LONDON (Reuters) - One of Britain's most prestigious art galleries put a block of slate on display, topped by a small piece of wood, in the mistaken belief it was a work of art.
The Royal Academy included the chunk of stone and the small bone-shaped wooden stick in its summer exhibition in London.
But the slate was actually a plinth -- a slab on which a pedestal is placed -- and the stick was designed to prop up a sculpture. The sculpture itself -- of a human head -- was nowhere to be seen.
"I think the things got separated in the selection process and the selectors presented the plinth as a complete sculpture," the work's artist David Hensel told BBC radio.
The academy explained the error by saying the plinth and the head were sent to the exhibitors separately.
"Given their separate submission, the two parts were judged independently," it said in a statement. "The head was rejected. The base was thought to have merit and accepted.
"The head has been safely stored ready to be collected by the artist," it added. "It is accepted that works may not be displayed in the way that the artist might have intended."
I like the explanation at the end - "We thought the display pieces made better art so we showed them instead." Uhhh.... yeah. A piece of stone and a piece of wood - that's art.
I have as much culture as the next dish of yogurt, but I've gotta tell you - it's high time we stopped this ridiculous fascination with random lines, odd bits and general junk slapped together and called art. When a "prestigious" art gallery in Jolly Olde England can't tell the difference between an easel and the art it's supposed to be supporting, maybe that should tell them that it's not really art.
You want to talk Michelangelo - fine. Great artist. Botticelli - you bet. Wonderful work. But when you slap something together that my three-year-old could do and call it "fine art" or "an important piece" or even simply "art," then we need to redefine what "art" is.
Like Tom Hanks' character said in A League of Their Own:
It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great.
If everyone can do it, it's most likely not art. This gaffe just goes to show how out of touch today's art world is with the true idea of art.
Can't seem to find the one I'm looking for, but I did find this article. A little dated, but still relevant, imo.
Spotting the fake: the Mondrian test causes a stir 20 years later
Flinders Journal: May 27 - June 9, 2002
A test devised 20 years ago that throws doubt on the ability of art experts to spot real paintings by Mondrian from fakes is enjoying new international notoriety.
The test is playing a central role in a heated debate that has even spilled into the pages of the prestigious scientific journal Nature.
It is more than two decades since Alan Lee, then a postgraduate student in visual arts and now honorary Visiting Scholar in the Flinders University Philosophy Department, began investigating the works of Mondrian.
He devised a program of instructions which, with a series of commands and random numbers, could produce images similar to those of the artist.
Once he had completed the simulations, Dr Lee showed them to 10 professors and over 100 arts students in conjunction with four original Mondrians and challenged them to take the test of picking which images were real.
Through the testing Dr Lee was surprised to discover that very few of the supposed art lovers could determine which of the 12 pieces were real. Although this information has been around for over a decade, it wasn't until late last year that the rest of the world got wind of his findings.
"It all began when I gave my paper at an Arts and Science conference at ANU in December last year," Dr Lee said.
"It was based on my findings from the Mondrian Test which I conducted as part of my PhD at Flinders in 1979."
"The conclusions I drew from the test were that, for the most part, people couldn't distinguish which were the true Mondrian pieces and which were simulations, therefore leading me to believe there was no demonstrable difference between his designs and any random combination of the same elements."
The reaction to Dr Lee's paper was immediate, adding fuel the long-running debate between artists and scientists attending the conference at the National Gallery, where, for the record, no Mondrians are exhibited.
"It was quite amazing," Dr Lee said of the response.
"An academic who was giving his paper on the Lucian Freud painting just after mine began his time by stating that he had just recently attended a Mondrian retrospective in the United States and that even 'Blind Freddy' could see the difference between a real piece and a fake."
But the interest in Mr Lee's work didn't become a global debate until ex-Australian physicist Richard Taylor wrote a piece on the ANU conference for the world renowned science journal Nature.
Given the world-wide reach of the publication, when United States art critic Kenneth Baker wrote an article in the San Francisco Chronicle claiming a Mondrian piece which hangs in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art could give insight into "how the mind stabilised itself against the pressure of untoward events", Lee found his test being used as the central focus of debate between the journalist and an American scholar.
In his article, Baker claimed that because Mondrian painted the piece at the time of his escape from Nazi-occupied Europe to New York, Americans could empathise with the work in the post-September 11 panic.
This notion was subsequently challenged by University of California professor Didier de Fontaine who claimed the statement was extravagant, and referred the art critic to Dr Lee's test.
"It was quite funny to read an article written for an overseas newspaper about my test given that when I first delivered the results it was to an audience no bigger than six or seven people," Mr Lee said.
"I would be lying if I said I haven't enjoyed seeing the reaction my work has evoked and the fact that it has been aired through such a strange medium - a newspaper on the other side of the world - is just wonderful."
"Baker wrote to me a short time after receiving the test to let me know he identified three of the four original Mondrians in the test, but I don't know how valid that statement is.
"He also wrote that Flinders University was in New South Wales, and we all know the truth behind that statement."