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Review - The End Of Art

by James Canterbury


Gronagh Mac Diornaghnan’s latest exhibition, ‘The End Of Art’ at the Saatchi Modern in Tipton is a triumphant examination conceptualism as artistic fraud. We were forewarned to expect a cultural experience like no other and weren’t disappointed. The entire premise of Mac Dionaghnan’s oeuvre is that you the viewer, the consumer of art deserve to be ridiculed, fleeced and cheated because your entire notion of what is and what is not art has been forged by your own prejudices and the cultural values of a self-elected elite of academics, the intelligentsia, the media, the art ‘mafia.’ 


While this is true to a great extent, maybe we shouldn’t rejoice in having our noses rubbed in our collective failings. Yet I did experience some measure of release from my own preconceptions and felt nothing but admiration for somebody who could so successfully upset so many people and fill them with impotent outrage. The sight of fifty of so specially invited critics such as myself, journalists, curators, collectors, art historians, business people and kucha big wigs being (metaphorically) forced to eat their own shit will stay with me for a very long time. 


We arrived at ?!?, one of the finest and most exciting galleries in Britain today, as the invite requested at 9 o’clock in the morning, an unheard of time for a private viewing. Knowing that such an early start would entice only the most hardcore of the self-elected ‘art crowd’ - of which I count myself an unapologetic member - for whom the shmooze and self-aggrandising theatre of most openings, only serve to provide a cheap night out and photo opportunity for we charlatans and liggers.


We were met by what can only be described as a ‘bouncer’ who demanded that we pay 20 pounds each for the pleasure of entering the gallery. At this point several members of the Great And The Good, who ofcourse are neither great nor good, took umbrage and declined to go any further. Myself, I thought this was only correct, that if we expect ordinary members of the unwashed public to stump up their hard-earned wages to experience ‘art’ then it is only fitting that we well-paid, over-indulged parasites should fork out now and then, even if it is on ‘expenses’.


Once inside the dimly lit main gallery area our eyes soon became accustomed to the space, which appeared at first inspection to be entirely empty, save for a sign above the exit that read ‘Fuck Off! Thank you for your custom’. After a few minutes of stunned silence, it became obvious that this was indeed the ‘show’ and although some suppressed the urge to laugh, others became increasingly angry at this apparent insult to their sensibilities. I myself, admired Gronagh’s chutzpah and was inclined to praise the girl to the hilt in person but ofcourse the artist herself was nowhere to be seen. That would have ruined it. We left in a state of bemusement and were met on the other side of the exit door by another rough and ready shaven-headed brute who passed us a small calling card, such as football hooligans provide to their victims  which read “Congratulations you have just met Gronagh Mac Diornaghnan’s ‘The End Of Art.’ I hope you hated it as much as I hate you.” 


Ofcourse this route has been well worn ever since Duchamp’s symbolic urinal attack on the art world almost a century ago. The dadaists have been taking the piss and mocking the entire notion of ART for far longer than the likes of Mac Diornaghnan and yet, with such a display of outright hostility towards her audience, Gronagh has taken up the absurdist flame lit all those years ago by Marcel and the gang. ‘The End Of Art’ will ofcourse infuriate those in the media who already expect little from so-called ‘modern’ art but fraudulent exercises in cheap provocation and ofcourse, this is the point.


Mac Dionaghnan doesn’t explain any of her works and why should she? We provide our own ‘meanings,’ our own ‘interpretations’ because that is what we have been told we must do. But sometimes, as with life itself, there are no explanations, no justifications, no grand purpose; it just IS. This is artistic existentialism taken to its limits. No curator would dare present ‘The End Of Art’ and expect a public or private funding body to cough up the arbitary ‘price tag’ of three million pounds the artist has placed on ‘her creation.’ Three million quid for nothing, for an empty space? Well, she’d no doubt argue, that a property developer would gladly pay such an amount for a prime city centre location, so why not pay her for her time, her audacity and her ability to present a Dorian Grey portrait of the art ‘market’ as a deformed, monstrous creature rendered hideous by its own vanity, banality, artifice, greed and debauchery. In this respect ‘The End Of Art’ is perhaps a fitting tribute to the state of our own warped worship of conceptualist mediocrity.











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