Piero Manzoni: the artist who got away with merda

Piero-manzoni2Gavin Turk at The Guardian:

I first discovered Piero Manzoni when I was, as Gilbert and George call it, “a baby artist cogitating on what art was and what art could be”. On my own and among friends, I was trying to find the point where the real world stopped and art began. Originality appeared to be a process of “coming up with” ideas and then checking them off against art history to see if anyone else had already had them.

On a trip to the Tate, in the presence of an Yves Klein monochrome blue painting, I could hear people of all ages saying “anyone could have done that”. Which got me thinking of things that everyone has done. “What about shit?” I thought, “that’s been done by everyone”, only to find out it actually had been (and before I was even born), in 1961 by Piero Manzoni.

Merda d’Artista consisted of 30g of the artist’s shit preserved in a tin, to be sold for the equivalent value of the gold price of the day. In today’s money, a can should cost £500, as opposed to the £180,000 and upwards you would actually have to pay if you wanted to take this shit home. Why is it so expensive? Because it’s just such a “good” idea. It’s definitive and takes art to its edge – that is to say it’s art that defines art.

more here.