Three years ago, New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz challenged Glenn Beck to curate two exhibitions, one of work he disapproved of, another of work he liked. Beck ignored the offer. But this week, the right-wing radio host entered the art world in different way: He made a piece of art.
To be more specific: Beck peed in a jar and then put a figurine of Obama inside. Sound familiar? The appropriation — if I may be so generous as to call it that — of Andres Serrano’s artistic gesture makes complete sense, given the fact that “Piss Christ” is, like, the artwork that everyone on the right loves to hate: it helped spark the NEA controversy and culture wars of the 1990s, and it continues to piss people off (pun intended) wherever it goes. Yet this history also makes Beck’s use of the strategy somehow more ironic.
Derivativeness aside, I have to say that the Obama statuette Beck chose for the work, which is quite maturely titled “Obama in Pee Pee,” is really an uninspired piece of kitsch that barely even looks like the President. With an undoubtedly large and enthusiastic staff at his disposal, Beck could have done better.
But the best part of the whole story may be the write-up about it on Beck’s own website. “Glenn Beck’s shocking Obama art piece,” the headline reads. Doesn’t he know that art can’t really shock anymore? The post then goes on to explain the work as a reaction to a painting that depicts Obama as Jesus; Beck defends that painting because of the Constitution, “the one irrefutable piece of art which gives people the freedom.” (Which freedom, again?)
The post continues:
But would people on the left agree with Glenn? In the same way that the artist pushed the buttons of conservatives and people of faith with his painting of Obama, Glenn decided to create his own piece of art with Obama.
Oh, Glenn. You can’t bait the figureheads of the art world into outrage or censorship this easily; the best way to get their attention is with money. If you manage to sell “Obama in Pee Pee” for that asking price of $25,000 — well, then someone might just take notice.