David Bruce: THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN ART — Wit, Work

Wit

• Banksy, the British graffiti artist, makes fun of real people and of art. In 2003, at a London anti-war demonstration, he passed out signs that stated, “I Don’t Believe In Anything. I’m Just Here for the Violence.” He has smuggled his works of art into major museums and left them there. For example, he put a version of the Mona Lisa(with a smiley face) in the Louvre, and he put a beautiful country landscape (sectioned off by police crime-scene tape) in the Tate. Banksy’s art sells quite well. Ralph Taylor, who works in contemporary art for Sotheby’s, said about him, “He is the quickest-growing artist anyone has ever seen of all time.” After Sotheby’s held a sale of his art, Banksy posted a painting on his Web site. The painting showed an auctioneer and a crowd of bidders, and it has this caption: “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this sh[*]t.”

• Famous British graffiti (and fine) artist Banksy is witty. He once smuggled a piece of rock art (showing a Stone Age hunter — and a shopping cart) into the British Museum — his credit on the art was “Banksyus Maximus.” He also once put a parody of Any Warhol’s Pop Art Campbell’s soup cans into New York’s Museum of Modern Art — Banksy’s parody showed a can of Tesco Value cream of tomato soup. In addition, Banksy once created an open-air sculpture by putting shark fins in a pond in east London’s Victoria Park.

• Al Capp, the cartoonist of Li’l Abner, frequently lectured. He especially enjoyed question-and-answer sessions, and before his lectures audience members would be given index cards on which were printed this message: “Al Capp Is An Expert On Nothing But Has An Opinion On Everything. What Is Your Question?” He would compose witty and/or thought-provoking answers to the questions, then deliver them at the public-speaking event. For example: “Are you for or against euthanasia? A: For whom? Clarify.”

• Henry Fuseli was a teacher of art, and he was a wit. He once examined a student’s work of “art” and said, “It is bad. Take it to the woods and shoot it. That’s a good boy.” Once, his own painting titled The Miracle of the Loaves and Fisheswas criticized. Someone said that the boat was too small. Mr. Fuseli replied, “That’s part of the miracle.”

Work

• Henri Matisse worked long and hard at his art. He said to fellow artist André Verdet in 1952, “If people knew what Matisse, supposedly the painter of happiness, had gone through, the anguish and tragedy he had to overcome to manage to capture that light which has never left him, if people knew all that, they would also realize that this happiness, this light, this dispassionate wisdom which seems to be mine, are sometimes well deserved, given the severity of my trials.” Please don’t think that Matisse chose to talk about art rather than make art. Painter George L.K. Morris met Matisse by chance on a train and tried to start a conversation about art, but Matisse told him that “all artists should have their tongues cut out — then they’d have more time for work.” Matisse even stuck his tongue out at Mr. Morris and made a cutting motion with his fingers. One artist Matisse did talk to was Pablo Picasso, to whom he said, “We must talk to each other as much as we can. When one of us dies, there will be some things the other will never be able to talk of with anyone else.” (When Matisse died, Picasso said, “Now I have to work for the both of us.”) Matisse need not have been a painter; other careers that he thought he would enjoy included actor, jockey, and violinist. However, when he was a child, he did not want to be a violinist. His father wanted him to take violin lessons, and to share the cost of the teacher he convinced the father of a boy next door to have his son take lessons at the same time as young Matisse. But when the violin teacher arrived at Matisse’s house to give the boys a lesson, young Matisse would climb over the fence into the other boy’s yard. And when the violin teacher went next door to search for the boys, the boys would climb the fence to get into young Matisse’s yard. By the way, at age 44 Matisse decided to study the violin. To avoid annoying his neighbors, he practiced in the bathroom.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN ART

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