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John Waters' art coming to (gold-free) Gagosian Gallery

April 4, 2009 | 11:00 am

JohnWaters Balked in its attempt to exhibit an artwork made from more than $3 milllion worth of solid gold, Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills is moving on. Instead, it will display photographs and sculpture by a filmmaker who achieved his first glimmer of fame – or notoriety – by shooting a scene showing the consumption of excrement.

“John Waters: Rear Projection” opens April 11. Waters -- better known now for writing and directing the film “Hairspray” than for that infamous coda to “Pink Flamingos” -- builds his photographic work using images from familiar films. First he shoots them off of a TV screen, then he figuratively paints a mustache on them by editing in visuals of his own device.

 One sequence, “Children Who Smoke,” offers shots of kid-star cuties dragging on cigarettes; in “Hollywood Smile Train,” says a description on the Gagosian website, “traditionally beautiful movie stars are glamorously deformed” by the filthy lucre of commerce. Read on for Waters' smokin' images.


 As for that art work made of gold: “It’s still on hold,” says Chris Burden, who had planned to assemble a pickup truck and 220 pounds of gold bars into an art installation called "One Ton, One Kilo.”

The show, scheduled to have run March 7-April 4, became collateral damage of the federal investigation into an alleged Ponzi scheme by R. Allen Stanford. Gagosian had arranged to buy the hoard through one of the financier's companies, Stanford Coins and Bullion. Then the investment fraud case broke. A judge in Texas ordered Stanford’s assets frozen – including the gold for Burden’s piece.

Has the artist tried to find another supplier? “You should speak to the gallery about that. It’s not my call,” he said Thursday. Michelle Pobar, a Gagosian spokeswoman, said the plan is to show “One Ton, One Kilo” when it becomes possible – with the release of the frozen gold. In an interview with the New Yorker, Burden said the work had been priced to sell for $5 million, which would mean the artist's ministrations increase the raw materials' value by about 50%.

Nice work, if you can get it.

But now that the cat is out of the bag, Culture Monster wonders if some other artist with ready access to a pile of gold bars (surely Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons could swing it) couldn't beat Burden to the punch, adding a daring theme of transgressive intellectual-property theft, enabled by a case of alleged financial fraud, to the work's conceptual heft, thereby providing a shining symbol for the Great Meltdown. (Wow -- you could even melt it down at the end of the exhibition! Then build it again when the world economy finally recovers! And repeat with every ensuing business cycle, unto eternity!)

Hirst, Koons or whoever, upon selling the work, can contribute our 10% fee for art-scam advice to the food bank of his or her choice.

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: John Waters. Credit: Tina Fineberg/Associated Press

Photo: John Waters' "Children Who Smoke." Credit: Gagosian Gallery.