= The Crawford Arts Review

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Skip the line tickets for the Van Gogh Museum - on until Sunday 25 September

The Guardian on Monday published its review of Kanye West's Famous sculpture ("So Kanye West has become a Famous artist overnight. Props to him"). We can take the word 'props' to infer all due respect. The rest of the review is rather more scathing. I disagree so here I venture to publish my own take on the work.

Serendipitous observation (observation being the key word) plays a large part in life. We notice things, and when we notice something in particular, maybe out of the corner of our eye, that can become a seed, and from that can grow an idea - and, if we're lucky, a practical result.

All arts (& indeed sciences) depend firstly on observation; good observation.

If we're very, very lucky, the result of observation, in terms of artistic or literary practice, will move others as the original observation moved us. I like to think that is what happened here. The original work, the seed, was US artist Vincent Desiderio's 2008 painting Sleep, a 2.4 x  7.3 metre (8 x 24 foot) work in oils. According to what one is told, Mr West saw it and had the idea, via his work on a video, for a sculpture. Where and when he saw the painting I've no idea. It could have been in the artist's studio (the work took over a year to complete even after it was first exhibited in New York). Alternatively, this may be a sophisticated way of name dropping because the ftinished work now hangs in a private Connecticut collection.

The photograph below shows the work Mr West has rendered as a sculpture, a room-sized bedful of famous people ranging from Donald Trump to Rihanna.
Kim Kardashian West at the "Famous" exhibition
at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles last week. 

picture © Rachel Murray/Getty Images
published 31 August 2016 New York Times

Why? Well, I take it he was moved by the original painting. Because people asleep, whether living or in painted form, young or old, share one outstanding characteristic. They look vulnerable, the mask of sleep melting away all of the masks they may have worn during waking hours.

Indeed, I recall something a surgeon once told me: that people asleep under anaesthetic all look the same - 'they look "beautiful"', he said (pause for an 'ah' and maybe a wry smile).

Certainly the sculpted figures look beautiful. West's people are mannequins - the result of his having the financial resources to commission these plastic likenesses. In addition, the commission has involved the makers using animatronics so that the figures appear to be breathing.

As they rest on their pillows, the observer will see what the artist saw originally - that vulnerability

So there is a punchline here, something that's universal. All humans, however 'famous', share this. The artist has included himself and his wife in the line up so the work becomes even more personal: 'look at us' it seems to say; 'we are on sleeping terms with all these celebrities'.

Note: sadly, the work can no longer be seen. It was exhibited for 48 hours at a private event put on by the Blum and Poe gallery in Los Angeles (address below). From now on, it will only be seen by buyers, be they private, corporate or institutional. The asking price is $4 million (£2,978,895). And on that note, it might be interesting if a body such as our own Tate Modern were to take an interest. The UK and the USA could even effect an arts swap: one of theirs for one of ours.
Blum & Poe
2727 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
United States
For the Gallery pic of the work, go to

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