Wim Delvoye – ‘Australian Art Review’


sculpture review

Shock And Awe


DECEMBER 10, 2011-MARCH 26, 2012
Museum of Old and New Art, (MONA), Hobart, Tasmania

At Hobart’s new ‘wunder’ museum, MONA, the artwork rated most offensive by visitors is the ‘Cloaca Professional’ (2010) by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye. A convoluted construction named after the ancient Roman sewers, it is literally a digestive machine that turns food into faeces. The machine is not for sale, but the artist sells the foul-smelling produce in small jars of resin. Whilst rating high on the ‘ick’ factor, MONA reports that it is this work that visitors spend the most time with in the museum.

Delvoye is an extreme artist that seems to take delight in creating works that provoke and shock. A self-described prankster, the artist appears to be a perfect match for MONA’s David Walsh, whose vision for the museum is to court controversy and shake up the Australian art world.

The Museum of Old and New Art is therefore an ideal venue to host Delvoye’s first retrospective show in Australia. What is striking initially is to realise the breadth and scale of Delvoye’s practise. His eclectic oeuvre ranges from industrial machinery, such as cement trucks and earthmovers, that have been painstakingly perforated with ornate filigree, to pig skins tattooed with consumer icons, from Louis Vuitton to Coca Cola, not to mention his ‘sex rays’ – medical x-rays of sexual acts transformed into stained glass windows.

Delvoye’s practise, redolent with irony, juxtaposes themes such as the body versus machine, high art versus popular culture and industrial technology versus traditional craftsmanship. He is a conceptual artist with anti-modernist sensibilities. In works such as ‘Butagaz 52 Shell 372446’ (1987), a gas cylinder decorated with delft blue enamel patterns and ‘Concrete Mixer (Roses)’ (1991), composed from engraved teak wood, the artist challenges the dying art of artisanship in the face of modern industry.

Born in West Flanders in 1965, Delvoye has exhibited his work since the 1990s in major international art festivals, including the Venice Biennale in 1999 and Documenta IX in Germany in1992, with solo shows across Europe and the U.S., at museums such as Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

In recent years, the artist has built monumental architectural towers out of laser cut corten steel, incised with beautifully intricate gothic filigree. In 2010 it was displayed in front of the Musee Rodin in Paris, appearing like a strange medieval building from a Grimms fairytale. The megalomaniac artist is now envisioning even larger projects; he has expressed a desire for commissions to build museums and castles.

Whether beautiful or disturbing, serious or satirical, Delvoye’s fantastic, outrageous projects are sure to continue making headlines. His irreverent collection of artworks will be a seamless fit for MONA’s exhibition space, already dubbed as a ‘subversive Disneyland’.

Art exhibition review by Victoria Hynes
Wim Delove at the Museum of Old and New Art, (MONA), Hobart, Tasmania by Victoria Hynes