Establishment “Art” : The Bricks Controversy of 1976

“Art that has to be in a gallery to be art isn’t art.”
Carl Andre “Equivalent VIII”
CURATOR: Behold, a three-dimensional manifestation of essential modular forms; a configuration of material purity actualized in an industrial aesthetic.
PUBLIC: But that’s just a stack of bricks on the floor.
CURATOR: You obviously do not understand art.
In 1976 London there was some tabloid excitement about the Tate Museum’s tax-payer funded purchase and display of Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII-a group of 120 bricks arranged in a rectangle. The piece was originally part of an installation in New York in 1966. When no one bought the work at the time, the artist returned the bricks to the supplier. He had to obtain new bricks for the Tate.
This piece has since been vandalized with paint, mocked in editorial cartoons, and met with general bewilderment. This hostility is seen as a badge of honor by elitist cultural types.
But the limitations of material as message render the piece itself as dull and inert. Without lots of art blather to support it, the piece is simply a stack of bricks out of its normal context, without any inherent interest of its own.
Carl Andre went on to be put on trial for the murder of his wife during a domestic dispute (he was cleared on the charges).
“The sensation of these pieces was that they come above your ankles…”
-Carl Andre
Advertisements