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Cleaners Accidentally Erase Art Work

October 10, 2007

Read a funny little story on the BBC's website about a British artist whose work was accidentally erased from the wall of a Sussex gallery when some cleaners mistook it for graffiti.

Artist James Cauty (best known as a member of the 1990s pop bands The Orb and KLF) used white emulsion paint to scrawl "Portslade Massif" across the window and wall of the Ink-d gallery in Brighton to advertise his exhibition.

There's a strange kind of irony to the erasing of the artist's work, apparently by accident, by the gallery's cleaners. Cauty's most famous stunt as a visual artist up to this point was his burning of £1m of the royalties earned by KLF some years ago. The royalties burning episode was intended to make a statement about the relationship between art and commerce. The slogan erasing episode also makes a statement in its own way about the relationship between art and commerce. Was the slogan really art? Or just an advertisement? Can something be both?

I always find it amusing when auction houses auction off artifacts from an artist's life, as if Madonna's makeup bag or Ted Hughes' shopping list are somehow of value as artworks themselves. Strange things happen at the intersection between art and commerce. The incident with Cauty's advertising slogan fits into the same category. An artist scrawls a couple of words on a gallery wall to market his show. That's not really art. It's commerce.

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