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Anything by The Smiths

Jonathan Monk

CAN (Centre d'art de Neuchâtel)

Publication date : 2018/08/01
Weight 153 g / Dimensions 22 x 32 cm / 28 pages
ISBN 9782839924238

Visual documentation of Jonathan Monk’s exhibition, organized at the invitation of curator Marc-Olivier Wahler for the twentieth anniversary of CAN Centre d’art Neuchâtel. The English artist revisits an emblematic exhibition he mounted in the early years of CAN in 1997. The edition compares images from the two events.

At the time of the exhibition, which ran at CAN from May 25 to July 6, 1997, the press release announced: “Anything by The Smiths. Revisiting in his own way the founding myths of modern art, Monk, a young Scottish artist, summons up in turn (or simultaneously) Rock & Roll, soccer and pub culture. Aware of what’s at stake, the artist smokes his last cigarette and reassures himself by listening to the sound of the waves in a shell. Here, at last, is an exhibition that will fuel conversations in stadiums and bars (where the artist performs from time to time).”

17 years later, Jonathan Monk has kept his promise: no more cigarettes—the CAN was indeed his last. But since then, his career has gone from strength to strength. Collected by the most prestigious museums, courted by the greatest collectors, considered a role model by the youngest artists, Jonathan Monk now fuels conversations more among art historians than among bistro stalwarts. Nevertheless, the artist returns to the site of one of his first exhibitions and revisits the beginnings of his work. Anything by the Smiths, the title of his exhibition at CAN, demonstrated the evocative power of the indeterminate, “everything about everything” as it were, or nothing at all, as the case may be. In it, the artist smokes his last cigarette—really? so what?—then it’s the end of an era, that of the heroic artist, who, like Superman, thinks he’s from another planet, who waits for inspiration to fall upon him and summons visionary spirits with a blast of ferruginous water, watching for the shapes to come in the wisps of tobacco. Today’s artist has dropped the cape, no longer counting on a transcendental nudge, but on the telltale signs of everyday life. No more romantic posturing, like the solitary genius atop his mountain defying the horizon. Contemporary art, as suggested by an artist like Jonathan Monk, has become a simple tool for navigating our reality and discerning the contours of that invisible yet haunting phantom that is time.

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