Now that you’ve been warmed up, let’s talk about some more weird facts about famous artists you know and love. Brace yourself, you might learn some things here that you can’t unlearn. Here are your art facts of the day:
1. Marcel Duchamp was either a genius… or a lazy jerk.
Duchamp pioneered the “ready-made” art of the Dada and Surrealist movements. Yeah, he was the pretentious weirdo who put a urinal in a museum, signed his name on it, and called it “art.” It was essentially his way of saying “screw you,” to the world of art, but also provoked some serious discussions about what art actually is. So either Duchamp was making one of the most profound artistic statements of the time…or he just wanted to laugh at the art critics. Either way, there’s a urinal out there that’s worth millions of dollars, so who’s the real winner here?
2. Piero Manzoni sold his own canned crap.
Can you imagine thinking you’re so cool that you can sell your own poo and people will buy it? Well, that’s exactly what Manzoni thought. Obviously, there was more to it than just the fact that he was advertising canned poop as “art”; he was actively exploring the relationship between art production and human production. And what do humans produce? Exactly. Much like Duchamp, he sought to mock the world of art in such a way that broke many artistic barriers that were built before this time.
3. Chris Burden was very self-destructive.
Burden was a performance artist of the early 70’s whose main act involved personal endangerment (encouraged by his entourage). Just to name a few instances of his own art: he had an assistant shoot him in the arm from about 20 feet away in a performance accurately named “Shoot,” crucified himself to a Volkswagen Beetle, and laid under a tarp in the middle of a road hoping to not be run over. And, like I said before, his friends just LET HIM. In his later years, he settled down a bit and stuck to installations and sculptures…much tamer (and safer).
4. Gustav Klimt was mildly obsessed with cats.
And by mildly, I mean he was the male version of a crazy cat lady. Now Klimt was a bit of a loose screw anyway (he wore women’s dresses with no underwear), but his cat obsession was a little unhealthy. He thought that cat urine was an excellent preservative for his paintings…and so he smeared the cat pee all over his sketchbooks. Needless to say, he was completely incorrect and ruined many of his works. But even worse, I’m sure, was the overwhelming smell of cat piss.
5. Johannes Vermeer pioneered the first “camera” the world ever saw.
Not much is known about Vermeer. He was an incredible Dutch painter of domestic life, and he had an insane amount of kids (11 to be exact). His paintings were so pristine and technical that it is often observed that he used what is known as the camera obscura. This was a box fitted with a lens that allowed Vermeer to observe every aspect of a scene that he painted. There are many, many journals and articles about this amazing phenomenon. I highly recommend the documentary entitled Tim’s Vermeer produced by Penn and Teller. It’s an excellent film that goes in-depth on Vermeer and his use of the camera obscura.