Jaws, The Sequel
In 1991, a British artist named Damien Hirst made headlines with an unusual artwork that frustrated art critics, infuriated his peers, and became an iconic symbol of British Art at the end of the 20th century. The piece, entitled 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,' consisted of a tiger shark preserved in a large vat of formaldehyde. It holds the record for having the highest sale price of a still-living artist's work, at a reported $12 million.
The unique journey of 'The Physical Impossibility...' began with advertising mogul Charles Saatchi, who offered to pay for whatever Hirst felt like creating. Hirst bought the shark, which had been caught off the coast of Australia, for £6,000; the exhibit opened in 1992 but was met with scorn and confusion.. One prominent art critic said that the work represented the obscenity of the modern international art market, and the Stuckism International Gallery even ran a response exhibition called 'A Dead Shark Isn't Art' in 2003. To make things worse, the initial preservation attempts were unsuccessful, and the shark quickly began to decay; in 1993, the gallery had to replace the shark's innards with a fiberglass mold, and eventually Hirst preserved an entirely new shark in 2006 to replace the first one. 'The Physical Impossibility...' raised many questions about the definition of art, and made its creator infamous. Despite the criticism, the piece remains one of the best known exports from the Young British Artists movement of the 1990s.
The Nightmare Space
Contemporary art is rarely meant to be observed from a respectful distance; artists are increasingly creating interactive exhibits, in which the audience members become a part of the artistic expression and can immerse themselves directly in the project. Maurice Agis has been creating inflatable PVC art projects for over four decades; the Dreamspace works were designed to be fun, light and to spark the imagination; but most importantly, they were made to be accessible to the viewers.. Tragically, his dream became a nightmare in 2006. Agis had displayed his latest project, Dreamspace V, in a park in County Durham in the United Kingdom. The gigantic walk-through piece resembled a huge, colorful bouncy castle, a maze of rooms and pods reminiscent of an acid trip from the Swinging Sixties. But in a freak accident, the sculpture tore free from its moorings and went flying into the air, with 30 people still inside. It struck a telephone pole, killing two women and injuring several more. The accident raised questions about the safety of such large sculptures, and the tragedy impelled Agis into early retirement. A Scar In The Earth
The Vietnam memorial in Washington D.C sees millions of visitors each year; along with the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington monuments, it is a fundamental part of the nation's history. While it is an accepted and beloved memorial now, the piece had a very tumultuous beginning. Congress authorized 3 acres of land for a Vietnam War memorial in 1980; the design committee announced a public competition for ideas, with a $50,000 prize. The winner, by unanimous vote, was a 21-year-old student named Maya Lin. Her design consisted of two black pieces of basalt rock sunk into the ground at a 125-degree angle, meeting at the highest point of 10 feet tall and tapering off into the earth. One wall pointed towards the Washington Monument, the other towards the Lincoln Memorial. The walls were to be inscribed with the names of the missing or dead in chronological order.
While the design committee loved Lin's idea, politicians were incensed. They were expecting a patriotic statue, perhaps of soldiers in action; instead they got this stark, plain design. There was no explanation of what the wall meant, or even an American flag; it was just a wall with names. They felt the layout represented a peace symbol and promoted antiwar sentiments and that the black reflective surface was to make the viewer shameful.. They accused Lin of mocking the war and the politicians in Washington. Lin defended her design passionately, explaining that the wall was meant to represent a wound that was closed and slowly healing. The black stone was chosen for its reflective quality, so that visitors could see their reflection in the past and contemplate the future. Even with this explanation, the negative reaction prompted designers to add a bronze statue, 'Three Soldiers', to the memorial site; it was carved by Fredrick Hart, who placed third in the original design competition.
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