K Foundation tries to turn the art world on its head- Library of Mu
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K Foundation tries to turn the art world on its head
By Robert Dawson Scott (28 November, 1993, Scotland On Sunday (Spectrum))
The award for the worst art work of 1993 was nailed down with the help of Robert Dawson Scott
The mysterious K Foundation have let it be known through their agents - for no one gets to speak to them directly - that they delighted with their guerrilla raid on the high ground of British cultural life last Tuesday night.
And well they might be. Every media orginization which reported that Rachel Whiteread had won the £20,000 Turner prize on Wednesday morning also reported that she had been adwarded the K Foundation's alternative award for the worst art work in Britain in 1993. Most carried pictures of the unruly melee on the steps of the Tate Gallery where the "award", consisting of £40,000 in £50 notes nailed to a piece of wood in a gilt frame, was chained to the railings as the great and the good who had attended the official dinner began to trickle out.
As a publicity stunt it will take some beating, even though Bow Community Council, which the same day took the decision to destroy her sculpture House - her inside out cast of an East End house - nearly overshadowed everything. The K Foundation's alternative award was first announced in national press advertisments earlier in the autumn. Then on Tuesday night a posse of journalists was ferried to an unknown destination in a fleet of seven white stretch limousines, told only that what they were about to witness would alter art history.
As one of those present I can confirm that the money was undoubtedly genuine; in a floodlit clearing in a Surrey wood, patrolled by two bright orange armoured cars playing the Red Army chorus version of K Sera Sera (sic) over loudspeakers, we were the ones who nailed down wads of £1,600 in crisp new £50 notes which we had been given on the journey there.
The K Foundation then announced the award had been given to Rachel Whiteread. This was before the official announcement of the Turner prize; I know this because in the limos which now headed back to the Tate, we were able to watch the announcement live on television, framed by commercial breaks in which the K Foundation had bought air-time to announce what they were doing. it spent £20,000 on the commercials, carefully chosen to match the value of the Turner prize. Copies of the invoices were supplied as evidence.
So was this the most expensive practical joke in history? I think not; the two men behind the K Foundation, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, made their stash as the KLF (Kopyright Liberation Front) with a string of succesful records in the late 1980's and early 1990's. But their whole approach to the pop industry was that it is essentially ridiculous, a termite-hill of the overpaid and undertalented which could be taken for a ride almost at will. They even produced a manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way) to emphasise their contempt. At the height of their powers, in the middle of the Brit awards last year, having been named best group, they announced their retirement and the deletion of their entire back catelogue.
What they have moved on to is the art world, another milieu where genuine creativity, pretension and large amounts of money collide in random patterns. At the woodland clearing on Tuesday, we were invited to view part of what was supposed to be a future exhibition with the title Money - A Major Body of Cash. The one work, Nailed to the Wall and labelled just as in more conventional exhibitions, consisted of £1m sterling in £50 notes nailed to a wall constructed of skip pine. I am fairly confident it really was £1m. The "Excerpts from a Catalogue" on offer say it is to be auctioned with a reserve price of £500,000. A series of other works are all listed all involving cash and all for sale at half the face value.
As the K Foundation says, at present the works have an artistic value of zero. it points out that over the years the face value will erode due to inflation whereas the artistic value may rise and invites potential purchasers to take a risk on the point that the two values will cross over or "deconstruct the work now and double your money".
Some of Scotland's leading artists clearly share the K Foundations awareness of how money perverts everything. Others dismiss them as pranksters. A selection of opinion follows.
"It's an elaborate prank but it's got a point and it's definitely amusing. It's putting it's finger on something which is true about the whole game of valuing and creating value out of art. The K Foundation is quite right that the history of art of this period will be completely rewritten and the majority of short-listed artists for the Turner prize will be forgotten."
Julian Spalding, director Glasgow Museums and Galleries
"They're just a bunch of silly buggers. It's good to see money going from a bunch of silly buggers to an artist who is going to make good use of it. What's that saying about a fool and his money...?"
David Mach, sculptor
"The emotional, artistic side of my nature says I admire the audacity and imagination, challenging art and the art manipulators. The rational side of me asks, is this the most expensive art publicity stunt this century, and for whom?"
John Bellany, painter
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