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Chapman Brothers Exhibition

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I thought some folks might be interested in the new exhibition at London's White Cube
Gallery featuring new work by Jake & Dinos Chapman. As you can see, it's based upon
an ethnological collection, the likes of which you'd find at the Pitt Rivers Museum, but
with a Mctwist.....

Trader Woody

Ronald McTiki.... as I've said before, everytime you think you've them all some weird tiki comes out from nowhere!

Coool...I want one.

These are amazing.

They fall firmly into the "I wish I had thought of that" category.

In addition to being sort of funny, they are making a very important, if obvious, statment about American consumer culture invading and destroying every other culture on earth, and about unchecked capitalism ruining the beauty and integrity of small and unique socities world wide.

In the Chicago Filed Museum of Natural History, they have a 19th century ceremonial mask from New Guinea that has a bowler hat incorporated into the wood carving. This illustrates the influence that missionaries and other western vistors had upon the natives.

If there are any undiscovered Oceanic cultures remaining, we can be sure that their first contact with Europeans or Americans would influence them similarly, and it is certain that our crass and all-pervading consumer culture icons would work their way into this theoretical Oceanic art as surely as the bowler hat did in the 19th century.

This is so sad, that Ronald McDonald, a vacuous icon created to sell unhealthy food to naive children, has the power, world-wide, to influence the culture, art, and religion of socities that don't understand the icon's true (lack of) real importance.

I realize that the art works posted above are by western artists of course, but they demonstrate an eerie could-be reality, that has been, thus far, only narrowly avoided as reality.

I wonder if these guys know about the Tiki McDonalds in Ohio!
Here is something to ponder: If these pieces would have a Trader Vic logo on them, would they be less offensive/tragic? Are these artists not taking exactly what we like about the un-PCness of Polynesian Pop and pushing it to the limit?

Woody, I would be curious to find out if the artists themselves made these, or, as I suspect, found Oceanic natives, artisans that mass-produce airport art for tourists, and commisioned these pieces from them. The way the "aged" look is given to these carvings suggest professionals that do this all the time. I think it's done really well, this is exactly what I miss in the nouveaux Oceanic Arts pieces in the "Night Of The Tiki" book. The 60s and 70s machine carvings by OA really had that down, but after that they lost it.

I think these things are awesome! I wonder if the guy would make me a Jack-In-The-Tiki (Tiki-In-A-Box?)?? I find Jack a much more amusing commercial character than Ronald. Makes a better burger, too.

That aside...Tikibars brings out some excellent points. When the initial humor of the piece(s) wears off, then these other considerations definitely wander through the fertile fields of the mind. That's the beauty of really good humor...there's always a McNugget of truth in there somewhere if you bother to look.


On 2002-11-13 12:43, bigbrotiki wrote:
I wonder if these guys know about the Tiki McDonalds in Ohio!

Whoa, whoa, whoa there Sven. Tiki McDonalds in Ohio???

I'll have a #3 supersized with diet coke please. And the tiki apple pie, to go.

bigbrotiki wrote:
I would be curious to find out if the artists themselves made these, or, as I suspect, found Oceanic natives, artisans that mass-produce airport art for tourists, and commisioned these pieces from them

I assume that they were made by Oceanic craftsmen, specially commissioned by the artists. I've been to a previous show by the Chapman Brothers, called Chapmanworld, where the exhibits were mannequins of children
but with peculiar deformities such as penis' for mouths and that kind of thing, (Very odd indeed!) and I assumed at the time that they commissioned some craftsmen to actually make them.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to go to the actual exhibit, and with a bit of luck I'll get a definitive answer. I'll try to get a few more photos as well, if photography is allowed.

Here's an article about the exhibit:
Laura Cumming
The Observer

At Jake and Dinos Chapman's new show - a spoof collection of ethnographic art - I was startled to see a man produce a notebook and begin reverently sketching one of the exhibits. Surely he must have realised the grimacing wooden figure was a fake, another bit of crafty work from the Chapman brothers' studio? Unless, perhaps, he was a plant in his own right - a hired hand employed to wander through the hushed darkness drawing the objects on their spotlit plinths: as if he were some earnest scholar and this a crepuscular outpost of the British Museum.

Credit to the Chapmans: their show looks properly authentic. Every object, pur portedly collected by generations of the Chapman family over 70 years, looks damaged, ancient and suitably Other. The idioms and genres are aped to perfection - masks, totems, fertility figures, shields and fetishes. If you were an art-innocent, hadn't heard of the Chapmans, didn't know their game, you might even be taken in for more than a few moments.

And there are some genuine plants here, or at least figures simply intended to look exactly like African and Oceanic sculptures. Masks with knob-like eyes and gaping, chasmic mouths; pregnant, crouching forms; grotesque distortions of head, legs or ears; copious use of cowrie shells and ritual scarification. But then you notice that one squatting wooden figure, still with its polychrome traces, is clutching a coke and a carton of fries. Or that a weird little hominid, reminiscent of that Hieronymous Bosch egg that gets about on human legs, is in fact a walking Big Mac - albeit with hideous slitty eyes - carved out of blackened wood.

There are other kinds of prank. A ceremonial mask has a hint of Bart Simpson about the hair. A reptilian funerary fetish grips nothing more sinister than joss sticks. Physiognomy is taken to the edge of cartoon: the double-headed monster bares both sets of teeth in a rueful Wallace and Gromit grin. But you will by now have guessed the key to the show, as carved on the back of a shield - the triumphant Golden Arches of McDonald's.

The 34 objects in the Chapman Family Collection offer a few art jokes as well - there's a good parody of one of Barry Flanagan's tiresome totemic hares; a frazzle-haired fertility figure is supported by a miniature version of Brancusi's Endless Column (but then consider where he got it). Indeed, for the more studiously inclined, I suppose the show will occasion various thoughts about modernism's use or abuse of primitive art, all the way from cubism and surrealism to expressionism onwards.

But as for the heavy gag about commodity fetishism, is it any more than wordplay or pun? Only the humourless could possibly believe the Chapmans were advancing any theories about twenty-first-century capitalism, or proposing the Burger as God, or McDonald's as cult. And only the most literal-minded among the humourless could get worked up about the Chapmans' pastiche of ethnographic art. None of the objects on show have a fraction of the unnerving beauty or terribilitá of the genuine articles - nor is this intended. Their incitement is deliberately and gleefully childish.

A couple of years ago, Jake and Dinos Chapman showed their scale-model of hell - thousands of inch-high Nazis being tortured by those mutant mannequins that were once the brothers' trademark, all done in a toyshop aesthetic of spongy furze and enamel paint. Some people claimed to see the true heart of twentieth-century darkness in this boxed diorama, for all its nods to Hollywood and Humbrol. But this teensy hell, mediated through multiple media, had more the character of farce.

So it is here, with these bastardised and bathetic icons, more farcical than fierce - yet somehow not quite comic and not quite compelling as a spectacle. The impediment this time is the craftmanship itself. What you are most aware of in this show is the sheer skill of the artists, their ability to manufacture fakes, to replicate the surface characteristics of priceless artefacts right down to the chisel-mark. For these endeavours they have earned a million pounds from Charles Saatchi, the supreme commodifier of contemporary art - surely a too-perfect coda to the Chapman brothers' joke.

Trader Woody

[ Edited by: Trader Woody on 2002-11-15 09:49 ]

The impediment this time is the craftmanship itself. What you are most aware of in this show is the sheer skill of the artists, their ability to manufacture fakes, to replicate the surface characteristics of priceless artefacts right down to the chisel-mark.

So the reviewer seems to think the Chapmans did the carving, polychroming and aging themselves...wonder if there is a way to find out conclusively. I guess the artists don't leave an e-mail so people can ask them questions they don't wanna answer.

Is there a catalog? Wonder if they know my book, and what Pablo said in it
"...And over a century later, primitive art collector Pablo Picasso, who was a thrifty flea market shopper, proclaimed:

“You don’t need the masterpiece to get the idea. The concept or component of a style is entirely accessible in second-rate examples and even fakes”

And yes Mark, there is a Tiki McDonalds in Ohio....someone say where, I forgot in which Tiki News it was portrayed, and who went on the tour of it during the Kahiki closing weekend.


Holy smokes. Now THERE's a brand updating I'd like to see company-wide!

Big Mac with a side of poi.

Yum. Yum.

Just imaging the Fry Guys mixing it up with Menehune!

On 2002-11-15 15:16, Reever wrote:
Holy smokes. Now THERE's a brand updating I'd like to see company-wide!

Big Mac with a side of poi.

Yum. Yum.

Just imaging the Fry Guys mixing it up with Menehune!

don't know if they still do, but mcdonalds' in hawaii used to serve saimin.


great artwork. It's very insightful. Thanks for sharing.

[ Edited by: manic cat on 2002-11-15 15:43 ]

Em & I went by the "Works from the Chapman Family Collection" exhibit this weekend. Impressive stuff to say the least!

The works are presented as "highlights of the Chapman Family Collection," which "include virtually unknown primative trophies and initiation masks from the former colonial regions of [get this!] CAMGIB, SEIRF & EKOC . . . In terms of the genealogy of our own contemporary culture [it] traces the latent influences impressing upon it - those mute voices found simmering in the ritualistic embers of a primordial dawn. In it's monolithic stoicism it reverbates with the hisotry of a culture pillaged by industrial colonialism . . . The Chapman Family Collection is an embodiment of skillful control that demonstrates that the divine manipulation of spiritual power is one of the principle functions of ethnographic art."

That's some of the best horse manure I've read in a long time!

Anyway, the exhibit is excellent. Most of the works appeared more African than tiki & reminded me of copies of Yoruba and other West African ethnic arts.

There was one guy there that REALLY thought the works were actual artifacts from "primitive cultures." He just couldn't believe it when a gallery worker begrudgingly explained that it was a hoax.

I bought the catalogue which is chocked full of cool pics of the pieces from the collection. So, if anybody's interested, when I can get around to it, I could post some pics.

Tiki Chris

[ Edited by: tiki chris on 2002-11-17 13:56 ]

After weeks of brutal low-grade spywork, I've found out that the Chapmans indeed made the exhibits themselves. My initial assumption was way off, but that's all for the best as it proves the Chapmans can 'walk the walk'.

New exhibition in Oxford in a couple of months....my home town....will report....

Trader Woody


the february edition of some artsy-fartsy magazine has the chapman boys on the cover w/ an article about essentially nothing but it does discuss & show pics of the process the fellas went thru making their mc-ethnic art.

Yeah, it's in "Arts Review" or something like that. I skimmed the mag in Borders, and was impressed by the photo of one of the carvings in mid, er....carve.

Trader Woody

just thought i'd update anybody interested in the chapmans & the fun they have at mcdonald's expense ...

matthew marks gallery (523 west 24th street in new york) has included some of their work along w/ recent drawings by r. crumb, dr. lakra, & more in their deliver us from evil exhibit.

the highlight, for me, was getting to see the chapmans' unhappy meal: a mcdonald's happy meal box decorated w/ pornographic & demonic images featuring ronald, grimace, et al.

fun stuff!

Hey woody, where's the exhibition on.

Between the wars, the influance of commercial trash actually started to influance isolated cultures. I belive a particularly noteworthy example was the "M" shape from Camels surfacing in woven fabrics.

There are women in the Andes too, who still wear those bowlers. The story goes that some hat salesman was stranded there...

The Chapman Exhibit has a Jeff Koons-like quality to it, I hope they make some of those icons and sell them. (Banility?)

I'm lovin it

although this work is dripping with irony, if some of it had been produced by the cultures that the pieces purport to be, it would strike me as an innocent expression.

tikibars has mentioned pacific cargo cults in the past ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult ~ i guess ultimately art expresses what we ourselves experience?

i guess the sad thing is that crap culture is global now, no doubt.

The one with Ronald and his big red hair freaks me out, but I quite like them in general.

This sort of reflection should be done more often. It makes us think about companies like McDonald's, the artists that may have created these pieces of work, and it just plain gets our brains working!

While on Oahu last week, I found that they do indeed serve poi at some McDonalds.

On 2004-08-12 07:52, cheekytiki wrote:
Hey woody, where's the exhibition on.

woody's post is from 2002. i have no idea what's up w/ the "ethnographic" exhibit, but i'm pretty sure it's not in cambridge anymore.

Wake up cheekytiki!

On 2004-08-12 14:13, cheekytiki wrote:
Wake up cheekytiki!

Ha ha! Yeah, it was a little while ago. Since then, the McDonalds carvings went on show at the new Saatchi Gallery by the Thames, which I managed to visit, but then may have been destroyed in a massive fire:


I hope the carvings were stored elsewhere, but their incedible artwork, 'Hell' was certainly destroyed in the fire. That was one of those works of art that stay in your brain forever, so for that to go was awful.
In typical Chapman Brother's style, they said they would remake it in asbestos.

Trader Woody

Now I know why the place burnt down! Those Chapman boys should take peoples ancestory and ancient cultures bit more seriously - The curse of the Mc Tiki.
Anyway as most of the artists who had work involved in the fire said 'they can always get someone to remake them again'

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