What Stinks? Contemporary Art’s Look-Alikes

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Published May 25, 2010

Contemporary art and bathroom humor have long shared a great and seemingly permanent bond, exemplified controversially by Andreas Serrano’s large-scale photographs of feces, and Chris Ofili’s elephant dung Madonna. While less about justifying the bathroom as an artistic hub, miniature art magazine Is it Art or Fart? is dedicated to the banal and the profane. Featuring everyday snapshots that pointedly (and often hilariously) resemble contemporary works of art, the anonymously-run blog (assisted by artist Alex Israel and art consultant Adam Shopkorn) just published its first book. “We had a big database of farts, if you will, and we helped curate the first 100 batch for volume one,” Shopkorn told us of the ongoing project at the book’s launch party at the Jane Hotel.

“Art has been and will be about appropriation.  And the fact that there’s a fine line between existing visuals and art is a fart. The fact that the art world embraces images or objects or concepts which actually exist—that’s a fart,” gallerist Michele Maccarone explained.

We asked Maccarone what her favorite “fart” was, and, appropriately enough, it belonged to one of her gallery’s artists (and one capable of big stinks, no less): “The Christoph Büchel. The bombed car is the best. He’s made that piece, its an iconic piece of his, and I looked at it really fast. I’m his representative, and I was like, ‘It’s a fart, right?'”

We caught up with Marilyn Minter, whose Green Pink Caviar video is currently screening in the lobby at MoMA. As Minter fondly recalled her experiences of basement parties at the Jane Hotel in the ’80s, she also chose a favorite “fart”: “Mary Heilmann—she’s one of my best friends,” she said, pointing to the artist’s “fart” in the book. “Actually that’s a Mike Kelley,” Israel explained, to everyone’s chuckles.

IS IT ART OR FART IS AVAILABLE AT THE SMILE IN NEW YORK AND FAMILY AND LAXART IN LOS ANGELES. PHOTO: MARILYN MINTER, FABIENNE STEPHAN