Olaf Breuning, The Art Freaks @Metro Pictures

JTF (just the facts): A total of 22 large scale color photographs, framed in back and unmatted, and densely hung in the small, single room gallery space upstairs. All of the works are c-prints made in 2011, each 75×34 and printed in editions of 3. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Olaf Breuning’s larger-than-life-sized, body painted nudes in homage to famous artists are the artistic equivalent of the street corner performer dressed as the Statue of Liberty: they’re instantly recognizable, clever and entertaining, but ultimately pretty light fare. Using male and female bodies as his canvas, he’s painted each one either as an exaggerated copy of a well-known work, a visual appropriation of the artist’s style, or a riff on a thematic idea used by that particular artist. They’re a little like the endless stream of Van Gogh tote bags, umbrellas, scarves, and t-shirts found at museums – a readily identifiable re-interpretation of “high” art in a different form.

This isn’t to say that it isn’t fun to circle the gallery and discover the connection in each one. In the “famous artwork” category, there’s Munch’s The Scream, Man Ray’s Le Violon D’Ingres, and Jasper John’s Flag. Those primarily done as a stylistic homage include Yves Klein (all in blue), Damien Hirst (colored polka dots), Francis Bacon (distorted body parts), and Jackson Pollock (drips) among many others. And thematically, Louise Bourgeois is covered by a black spider and Andy Warhol is dripping with banana peels. Each and every picture is witty recreation, some more “insider” to the art world than others. By the way, the only other photographer (besides Man Ray) included in this parade is Cindy Sherman, and this got me thinking about how it is much more difficult to pigeon-hole photographers by a simplistic visual shorthand, especially those whose work is not primarily about a signature style.

In any event, Breuning’s tributes are certainly playful and amusing, in a teasing manner sure to evoke a smile or a chuckle. This makes them hard to take seriously as anything more than a send-up, but their mischievous joy is hard to resist.

Collector’s POV: The photographs in this show are each priced at $18000. Breuning’s works have very little secondary market history, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Artist site (here)

Through October 29th

Metro Pictures
519 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

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Read more about: Olaf Breuning, Metro Pictures Gallery

One comment

  1. julien /

    Hi, you might have some interest for the artist's edition we're publishing with this series. It is almost the end of the crowdfunding campaign, on which we're selling the books, signed books and framed prints of the series.
    https://wemakeit.ch/projects/art-freaks
    This is just for your information 🙂 a great opportunity to grab a limited edition book.

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