In the history of art, there have been many cases in which cultural goods have become the object of outright theft or artistic intervention, walking the fine line between performance and crime. Theft is an extreme example of such an act of “freeing” a museum exhibit from institutional control. There is a whole group of artists who push the limits of ordinary appropriation and bring theft into their artistic practice, giving it a symbolic meaning. They seek to answer the question – how does the status of a work of art change when ripped out of a museum or gallery?
In an attempt to answer this question, we may start from the notion that any item increases in value when it is lost. The interest in stolen works of art (recovered or not) is significantly greater than for those which have never been stolen. Their stories enter our pop culture. They are recreated and recycled in various ways, reproduced an infinite number of times. Thus, they become part of the media flow, giving them a reach far beyond museum halls.
These issues are brought to life in the story of the theft of Claude Monet’s painting Beach in Pourville from the National Museum in Poznan in the year 2000. In this case, we are dealing with criminal activity which cannot in and of itself be perceived as conscious subversion, nor can it belong to the dialogue of institutionalization of the art world. However, there is a chance for it to become so when or if these events from Poznan are used as a base for artistic project. In Amir Yatziv’s and Guy Slabbinck’s exhibition, the Poznan case and the issues it raises are central motifs and become a pretext for creating a new narrative based on observing the change that has taken place in the perception of Monet’s masterpiece. Thus, the artists look to reinterpret Walter Benjamin’s concept of aura and attempt to apply it in a contemporary context. The more so because the perception of Monet’s painting is now forever changed – an innocent impressionistic landscape, marked by a gesture of violence, desire of possessing, and mystery.
The title Standby Painter refers to the profession of the person who paints film sets and stands by on the set to quickly paint and re-paint anything that needs a touch-up. This occupation metaphorically harkens back to the subject of the show created as a result of the meeting of film and the art of painting. It deals with the reinterpretation of the artwork, introducing further semantic layers and constant “repainting” with new meanings accumulating on it.
Amir Yatziv (1972) is a filmmaker and a visual artist. He is interested in past narratives and their contemporary interpretations. In his work he creates a sense of estrangement, revealing the impossibility of a single coherent historical truth. Amir is a graduate of Bezalel Academy of Art (2008) and Hito Styerel Class (2010). His works were shown in numerous group and solo exhibitions including: Tate Modern – UK, KW Berlin – Germany, Van Abbemuseum – Netherlands and more. He lives and works in Tel Aviv.
Guy Slabbinck (1979) creates paintings, drawings and etchings infused with colour. Guy Slabbinck’s recent pictures deal with painting and the status of an artist. He often starts off with an existing paintings or traditional themes such as paradise lost, colonial history and mythology. By studying and reworking the layers of meaning in the images of classical art he creates a new visual language. Slabbinck’s works were shown in numerous group and solo exhibitions including: WOW Art Gallery in Brussels, MSK in Ghent, Zwart Huis Gallery in Knokke, NK Gallery in Antwerp. He studied art at the LUCA School of Arts and Science in Ghent, lives and works in Ghent.