Colin Gleadell tackles the Chapman Brothers taste for altering the works of other artists with their latest from a “follower of Brueghel.” The artists took an Old Master crucifixion scene and embellished it:
Shortly after the White Cube exhibition opened last week, Oi Pieter …, the crucifixion painting with the mannequin thrown in, sold for £750,000. The buyer, I am told, was not remotely interested in the prices the painting had sold for before, but I wonder whether these are not part of a broader conceit about authorship, collaborations and value.
The exhibition asks us to consider which works might be by Jake or by Dinos Chapman. Does it matter? We might equally ask who the Brueghel “follower” was. Does that matter, either? Perhaps the Chapmans want us to believe it is a real Breughel when it isn’t. Their “Brueghel” also appears to have been, like most of the Chapmans’ works, a collaboration. By coincidence, a version of The Crucifixion accepted as by Pieter Brueghel the Younger sold at an auction in Zurich last summer. This was catalogued as a joint work by Brueghel and Joos de Momper, the Flemish landscape artist who painted the backdrop. The Chapmans’ “Brueghel” also includes a landscape backdrop, this time with houses, which seems to be by another hand; perhaps it’s by a follower of de Momper.
And then there is the price. The Zurich auction picture sold for £673,000. The Chapmans’ “Brueghel” was therefore priced, allowing for a 10 per cent reduction to a good client, at the same level as an authentic Brueghel of the same subject. So it’s not just a matter of a minor Old Master painting accruing in value because it has been doctored by the Chapmans. The price specifically corresponds to the price for a work from which it is derived. With bare-faced cheek, White Cube has placed the Chapmans on the same pedestal as Brueghel. But, then, why the hell not?
Jake and Dinos Chapman: Heavenly Prices for Hell (Telegraph)