A NEW FORM OF EPHEMERAL ART

The recent case of the Banksy’s painting that self-destructed after being auctioned at Sotheby's for 1.2 million euros brings to the floor the question of ephemeral art and the vocation with which some works are born. Indeed, it seems clear that this bombshell by the Bristol artist was one of his well-known stagings to reopen the debate on the art market and speculation in the sector. Few now believe that the scrupulous auction house had not subjected the piece to a careful analysis to detect that it had installed an electrical device operable remotely. Is this a mockery? Does this work lose its status as an art because it was conceived to make it disappear?

Banksy's artwork "Girl With Ballon" while being shredded after the auction at Sotheby's

The "ephemeral art" as a term makes its appearance in the history of art in recent times to settle in the heat of the performative and installation movements of the second half of the XXth century. To reach this point it was necessary to overcome some deeply rooted ideas of the Western canon about authorship, the durability of the works, personal transcendence, social recognition and the individual's will to leave an imprint, a legacy, artistic in this case, that extended beyond the work itself. In this scheme of thought, the fancy of creating pieces born to last only a short period lacked meaning. However, the concept of the ephemeral was present in the collective ideology, as the very resource of the tempus fugit that so many aesthetic narratives and discourses have nurtured, although the qualitative leap of discourse to the creation of fleeting works rarely occurred.

Ice sculptures by the Brasilian artist Néle Azevedo, installation, 2012

If these ideas channel into Western thought within the framework of philosophy, as a compendium of knowledge and wisdom, in the Eastern world it is a much more natural and widespread notion. With the focus on contemplation and the search for personal balance, the ephemeral manifestations, in the calligraphy of wet brushes on drying mud, in the sand gardens or water circuits, always changing, were momentary expressions that matched perfectly with the way of understanding life and with the "de-thing-making-ness" of manifestations. The important thing is not perpetuity, but the present moment of understanding.

Artwork on beach-sand by Andrés Amador

The ephemeral art seems to drink from both streams of thought and defines as an artistic creation of short duration in time. This way, the materialistic desire of the tangible thing is overcome to focus on the meaning of the message. With these works, in addition, other forms of expression are explored regardless of the established pattern, because that freedom of language does not fit within the preconceived or corseted formats. In the emergence of this movement, there is also a clear belligerent aspect, against the market system, against the imposed channels, against the old school, against the old painting, against the own boring art that does not criticise itself. Perhaps this was the covert motivation of this "show-staging" by Banksy.

 

The cultural agenda gradually recovers after the health-crisis halt and art lovers are eager to enjoy the rich cultural offer that the different spaces and museums throughout our geography have to offer. In addition, one must remember that these centres have made an enormous effort to adapt to the demands that the new situation imposes and have created abundant online-accessible content to overcome confinement. We bring you a selection of content that can be visited both in person and through the web. There is no excuse for not enjoying contemporary art again.

Olafur Eliasson, “En la vida real (In real life)”, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao continues with its exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson and offers numerous resources to understand not only the exhibition but also the work of the centre in the assembly and installation process. The website allows us to expand content with interviews with the artist, the download of the audio guide and the vision of the curator Lucía Aguirre, who offers us different video-pills on the pieces in the exhibition.

"Olafur Eliasson: in real life" brings together a part of this artist's work since 1990 through sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations that play with reflections and colours. Likewise, the integration of elements such as moss, water, ice, fog... put the visitor in a situation that confuses the senses and tries to challenge the way we perceive our environment and move in it.

Regina de Miguel, “Isla Decepción”, 2017

The Botín Centre in Santander hosts the exhibition "Collecting processes: 25 years of Itineraries" which brings together the work of 25 of the 210 scholarship recipients who, to date, have enjoyed the Botín Foundation Plastic Arts Scholarship, started in 1993. With the works Lara Almárcegui, Basma Alsharif, Leonor Antunes, Javier Arce, Erick Beltrán, David Bestué, Bleda and Rosa, Nuno Cera, Patricia Dauder, Patricia Esquivias, Karlos Gil, Carlos Irijalba, Adrià Julià, Juan López, Rogelio López Cuenca, Renata Lucas, Mateo Maté, Jorge Méndez Blake, Regina de Miguel, Leticia Ramos, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Teresa Solar Abboud, Leonor Serrano Rivas, Jorge Yeregui, David Zink-Yi, the exhibition is a good example of up-to-date and young contemporary art contributed by artists with very diverse profiles.

Clemente Bernad. Series “Ante el umbral”, Madrid, 2020

The Reina Sofía Museum wanted to create a visual chronicle of what the confinement and the tragic numbers of infected and deceased have meant for the lives of many of us: a tale of pain, nostalgia and uncertainty made by the photographer Clemente Bernad. This exhibition, curated by Jorge Moreno Andrés, is entitled “Before the threshold”, a title that expresses the strange sensation that occurs when faced with something new and unknown, something that we cannot control or avoid, and that we all must go through. The alteration imposed on our lives unexpectedly is reflected in the streets, transformed into places of solitude and abandonment where life has been paralysed.

Mario Merz / No title, Triplo Igloo, 1984 MAXXI Collection

At the IVAM, the exhibition "What is our home?" brings together works from the IVAM collection and the MAXXI centre in Rome to propose a reflection on the space we inhabit seen from a personal and social perspective. It is about investigating the value that these spaces have as a home or refuge, as well as part of a city or community.

The exhibition, curated by José Miguel G. Cortés, also wants to delve into the feeling of those who feel like foreigners anywhere, because they do not identify with the habits or customs of the society, they do not fit into these social patterns, and home becomes the only shelter space that can adapt to their identity needs.

Martha Rosler, frame from “Backyard Economy I-II”, 1974 © Courtesy of Martha Rosler, 2020

Es Baluard Museu is committed to video creation and performance and hosts the monographic exhibition “Martha Rosler. How do we get there from here?” dedicated to this New York artist who pioneered the use of video as a mechanism for social and political analysis. This exhibition includes various works, from video to photography and several publications, which synthesise her main lines of discourse. Her concern for public policies and the social equality of women has led her to actively participate in numerous social movements in La Havana, New York, Mexico DC or Barcelona, and these experiences are present in one way or another in her work.

With the curatorship of Inma Prieto, a selection has been made within the abundant production of this artist, which presents one of the most coherent careers in towards-the-new-Millenium contemporary art.

Image from file, via meiac.es/turbulence/archive/acceso.html

The MEIAC - Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, host the works of the prestigious international digital art archive "Turbulence", a platform dedicated to network and hybrid art. In view of the inevitable closure of this institution, the MEIAC has offered to host all this valuable content collected since 1996. The uploading of the file also served as an opportunity to restore numerous pieces and convert formats so that files that had become obsolete remain readable by new systems. A huge job of conservation and updating that can be enjoyed online today. The archive is made up of hundreds of digital works from around the world that can now be visited remotely.