gil vicente shoots into the news

28 September 2010 § Leave a comment

The opening of the Sao Paulo Biennial has been dogged/cleverly publicised (delete according to your point of view) by controversy. Brazilian artist Gil Vicente is showing a series of nine charcoal drawings where he is depicted personally dispatching a series of world figureheads utilizing a variety of assassination methods. 

Gil Vicente

Vicente tells us that the paintings began with George Bush, pictured hands tied as the artist puts a gun to his head. Other ‘victims’ include the Pope, Queen Elizabeth, Ariel Sharon, Kofi Annan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The most powerful work is perhaps that of Brazilian President Lula, whose throat is being cut whilst tied to a chair. 

Naturally there were some outraged reactions and efforts were made to get the paintings withdrawn. These attempts at censorship were angrily rebuked on television by Vicente who said: “They allege that it condones crime? Theft of public money is not a crime? And the reports on violence on TV is not a crime? Are only my paintings a glorification of crime?” According to Vicente, the violence does not indicate any personal grievance although he states that “as they kill so many people, it would be better to kill them.” 

Gil Vicente - George Bush

But who is Vicente? A search on the major art auction databases yields no previous recorded auction sales. A Google search similarly reveals nothing. I am sure some more research of Brazilian galleries may well dig up something, but it is clear that in one fell swoop Vicente has popped his head over the parapet and in to the view of the international art market. 

It will be interesting to see the reaction to the work, both critically and financially. As yet no UK art critics have made their views public. I doubt if many will and even if they do they will not be too excited, but the saying ‘all publicity is good publicity’ is certainly applicable here. From Picasso to Hirst negative critical opinion has rarely adversely affected future careers so long as the works itself attracts public interest. These certainly do have some appeal, are cleverly done and quite well executed (forgive the pun). 

Made in 2005/6 and entitled ‘Enemies’ they are priced at around £170,000 and only available in one lot  – a mistake in my view. He would have been better advised to sell to nine, possibly international, collectors to establish a wider potential future market. I would suspect that they will sell, maybe knocked down a little in price, but will establish Vicente as an artist to watch. It is hard to see where he will go from here to stay original and he will probably just fade away – we shall see, and I will try to let you know! 

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