Bought Art Movement

From Plastic Tub

The Minneapolis-based Bought Art Movement (BAM) was a poorly conceived (and arguably hoaxed) “artistic” movement which sought to “exploit the collision between creation and context vis-à-vis the commercialized exploitation of the displaced medium and the replaced artist” (Woodham, Pierce. Why My Purchased Art is Better Than Your Garbage. 2002). In layman’s terms, the movement involved purchasing pieces of art and displaying them in a museum under the guise of an artistic exhibit crediting the purchaser as the artist (rather crediting the exhibit to the original artists).

To avoid lawsuits, the exhibitors never claimed to have actually created the pieces of art; indeed, receipts of purchase were clearly taped right onto each piece. Instead, the exhibitors claimed that by placing the art into its current context, they were translating the pieces into something new -– an artistic creation of their own making.

From the critical point of view, the movement was really nothing more than a spoof, poking fun at Found Art, which was a “movement” wherein artists placed found objects (such as discarded bicycle wheels) into museums as pieces of art. Found Art was really a philosophical challenge of the definition of art; the BAM, however, pretended to take the Found Artists at their word, and they treated the concept of Found Art as an aesthetic pursuit of the shabbiest acclaim. The BAM artists openly criticized and challenged Found Artists. In one infamous interview, Tawny Glasspants stated that:

...our art is much better than theirs [the Found Artists]. I mean really, they just find garbage – literally toilets sometimes – and paste them to the wall. That’s not art. That’s sheer laziness. We work hard, nine-to-five in the office, day in and out, all to make some serious dough. And then we spend that hard earned cash on some real art – the pretty stuff, not this found mess. What I’m trying to say is that our art is actually enjoyable – that’s why we were willing to spend so much money on it. Really, now, if you want to see garbage, well you can just stay home and look in your trashcan, can’t you?

As silly as it all was, the movement did manage knock a few blowhards off their soapboxes, it offered food for thought, and it was good for a giggle.

But the strangest thing about it all is that the BAM appears to have never existed. It was supposedly jumpstarted by Pierce Woodham’s 2001 Soap Factory Exibit The Shiller and the Shilled -– but the Soap Factory claims no knowledge of this exhibit. Furthermore, Pierce Woodham (the supposed originator of the movement) has every appearance of being an invented personage, named either in reference to a dirty joke that’s too ribald to print, or homonymously christened in the vein of other associated BAM figures, including such demonstrably genuine men (e.g., The Whittier Globe editor Nick Hook, amateur historian Payne), as well as the patently absurd and almost childishly named Tawny Glasspants and Will Budge.

In fact, in attempting to research this article, the Tub was only able to find one verifiable piece of documentation regarding the BAM: an article published in the cracker-jack monthly Minneapolis publication, The Whittier Globe. A newspaper of the highest reputable standing, The Whittier Globe is not a source to be doubted without the greatest of assurances -– of which we have none. Therefore, in the truest pursuit of Truth, and without further ado, we proudly present the only document which seemed to have survived the ill-fated BAM.


Fresh Doubts on the Evolution of Art

Just when you thought you knew art –- everything changes. Revisionist art historians are re-writing the past. Forget what you knew, and prepare for a rocky descent into the deceitful world of art.

First, a Quick Refresher

Traditionally, historians have traced a clear trajectory in the evolution of art:

  1. The Made Art movement seems to have dominated all artistic periods from pre-historic cave paintings to the fractured artistic styling of the early twentieth century. Famous examples include Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
  2. The Found Art movement eclipsed the Made Art movement in the early twentieth century, with origins traditionally accredited to Duchamp's Fountain (1917) – which was simply a urinal hung on the wall of an art museum and signed R. Mutt. Really.
  3. The Bought Art movement of the early twenty-first century represents the logical culmination of this centuries-long trajectory. Bought Art is generally acknowledged as the birth child of Percy Woodham, who seems to have kick-started the movement with the placement of Warhol's Madonna II in his curiously under-documented The Shiller and the Shilled exhibit (January 1, 2001).

This historical trajectory is now under fire; it would now appear that the evolution of art is not such a neat arc after all. Start thinking more loop-the-loop.

Attacks on the Origins of Found Art

Duchamp labeled his Found Art as “readymades.” Curiously, he claims to have lost all the originals. The possibility that Duchamp may have deceived us has been widely explored, perhaps most famously by autodidactic media-darling Rhonda Roland Shearer, whose controversial essay, Marcel Duchamp's Impossible Bed and Other "Not" Readymade Objects: A Possible Route of Influence from Art To Science (Part I & II). (Several other essays written around the turn of the century by Camhi, Gould and others explore similar themes.)

Shearer's research has cast doubts on the very foundations of the Found Art movement through conjecture that Duchamp's readymades were, in fact, not found objects at all; rather, his readymades were objects that were actually newly created, heavily revised or otherwise “manipulated” (to borrow Shearer’s phrase).

But perhaps even more shocking, is the response to Shearer from art historian and critic William Camfield: "But the historical record clearly indicates that some [of Duchamp's] readymades were purchased," (Chami, Leslie. Did Duchamp Deceive Us?). Is it possible that Duchamp may have actually invented the Bought Art movement under the guise of the much simpler, and cheaper, Found Art movement? While Camfield’s inflammatory rhetoric was, no doubt, intended to cause a stir, his reputation as an impeccable researcher lends great weight to the veracity of his voice.

No Receipt, No Return

Now, perhaps more shocking still, are claims by Minneapolis amateur historian Dave Payne that Woodham may have forged several of his art receipts (which were integral to his notion of Bought Art), suggesting that these Woodham "Bought Objects" were, in fact, shamelessly gathered for free. Which is to say that the Bought Art was not bought at all -– it was Found (euphemistically speaking).

Three Fingered Confusion

So where does all of this new re-writing of history leave us? It would seem that the Made Art movement may have actually been knocked off by Bought Art -– which was shamelessly disguised as Found Art only to be later fraudulently re-invented as Bought Art -– which was actually Found. If you feel confused, take heart: The Whittier Globe’s Nick Hook has three testicles.

See Also