“Art Is Anything You Can Get Away With”
That quotation is frequently attributed to Andy Warhol, and it certainly sounds like something he would have said, but it was Marshall “The Medium Is the Message” McLuhan who actually coined the phrase.
Sometimes, for some artists, Art Is Anything…whether you get away with it or not. Take Russian artist/provocateur Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich, for instance.
Here he is doing a performance piece called Os Caquis (The Persimmons), outside the School of Visual Arts in Rio de Janeiro in 2015.
That’s Pavlov-Andreevich, sitting naked on a tall plywood chair at the entrance to the museum. His assistant is offering very soft persimmons to the visitors, who are invited to throw them at the artist.
“By the end of the performance the artist and the podium will all be covered in the orange pulp from the more or less successful attempts of the visitors to hit the artist.”
Ah! That explains it!
And then there’s Fyodor’s Performance Carousel-II, a hard-to-describe collaborative performative installation he orchestrated last year in Vienna.
This is all leading up to what happened last Monday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Met Gala is the big annual fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. It’s an evening packed with celebrities—this year’s honorary chairs were Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams—and with the very, very rich.
Vogue editor Anna Wintour—the presumed model for the “Miranda Priestly” character in The Devil Wears Prada—is a trustee of the Met, and oversees the annual 700-person guest list. Those not on the list can buy individual tickets to the Gala for $25,000.
It was only $15,000 until 2014. They raised the price to keep out the riffraff.
Enter Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich
Fyodor’s most famous—maybe notorious is a more appropriate word—performance piece is called Foundling. Over the past two years, he’s staged it, uninvited, at art-related events in Venice, Moscow, London, and São Paulo. On Monday, 1 May 2017, he completed the five-part performance art project at the Met Gala in New York.
Foundling is easy to describe: Fyodor gets completely undressed and curls up inside a clear plastic box. He’s tall, and it’s a tight fit. The box is then sealed and transported to the event du jour. The artist’s assistants deposit the box, and the naked artist within, at the selected site.
Here’s how it went down in New York:
Despite the fact that the Gala attendees and staff shown in the video were amused rather than disturbed or offended, Pavlov-Andreevich was arrested on a bunch of bogus misdemeanor charges, including public lewdness, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct.
So much for New York’s celebrated reputation for sophistication and tolerance for eccentricity—the police were never called in at any of the previous four performances of Foundling, and Fyodor has never been arrested anywhere else.
The box remains in police custody. “If anyone cares about the box’ fate, it’s under arrest as well,” Pavlov wrote on Facebook.
Free Fyodor! And free the box, too!
Je suis Pavlov-Andreevich!
All photos and videos came from the artist’s website, linked above. It’s well worth a visit.