Long-suffering British art afficionados are of course all too familiar with the antics of pseudo-artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. Hirst’s dismembered cows and Emin’s slapper-beds sell for absurd sums while genuine art gathers dust and contempt in equal measure. Typical of the genre is Hirst’s seminally trite and awful “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”, the sole redeeming feature of which is that it put a shark permanently out of circulation.
Across the Channel, however, they’re still getting the hang of how to generate headlines and whopping commissions from such carefully contrived insolence. Struggling artist Mr David Cerny, a Czech gentleman, has brought to bear that perfect combination of German charm and Slavic finesse for which his nation is famed to create a shameless and bare-faced rip-off of Hirst’s “Physical Impossibility”, only with Saddam Hussein suspended in the formaldehyde in place of the shark. And so Europe’s art, like its politics and demographics, continues to circle the bowl.
Sadly, in his choice of theme Mr Cerny has revealed himself to be too obviously a rank amateur. The whole point of Brit Art is to gratuitously disgust and offend only those who are too civilized to shoot you six times and then hack your head off with a knife. It’s difficult to imagine what sort of reaction he could have been expecting. Why not just go the whole hog and make the figure in the tank Mohammed? Not enough room for all the wives?
Fortunately for him, however, he chose to offer this masterpiece for display in Belgium, whose leaders are famed for leading from the front in defence of Western Civilization, waving their traditional white battleflag. Predictably, they promptly pulled the plug on the exhibition on the grounds that children might see it, and not, for example, because they feared for their miserable chocolate-fattened hides.
Tasteless savages that they are, it simply didn’t occur to them throw it out on the grounds that it is laughable rubbish.
Mr Cerny’s oeuvre, yesterday. Perhaps fortuitously, his skills are as mediocre as his inspiration, so the figure in the tank looks nothing like Saddam Hussein. But at least now we know what happened to Yosser Hughes…