Controversial Double-Headed Elephant Heads to Christie’s!

I was sent the following by my friend Carrie Reichardt last night, and really think it’s worth spreading the word about. For more pics (at a larger size, too!) and to contact Carrie, see Carrie’s website.

I love how Carrie and Nick’s work embraces the issues directly, but ultimately allows them both to back off from the creation itself as it (literally) stands in public view for passersby to make their own conclusions. It’s in that self-reflective space where someone views a craftivist work and is allowed to digest and think about a work without interruption where the (positive) revolution and change and real work begins.

Controversial double-headed elephant goes to auction this week at Christie’s in Milan

A leading spokesperson for the ever growing craftivist movement and renegade potter Carrie Reichardt, otherwise known as The Baroness, will this week see her controversial mosaic elephant sold by Christie’s in Milan to raise money for the global elephant parade charity.

The elephant was made in collaboration with Nick Reynolds, harmonic player in the cult activist band Alabama 3 and son of Bruce Reynolds, the master mind behind the great train robbery. It is part of a growing trend, started by the Cow Parade in Zurich in 1998 of getting artists to decorate resin animal sculptures that are exhibited in public places before being auctioned for charity.

Reichardt and Reynolds unique double headed elephant was originally called ‘Bunga Bunga’ – in reference to the then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s alleged sex parties. The name was considered far to political for its organizers so Reichardt was forced to changed the name to Little Miss DMT, (the drug she credits with giving her the vision for the pieces highly intricate mosaic pattern .), It is one of 50 elephants that have been on displayed through out Milan for the last few months. Little Miss DMT has been taking pride of place in front of the Triennial Museum of Modern Art.

The devil they say is in the detail, and as with most of Reichardt work, it is in the detail where the controversy lies.

As Reichardt says; “The only reason, I and Nick take part in these large charity events is because they allow you to make public art that is totally uncensored. You find that when you work for free, rarely anyone actually checks what you are doing, so you end up with total creative freedom.”

This creative freedom, along with Reichardt and Reynolds sheer craftsmanship has allowed them to recently exhibit some extremely contentious work in the public realm. Banksy may boost of getting his ‘subversive’ work into the mainstream galleries , but it is doubtful that even he could pull of such an audacious sited piece as their ‘Trojan Horse’ at Cheltenham Races last week.

As Greg Wood of the Guardian pointed out:
“’Trojan Horse’, by Carrie Reichardt, had a skull for a face and, in Reinhardt’s words, “some pretty hard-hitting facts and pictures about the abuse that the horse has had to endure at the hands of man” presented as mosaics on its body. These included a much-used statistic from the extremist animal rights group Animal Aid on fatal injuries to racehorses, a fact which suggested to some observers that the course should have paid more attention to Classical literature. A Trojan horse, after all, is generally best left outside the walls.”

So it was through craft and altruism that they managed to get their fiercely anti racing and anti blood sport piece on display along with 9 other similar works at Cheltenham National Hunt Festival last week. This life size resin horse was re-sculptured by Reynolds, and then mosaic in ceramic tiles printed by Reichardt. This included gruesome imagery, including a fox being torn apart by hounds and horses hanging in abattoirs with figures explaining that up to 10,000 in the UK will end up as horsemeat. If attacking the racing and hunting fraternity wasn’t enough, both the front two panels of the horse depict mounted police baton charging students from the recent protests, explaining the cruelty involved to the horse in such a situation.

It was not surprising then that this ‘Trojan Horse’ failed to get a single bid, when Cheltenham art museum attempted to auction it from the races last week to raise money for the RLNI.

As Reynolds wryly said, “Its not easy trying to sell a piece of art to people who approve of a sport that abuses horses, when the piece itself is a testimony to all the cruelty the horse has endured by the hands of man.”

Both now hope that some wealthy animal rights supporter will purchase the piece and donate it to a public museum so that the piece can remain in the public domain.

Hopefully in Milan, Christies will have more luck selling their elephant. But following Berlusconi resignation, and scenes of students rioting on the streets, this might prove difficult as they will be attempting to sell an elephant that has ‘La Rivoluzione e’ora (the Revolution is Now) mosaic on to all four ears.

Reichardt remains upbeat though…

“Just my bloody luck, Capitalism collapses, just as my art hits the art market…..– anyway, as a Craftivist I am much more interested in using craft as a way of spreading ideas and social justice that worrying about how much a piece can sell for.”

With their life–size ceramic sculpture of Liverpudlian Mary Bamber, which depicts the radical history of the suffragette movement, recently being purchased by the newly open Museum of Liverpool, there is always hope that both their horse and their elephant will end up where it was created to be – in the public realm.

As Reichardt is keen to point out….for her the ‘Revolution is going to be ceramicised.”

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2 Responses to Controversial Double-Headed Elephant Heads to Christie’s!

  1. jafabrit November 23, 2011 at 8:34 am #

    EXCELLENT, and inspiring!

  2. Judith B November 24, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    Wow. Beautiful work, beautiful piece. It does belong in the public sector.

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