Article from Fine Art Alert*:
Billed by some as Germany’s answer to Jeff Koons, Erich Küns (who spells his name with or without the h or umlaut) has been making conceptual pieces that challenge the supremacy and legitimacy of the reigning champions of the art world. His newest piece, a 50 foot androgynous, anatomical cut-away, dwarfs Hirst’s Virgin Mother, and emerges from the pool of an adapted public fountain across from the Lever Building where Hirst’s sculpture is displayed.
Küns’ Andro-Gene highly resembles Hirst’s anatomical sculptures, which are in turn nearly indistinguishable from the anatomical models Hirst used for inspiration. The full title of the work is, “Andro-Gene, by Damien Hirst”, and Küns sidesteps being a plagiarist by insisting his piece is like a painting of a painting of a painting, and hence not the same as a painting of a painting. Considering that Hirst was sued for copyright infringement by Humbrol, manufacturers of anatomical models, it becomes difficult to accuse Küns of plagiarizing something that’s already plagiarized. While Hirst’s work is partially about the death of originality, Küns asks if you can have the death of the death of originality, and if there was ever any originality in claiming originality dead to begin with. To the degree that Küns’ sculpture is derivative, so are Hirsts’. Whatever the conceptual, rhetorical, and critical framework of Andro, it has its own unique presence.
There’s a calm tranquility to Andro-Gene. He/she appears to be wading in a calm pool. But there is also tragedy and a palpable sadness. While we know that the organs are exposed because the piece must be based on an anatomical model, as Hirst’s similar pieces were, it still seems as if the person has met some terrible disaster, torture, and operations. She/he is completely exposed, inside and out, the naked eye looks unflinchingly at realty, while also accusing the perpetrators of its suffering, including God. Meanwhile the closed eye abides in a forgiving, imperturbable quiet. The male genetalia mimics Michelangelo’s David, and the missing arms the Venus de Milo, together lending the figure a history of long suffering through the ages – the artists’ model, immortalized in marble, but forgotten in flesh, disappearing into poverty and succumbing to death. Because the figure has characteristics of both genders, everybody can sympathize with its plight, and I had to tear myself away from it before embarrassing myself by shedding tears in public.
But that is NOT what Küns has to say about the piece. It may be all those things, but the sculpture looks exactly like the model he had it made from, including economizing by having implements for both genders, and he takes no credit for any part of it. Rather, he sees the work as a jab at the incestuous relationship between the ultra rich, the art market, and the brand-name artists who merely appropriate the vision of others, and then underpay artists to recreate the pieces in question on a grander scale without giving credit to either. While Hirst and Koons accept the accolades of genius, Küns says he “didn’t do shit”. “Any jackanapes can make this kind of art,” he continues, “you just look around and find something that’s cool, then pay someone with the appropriate skills to reproduce it on an enormous scale. Anything that big and well crafted is automatically good because 99.9% of artists could never even attempt it. It’s like having a genie to make whatever you want. The real medium is money.”
Küns has also created ginormous sculptures to challenge the works of Jeff Koons and Paul McCarthy, who he asserts “are in a war, funded by the raging plutocracy, to have the largest ego, largest pieces, highest prices, and attain the most opulent pedestal of immortality”. The wealthy collectors have “rerouted art history to make pit stops at their banks, and create a beneficial, self-fulfilling prophecy in which their collections are the most valuable”.
Küns is challenging the greatness of the most celebrated and wealthy artists by taking them on at their own game, and then tossing off his own creations as derivative, and only possible because of a division of labor in which a wealthy “art director” can pay struggling artisans to do the work for him. The “art director” he argues, thinks he is above making art, and that his ideas are priceless. Küns asks the uncomfortable and unwelcome question, “are the ideas actually worthless, and the thousands of hours of skilled labor and overblown scale what really gives the works any substance?” He makes a dire prediction that with the improving technology of 3D printers, and other means of making copies, this sort of copy-cat art will be recognized as bankrupt, and the art that matters will be that which relies on the originality of the artist, not on an endlessly regurgitated faux originality of saying that there is no originality (while parasitically appropriating the original creations of others).
Küns has also made works in the style of Christopher Wool, and stenciled over Banksys. He said it was too easy not to do. Asked if he thinks his hijinks will establish him as an art contender, he said he was more like “a marathon runner who shot himself in both feet and the left nad”. He can’t expect recognition from those he implied were dim-witted, parasitic, or self-serving, who will in turn defensively reject him as the same. Küns predicts the most likely trajectory of his art career is to end up a desiccated gnat on the bottom of an anonymous boot, something not unlike, I think, his Andro-Gene. But then it is difficult to establish when he’s being serious, and how serious he’s being.
[Following the article are more pics of Küns’ works, with links for articles about them.]
~ Lance Chamberlaine
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