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Fire art

This is tragic. Truly tragic. In fact I am extremely surprised that David Carr has not had a chortle about it at least six hours ago:

Today a painful task will begin in Leyton, east London: picking through the remains of a devastating fire which destroyed a huge warehouse containing priceless works of art.

Many of the lost works are from the collection of Charles Saatchi. It is thought that they may include Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Hell.

Tracey Emin’s famous Everyone I Have Ever Slept With may be another: the tent appliquéd with the names of her past lovers was the star of the famous Royal Academy Sensation! exhibition and to many became emblematic of the endeavours of a generation of young British artists. “I don’t know what specific pieces have been lost,” Mr Saatchi said yesterday. “So far it has been a day of many rumours.”

The warehouse belonged to Momart, the country’s leading art handlers, who undertake storage and transport for the Tate, the National Gallery and Buckingham Palace, as well as Damien Hirst and Rachel Whiteread.

The confusion about which pieces have succumbed stems partly from Momart’s uncertainty about what was stored in the building, Mr Saatchi said. Work by Sarah Lucas, famed for substituting parts of the human body with poultry, fried eggs and vegetables in her pieces, was also feared to have been destroyed.

No no no. This was not “devastating”. This was an art happening. These people need to dispense with their outdated ways of seeing so-called “reality” and instead look at the world in a new way. This fire did not destroy, it merely moved some objects from one state of being to another … We need to think beyond “specific pieces” to the totality of life …

As for all this “uncertainty”, well, what I say is can one ever really be “certain” about anything? Surely we have learned by now not to seek an illusion of certainty in an inherently uncertain world. There is no certainty. There are only different ways of looking at things. We need to get away from the single point of view, the one fixed, bourgeois way of seeing everything, within one fixed frame … blah blah blah … etcetera etcetera etcetera … insert Carr-isms at will.

Sometimes Modern Art contrives a happening which really hits the spot and grabs the headlines. Sensational or what?

Although, I would advise Buckingham Palace to think about making other arrangements for its art transport needs.

42 comments to Fire art

  • Sam

    I must say, that was a remarkably cruel comment–but funny.

    I hereby declare that this fire is a performance piece named ‘”The End of History” meets “The Age of Extremes”‘

  • andy

    Am I the only one who sees massive opportunities for fraud here?

    “Yes, it was destroyed in the fire, can i get my insurance money?” “psst, hey buddy, wanna buy some modern art?”

  • lindenen

    This is rather symbolic. Now if we could only magically make the rest of the shit art vanish.

  • Guy Herbert

    You may not like NBA–I don’t–but this is Mr Saatchi’s property and presumably he does like it, as well as it being stock in his art dealership. So he has my sympathy.

    There’s plenty more where it came from, though. For us to be relieved of Britart would require a revolution of taste and policy among museum directors.

  • Just John

    On the plus side… Sarah Lucas’s poultry should taste pretty good after that cookin’.

  • Verity

    Just John – That was funny!

    Y-e-e-s, Brian, I suppose one could view the fire as installation art … fire is so consuming of the moment and so temporary, illustrating the fleeting nature of life …

    On the other hand, one could just enjoy a nice little shiver of Schadenfreude and feel quite a perky for the morning.

    But Guy Herbert is right. There’s plenty more where that came from. They’ll be sitting around smoking intensely and discussing the tragic loss to civilisation right now, but by this afternoon, they’ll all be in their studios churning out more.

    Oh, by the way, too bad that naked pregnant dwarf wasn’t in there, too.

  • There is a type of fraud which in less politically correct days was known as “Jewish Lightening”. Fires which destroyed failing retail businesses – often in the garment trade seemed to be prone to mysterious fires.

    (Please don’t anyone bother to bore on about anti-semitism, I don’t give a monkeys).

  • mnk

    So what was the point of your comment?

  • The reputation of most of these artists will surely decline. In most cases it has done so already.

    Even the list of artists seems hopelessly dated: Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin are the Sleeper, Oasis and Echobelly of the art world.

    I’m sure Saatchi is a good guy and he has undeniable enthusiasm for this work. But ten years from now most of it will have curio value. Anyway I am sure having Nigella Lawson’s shoulder to cry on is ample compensation for seeing a lot of art-school pranks go up in flames.

  • Paul

    Don’t lets miss the point here, ashes are MUCH lighter to carry, and therefore much easier and cheaper to store 🙂

  • zmollusc

    Hmm.. a car is only written off when the costs of repair exceed the value of the vehicle once repaired. Since many of these art works comprise <£50 of materials and a couple of hours of unskilled work, the bulk of the collection could be restored in no time.

  • Saatchi has spent a lot of time putting the collection together, I am sure he valued the art greatly, and when he says that he “feels sick” about the fire, I am sure that this is completely true. (If you have put effort into accumulating a big collection of anything, losing it feels painful. So he quite genuinely has my sympathy here. On the other hand, if the fire had destroyed ten Turners belonging to the Tate Gallery I would be extremely upset about it, whereas I will confess that finding out about the loss of this art doesn’t appear to have affected my morning unduly

  • Things are really bad for Tracy Emin, she has lost everything..

    “Oh yes, even my clothes.”

  • Joe

    What’s the bet a video montage of the fire will be in the shortlist for next years turner prize!

  • ian

    I guess the average quality of art currently held in the UK has gone up a tad.

  • R C Dean

    Since when does a competent warehousing company, especially one that specializes in valuable items, not know what is on the premises, and not have a minimally effective fire suppression system (I believe the better museums use halon rather than sprinklers).

    I smell fraud. I bet Lloyds does, too. Keep an eye on the fine print of the business section; we haven’t heard the last of this.

  • Who was the dweeb who thought 9/11 was a great work of art ?

    I’d like to hear his critique of the Abu Ghraib pictures. I think they’re so post-modern.

  • Verity

    Sylvain – Yes, it was someone from the Continong but I can’t remember who. Given that he was posing as an intellectual, he may have been French … (no offence).

  • A_t

    Jeez… don’t you people have google or something? It was Damien Hirst.

  • A_t

    hahaha!! hoisted by my own internet petard….

    it was actually Stockhausen. Oops.

  • Pete

    I’ve just caught the (unintentionally) hilarious report on the BBC’s 6 O’Clock news. One comment that sticks in the mind: “Whilst some may lament the loss of the tent and the elephant dung …” Truly hilarious.

    Now the 6.30pm Regional News for London has an extended item (its beginning to match Abu Ghaib for coverage) from this evening’s opening of ‘London’s newest art gallery, where the great and the good of the London art world are still coming to terms with the damage done to London’s art heritage.”

    Please stop, my sides can’t take much more of this …

  • David Gillies

    This isn’t the first time this has happened to poor old Charlie – does anyone remember that bust made out of frozen blood he bought? It went all gooey when someone unplugged the freezer. Tee hee.

  • Antoine Clarke

    So the crap has burnt up, hopefully emitting poisonous greenhouse gasses in the process? Any chance it was arson? Give that man a cigar!

  • Verity, it couldn’t be a French person. Nothing worthy of being called ‘art’ can possibly happen in the US. Everybody knows that.

  • eoin

    I suspect that despite the cynicism displayed on this board – we all know that this is a major blow to Western art and culture. Future generations will see this day as a sucker punch to Western civilization – similar to the burning of the Alexandrian Library , or the sack of Rome.

    Even if the Louvre were to burn down tomorrow, and Venice and Rome fall into the sea – future generations would still see the burning of Tracy Emin’s marvellous creations, and the Elephant dung thingie, as the major event of the 21st century so far; and sept 11th bedamned.

    I can barely type with the sorrow.

  • Get over it Eoin.

    Mind you Emin is finding it difficult:

    ‘I’m more upset about kids being killed in Iraq’. But Emin, two of whose works were lost in the blaze – her “tent and her hut” was seeing the larger picture. “I’m upset … I’m also very upset about those people whose wedding got bombed last week [in Iraq], and people being dug out from under 400ft of mud in the Dominican Republic … the news is bad at the moment,” she told The Independent .

    Fuckwittery of the highest order. Huxton Square is in mourning, boo hoo.

  • A_t

    wow… YBA’s really managed to piss you guys off at some point.

  • Guy Herbert

    I suspect, A_t, that there being a shortage of constraining aesthetic principles in libertarian and quasi-libertarian creeds, this is a subject on which knee-jerk conservatism will out…

  • Chris Goodman

    …..or alternatively they are exercising said freedom to identify said art as being of little aesthetic value, and therefore of no great loss – except perhaps to Lloyds of London.

  • A_t

    Chris, they were certainly of value to people beyond insurers. This is clear.

    They were also of (seemingly) negative value to many commenters here & in the press. I think the vindicative joy expressed at the destruction of these works of art says more about those who are celebrating the destruction than about the works themselves.

  • Chris Goodman

    Reluctant as I am to criticize somebody for actually caring about works of art, and about the loss experienced by those who make and own this art, I do believe that in this case such feelings are inappropriate. As I understand it, the conception of what it is to be a work of art for these artists, or at least what it is they are seeking to do in their productions, renders any attempt to revere them as exemplars of human skill misguided. As for the collector, as befits a supporter of this way of looking at art, his aim, as I understand it, is to keep on moving forward, promoting what he takes to be current. Many millions of pounds from his insurer will surely be spent on further works. In short it is a win – win, situation for both the artists and the collector. Their efforts will continue to stimulate outrage, if only in the form of reproductions, and they are likely to be funded to produce more of the same. Since the artists [so long as there is still a market for such efforts] and the collector [if he is insured] are unlikely to be very upset, I am not sure why anybody should be, except of course those who view this as an opportunity to berate those who refuse to submit to fashion. Personally I would go further and say that those [who do not have a financial interest] who indignantly assert that such works are great art, have zero interest in great art, except as a way of perpetuating their ideological devotion to that intellectually bankrupt tradition known as modernism; in short they are the most tedious sort of conservatives, the ones who insist that any dissent from the status quo is a thought crime.

  • Verity

    Chris Goodman – Well said, that man!

  • A_t

    🙂 i just love the reasoning of cultural conservatives…

    “It means nothing to me, & I have decided it’s worthless. Therefore, anyone who professes to liking it is actually caught up in a whirlwind of trendiness & doesn’t know their own mind. I will meanwhile, from my standpoint of conservative wisdom, which gives me a unique insight into all things artistic, tell you the truth.”

    Whenever we have these discussions, i’m franky astounded by the arrogance behind such views. If someone likes works I don’t see the appeal of, hey… each unto his own… i’ll just say I don’t like them; they’re clearly not doing anything for me. For some reason though, you guys have to prop your egos up by assuming your personal taste (or lack thereof) is a manifestation of some almighty universal truth.

    And I’ll say it again, if you’re taking pleasure in the destruction of art which was important to some people (& yes it was.. personally I wasn’t sure about a lot of Brit art, but I know plenty intelligent people who know their own minds very well & rated some pieces) you’re being petty & publicly exhibiting some pretty reprehensible character traits. The philosophising doesn’t conceal this.

    I know there’s no point pursuing this further; for some reason (speculated upon above) libertarianism seems to attract cultural conservatives in their droves, & what can you do? I certainly don’t believe I can convert any of you, & you’re unlikely to become any less arrogant or nasty about this topic.

    It’s weird tho’, you’re like the diametrical opposite of the Italian Futurists, who wanted all old art & culture destroyed, and correspondingly as unstimulating as they were exciting.

  • R C Dean is wrong. Halon is banned and its substitutes are inappropriate except in relatively limited circumstances. Water sprinklers are tried and tested and, if correctly designed and installed have a near 100% record in contolling fires. Only the sprinkler heads affected by the fire are activated (generally not more than 3 heads). When a fire is hot enough to set off a sprinkler head, the quicker you get water onto it, the less damage there will be. Most artifacts can be recovered from water damage – hardly any survive fire. Too many people, including the curators of art works, misunderstand these basic points.

  • A_t,

    The irony is, as Chris Goodman pointed out, that you are expressing the reverence for “art” that these pseudo-Dadaist jokers are sending up. They are the aesthetic equivalent of the man who murders his parents and then appeals for mercy because he’s an orphan. I suppose that “taking the p*ss out of art” is only allowed if you are approved by the “right people,” on your view.

  • “It’s weird tho’, you’re like the diametrical opposite of the Italian Futurists, who wanted all old art & culture destroyed, and correspondingly as unstimulating as they were exciting.”

    Gee, A_t, refresh my memory. What was the ultimate political end of that particular artistic movement?

    (Hint…can you say “Fascist apologists,” boys and girls?)

  • A_t

    Ernest, I know this, & so? Their art, & some of their ideas were still exciting. Am i supposed to renounce Miles Davis’ albums too because he became a wife-beating drug addict?

  • A_t

    ” I suppose that “taking the p*ss out of art” is only allowed if you are approved by the “right people,” on your view.”

    err.. no! everyone’s allowed to take the piss out of art… where did I say I bowed to any so-called “authority” on what art i like?

    & tbh, now that i’m not as caffeinated & screen-burned as i was when i posted my bitter comments, I still think you’re being quite callous, as some people did like those works, & they weren’t exactly in your face any more or anything, I do understand the vindicative pleasure you’re taking; i’ve felt much the same when long-hated bands have split up (“thank god.. won’t have to hear them again”), although when it comes to pop music, i think the sentiment’s more justified, as pop music is often imposed on one’s ears whereas art is hardly thrust in your face, & is pretty easy to avoid if not to your taste.

  • Re: Brit Art/Artist – Andrew Campbell

    Ref: http://www.andrew-campbell.com

    Now – this is what I call art…

  • ces intendi o q eu to falano? ces sabe da ondi eu so?
    foda-se ces tudu!

  • anonymous

    You’re all weird, you’re making a load of fuss over absolutely nothing, personally i don’t think spinnig paint on disks is art but there we go, my opinion, just as others would interpret a blue rectangle as “contexturelizing the american west”. Just shut up and stop moaning.