if there’s a website dedicated to the show? Or maybe I’ll just turn off my computer and look at the monitor and see what forms. Of course, all artist must start from nothing, but this is taking the observer effect to the extreme.

    Also brings to mind one of my favourite Sondheim musicals – SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, which starts with the opening lines:


    So many possibilities. In this case that includes pretention.

  2. Rachel Green says:

    I think the show is touring to the empty shop near us.

  3. Roger says:

    See Charles Willeford’s The Burnt Orange Heresy for a similar theme…

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Do they seriously expect people to pay real money for this unseeable experience?

  5. Ben says:

    I get the impression that this isn’t the only time Yoko Ono’s spent 1000 hours staring into space.

  6. james says:

    This reminds me of a school excursion to the national gallery more than twenty years ago. One of the exhibits was nothing more than a piece of brown masonite with an ugly slash of white paint down one side. When I pointed out that there were thousands of off-cuts just like this lying around on buildings sites, the teacher started screaming at me that I didn’t understand art.

    Perhaps she was right. Maybe if I open a new document in Microsoft Word and stare at the blank page for 1000 hours I can pitch it to literary agents as an experimental masterpiece that reflects the inherent vacuity of the modern age.

  7. k1tsun3 says:

    It’s not the first time an exhibition like this has been held. This one didn’t have any objects at all:

    Paris hosts new exhibition of nothing:
    In nine empty rooms, ‘most radical show ever seen’ celebrates 50 years of the art of the void

    The last two paragraphs from the article:

    Denis Comy, an artist from Wales who was exploring the empty spaces this morning, said he was stunned by the “purity” of the concept. “You stand here in a major art gallery and you expect to see something,” he said. “But it’s just whiteness. Things like the emergency signs suddenly seem superfluous, intrusive.”

    Perhaps predictably, his feelings are not shared by everyone. A group of American students in Paris for spring break was less than impressed. “It’s a load of bullshit,” said one. “It’s like they couldn’t be assed so they just left it bare.”

  8. Bob Hampton says:

    This exhibition gives a bit of new meaning to the philistine notion that “art is nothing”. And, sadly, some justification.

  9. Robert Schulslaper says:

    Dear Mr. Fowler,

    First, allow me to congratulate you on your marvelous series featuring Bryant and May. The books are a continual source of pleasure and I eagerly look forward to many more.

    Second, Googling the lead character’s names uncovered an article about a company called Bryant and May that manufactured matches (I think they’re now out of business, unless they’re living a new life under other auspices). Is it pure coincidence that your memorable characters share the same name?

    Perhaps this is something you’ve been asked too many times to mention and have answered elsewhere. If so, please forgive me for adding to your surplus of Frequently Asked Questions.

    Sincerely yours,

    Robert Schulslaper

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