Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Disowning One's Art

I am fascinated by the idea of artists attempting to edit their oeuvres.  I love that some artists make work and then, usually after achieving a certain degree of critical or market-based success (is this the same as "artistic maturity"?), state that even though such-and-such work was once considered art, it is no longer "art."  I think the reason I like this so much is that it suggests that the artist can perform a kind of alchemy, designating or denying art.  But really, it brings into focus the role of the artist in legitimating or validating his or her work (in cases of disavowals, mostly his, though Agnes Martin, an example not discussed in this article, did destroy and disown early figurative paintings).

Once art always art?  Or is "art" up to the artist?


  1. Can artists disavow their own work? Sure they can. They can deny and destroy if they want to.  Do we have to play along and pretend nothing happened? Not if we don't want to.

    We want to know as much about these individuals as we can and denying us these insights by rescinding approval is a bit selfish on the artist's part.  Artists need to understand that an idea placed in the public sphere acquires a life of its own. The demand of complete access to these public figures is selfish on our part.  Do we really need every object created to understand and appreciate an artist?

    Critics, dealers and historians shape and reshape an artist's career to fit their needs, so why can't the artist take a shot at image manipulation?  It doesn't mean that we should take their views at face value.  We should always question who any claimant to ultimate authority is and why these ideas are being put forth.  It is interesting that the discussion in this article keeps going back to concerns over the monetary value of these denied works.

  2. I agree with the opening statement 100% The artist can do whatever he or she wants to. The opening statement reminds me of the short readings we did about 2 weeks ago: "The artist conceives and plans the drawing, the idea, and foresees any changes that might come about. he artist makes the plans and is solely responsible" So yes, the artist can do as they please, its what keeps the art community on its feet because what might be seen as different to one persons eye can be an innovation to someone else and feed of that to create another work of art that will take off.

  3. Destroying your own art is something understandable. Everyone has remnants of old pictures drawn in elementary school, or even even doodles created a week ago. We might even be embarrassed to publicly display these silly works to our friends, let alone the entire world. As we evolve and our concepts of ourselves, who we are and what we want, changes consistently. As the article mentioned, "Prince isn't disowning or disavowing these pieces but is claiming that these early works no longer represent him."

    Now looking at this matter from an art historian's point of view, things are very different. Imagine not having access or even knowing about the early stages of famous artists. Say Picasso destroyed his paintings as he moved into different stages of his life, or Eva Hesses' abstract paintings were unknown to everyone. People change, and with such change it is amazing to see their improvements, new philosophies, and their technique maturing.

    Keeping older pieces from an artists' career or some form of documentation helps people who study such artists better understand how they blossomed into such irreplaceable artists. We could never be appreciative of their matured style without a glimpse into their beginnings.

  4. Disavowed art is still art. The act of disavowing only adds another layer of history to a given piece.

  5. I'm curious what an artist's disavowal of his/her work does to its value to others? Do collectors view the work the same? Does the public?
    I think there is only so much control an artist has over the work once it is circulating. I wonder, too, if a disavowal could sometimes be interpreted as a performance or publicity stunt.