Thursday, 15 February 2018

draw me like one of your french girls

Through the lens of a controversial announcement on the recent acquisition of a Picasso “The Girl with the Red Beret and Pompom”—which is one of several depictions of the artist’s mistress and model Marie-Thérèse Walter—that the new owner will rename it Annabel after his Mayfair nightclub where it will be displayed, Hyperallergic takes a look at historic examples of the appropriation of works of art by non-artists, driven perhaps by the desire to give an otherwise unknown or forgotten figure (though not the case in the former) a backstory.
Mona Lisa (the wife of the merchant Francesco del Giocondo, whose surname happens to mean “the happy one,” like her French title, La Joconde, the jocund—referencing her enigmatic expression) is an interesting case as she was a historical figure—according to most theories—but was only identified centuries after its execution. What’s now known commercially as Whistler’s Mother was called by the artist “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1” and while it is his mother sitting for the portrait, she was reportedly a last-minute understudy for another model who couldn’t make it, and Whistler never intended his “arrangement” to become an iconic representation of motherhood. I suppose it is a little pedantic to insist that we not use the broadly accepted colloquial names for works of art as consumers of it but it does seem a big presumption and imposition to actually give something a whole new name contrary to its identity out of narcissism. What do you think? I don’t feel that possession entitles one the privilege to rebrand the creation of another when no contractual arrangement exists between artist and patron.