BUT IS IT ART?- Library of Mu

Library of Mu record:
Date: February 1994 ?
Journal: Select
Author: Miranda Sawyer
Type of resource: Articles
Status: text
No. views: 4103
Description: Account by Art Award witness - mainly a good analysis of the money art works


By Miranda Sawyer (February 1994, ? Select)

The K Foundation: demolishing art or just making an exhibition of themselves? MIRANDA SAWYER grills the cognoscenti and innocent bystanders at Bill 'n' Jimmy's anti-Turner Prize soiree, and asks: how would you feel if you had to nail £1,600 to a plank?

On November 18, 1993, Pete Wylie got a call from Bill Drummond. Pete hadn't heard from Select's Coolest Person In Pop for about two months, but wasn't surprised when Bill asked if he'd like to come to London to "witness or experience something". "My only question was, will it hurt? I asked Jimmy (Cauty) and he said, "Yeah, maybe."

Five days later, Wylie found himself with three other witnesses, 25 jornalists, two armoured cars, a fleet of limos, various balaclava'd minders and £1,040,000 in the middle of a freezing field near Guildford, at 10pm, attending The 1994 K Foundation Award for worst artist of the year - later hailed as "superb", "creepy" and "a fascist, ugly perversion" by those who were there.

The press mostly ignored the conceptual 'art' side and concentrated on the "spoof" award as a reaction to the Turner Prize (at £40,000 it was twice the Turner's value); and that the winner of both, Rachel Whiteread (famed for her concrete house) only accepted the K Foundation money because it would have been burnt otherwise. But with The KLF there's always more to it than that.

Alongside this award, the K Foundation were also publicising the non-release of the single 'K Cera Cera', sung by the Red Army Choir Of Russia; and the forthcoming K Foundation art exhibition "Money, A Major Body Of Cash"

'K Cera Cera' is easiest to explain. It won't be released until world peace is established, although a limited number were available in Israel and the Palestine, following the recent rapprochement between Israel and the PLO. Elsewhere, it has only been played at mass events, like Reading.

The art side is trickier. The original plan with the K Foundation Award was to put £40,000 into the winner's bank account and to announce this in three TV adverts shown during Channel 4's live broadcast of the Turner Prize. 3,000 people responded to press ads which asked them to choose the worst artist from the Turner short-list. Rachel Whiteread won. She agreed to hand over her bank details, then changed her mind and also refused the K Foundation permission to use her name in advertising. This threw the award off kilter. The method of announcement had been chosen for its ironic symmetry. The cost of the ads announcing Whiteread's win amounted to £20,000, paid to Channel 4. Channel 4 sponsored the Tumer Prize with £20,000. In effect, the K Foundation would be paying for "both" awards. The clarity of this idea was effectively scuppered.

So, the K Foundation decided to stitch the Award-giving on to the private view of "Money., A Major Body Of Cash," originally the sole reason for the spooky limo drive on Turner Day. The work to be viewed was "Nailed To The Wall" -one million in £50 notes nailed to a pine wall. The rest of the exhibition (amounts, from £10 to £100,000, attached to bricks and wood) is to be shown in 1994.

The total cash displayed will be £2,111,110 - a scary amount. But what's shocking is the prices for which the works are going. "Nailed To The Wall's" reserve price is £500,000 ... down to a fiver for the £10 exhibit. This is because the works have both a cash value and an 'art' value (currently zero) - and they're priced between the two. In time, the cash value of one of these exhibits may decrease, because of inflation ... but its value as a work of art may increase.

The witnesses barely had time to contemplate the nuances of "Money". With the collapse of the advert idea, the K Foundation decided to use the private viewers as part of the Award, asking them each to nail £l,600 (total £40,000) to a board, which was then presented to Whiteread - who decided to donate it to ten needy artists after the K Foundation threatened to burn the cash if she wouldn't accept it. The potency of the event was high-lighted when four journalists stole the money in their safe- keeping. All the feelings of power and powerlessness that money can bring were fairly summarised with these thefts - it must have turned out better than the K Foundation could have hoped if the examination of cash, art and associated feelings was their point.

Those who attended are roughly divided between the worlds of art and rock'n' roll. Pete Wylie, Tony Wilson, etc were amused and exhilarated, but the art world was mostly outraged at the K Foundation's daring to think that they were creating'art'.

Artist Andy Elton - who wrote to the K Foundation ("To whoever you are, or a piece of shit") after seeing the ads - was a witness. He was upset at the idea of "more" money going to Turner nominees and thought the K Foundation could do something more destabilising to the art world. After the event he was appalled. All that money just to show that people and art are affected by it. He doesn't think it was a point worth making.

Carl Freedman of art magazine "Freeze" - one of those who took the money - agrees. He found the event funny, not offensive (you would too if you walked off with £1,600!), but thought the point had been made before.

Interestingly, no one really minded when the K Foundation spent their money on something concrete like adverts. People got upset when cash was flaunted for the sake of an idea.

The question within the art world is whether the K Foundation's idea was worth spending so much on. And the agreed answer seems to be no. But as populist work appealing to those outside the art cloister it worked very well.

"As a PR exercise it was a Picasso," says "The Guardian's " Lawrence Donegan. He's right. The K Foundation brought art, or the question of its worth, to the masses in a way that hasn't been done for some time.

Finally, the K Foundation had a run in with the Bank Of England. When they took back the million from "Nailed To The Wall", all the notes had holes in them, and were classed as unusable and destroyed. What a waste of money, eh?


There are 1 comments for this record
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Posted by Guest on 2006-09-29 05:06:45

It doesn't sound like Sawyer was a witness, but that she had a chat with Pete Wylie who *was*? kingboyk

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