June 13, 2003
More messing with chess

News of more mucking about with the design of chess sets, this time by Brit artists. (See also the posting immediately before and below this one, about the American architect, Michael Graves.)

Chess is a supremely great game, with a universe of profound associations attached to it stretching back for centuries, from pure logic to visions of slaughter. There's been at least one ballet based on it that I have personally heard of (Checkmate by Arthur Bliss), and there must be plenty more. The world chess champion is one of the most unversally recognised cleverest people alive. So, art based on chess is plugging into and hitch-hiking inside one of the archetypal human experiences. Fair enough, so long as no one is expected to play chess with any of these objects.

Hirst and the Chapman brothers produced two of five recently commissioned chess sets by leading contemporary artists, including Yayoi Kusama and Paul McCarthy. Others who feature in the exhibition include Yoko Ono, …

You know that the rest of this sentence is going to reveal something ridiculous.

… who created a set in 1966 which would confound any player: both sides are white and identical, while the game is played on a pure white board.

So no surprise there.

This however, is truly interesting:

Two sets created by Marcel Duchamp, who represented France at the 1928 Chess Olympiad, are displayed, …

I never knew that. Mr Urinal himself was a chess fiend.

… as well as one by his friend Man Ray.

Another ancient modernist.

But then we're back to business as usual, with our favourite cockney artist/wideboy

Hirst's offering, Mental Escapology, features a glass and mirror board displaying …

Blah blah blah. Brit art gets its effect from being regarded as some kind of revolutionary revelation that erupted about a decade ago, out of absolutely nowhere. Actually, as this article shows and this exhibition will show, Brit art is the seeping downwards and outwards of stupid ideas first unleashed the best part of a century ago.

Soon I will have to do that posting about why Modern Art, if it's so ridiculous, is nevertheless doing so well. Coming Real Soon Now.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:45 PM
Category: Modern art