The art of Italian artist Piero Manzoni (1933 - 1963) was once criticized by his father as being "shit," so he filled 90 cans with 30 grams of his feces each and began selling them at the market price of gold, about $35 an ounce then. The artwork was titled, "Artist's Shit (Merde d' Artista). Eventually, all cans were sold.
A few years ago, the Tate Gallery in London purchased one of the cans for 22,350 pounds from Southeby's. Needless to say, this acquisition evoked a lot of commentary! And, as you can see, the artist signed each individual work.
But this raises some questions. What is his artistic message, if any? Did Manzoni have an intended use for these cans? Did he expect many sales of cans? Did he effectively thumb his nose at the art world?
Several years ago, a friend of his, Agostino Bonalumi, claimed that Manzoni did not can the his feces, but only plaster. This raised some sort of dilemma, or did it? Does the artistic concept of shit in a can require actual shit to meet it? After all this is conceptual art.
The owner or gallery possessing the can has a problem. If the can is opened to determine the contents, this would damage the art work, and drastically reduce its value. On the other hand, wherein lies the art? Is it the physical work, or is it in the eccentric idea? If it's the latter, then the actual contents would be unimportant.
As a matter of fact, it might be sufficient to paste a titled 4" X 6" card on the wall and call it "art." We can get interesting ideas too. Therefore we can also be artists. "Artist" becomes more democratic and less of a gallery- or museum-labeled priesthood. Here are a few concepts that may or may not be turned into art.
"Barney on a Riding Lawnmower"
"Break Dancing by Democrats"
"Boredom from a Bad Movie"
Or, come up with your own concepts and declare it "art."
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