Goya deformed by the Chapman Brothers

Destroying (or recycling) artworks in order to create new works of art sounds like an absurd idea. Nevertheless, on a second thought, one can find parallels from daily life and from different systems of belief where the creation-destruction-creation cycle is anything but a stranger.

Jake and Dino Chapman joined a long list of artists and adventurers who destroyed (or modified) works of art to create something new: Rauschenberg did it when her erased a De Kooning, Yuan Cai and Jian Jun Xi did it when they jumped into Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ because they though it was not ‘unmade enough’, Ai Weiwie did it (and documented it) in his ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Vase’, featuring the artist dropping and smashing a 2000 years old vase.

Now it’s the Chapman Brothers hit the scene with what some would consider innovative art and what others would call a crime: their ‘Insult to Injury’ is a set of 80 deformed prints of Goya’s masterful ‘Disasters of War’ etchings I say ‘deformed’, but they use the word ‘rectified’. The original etchings were inspired by the brutalities committed by the Napoleonic army in Spain. In 2001, the Chapman Brothers bought en edition made from Goya’s original plates back in 1937, and later on, they superimposed grotesque heads of animals, clowns and puppets that sharply contrast with the tragic setting and theme of the etchings.

A friend asked for my opinion, and I have to say: as a great admirer of Goya and his ‘modern’ mentality (for his epoch), I was appalled. Aesthetically I would give it zero. Zero form and zero content because, personally, I don’t think any message is valuable enough to justify the destruction or deformation of a masterpiece in order to get this message across. But that’s not all. To this ‘intervention’ by the Chapmans, I give 10 out of 10 for being 100% true to the spirit of our time. After all, isn’t this what art is all about?