In an era where a Jeff Koons rabbit can fetch $70 million, it seems like the art buying world has gone crazy. Sky-high prices for art are not a new phenomenon, though, and nor is the theft that inevitably follows; indeed, it was precisely the theft of the Mona Lisa in the early 1900s that made it so famous.
It’s perhaps surprising, then, that art theft has so rarely been the subject of art itself. Until now, that is, with the launch of ‘Pinched’, a new exhibition by contemporary British artist Nick Smith.
In his previous show, ‘Priceless’, Smith looked at the precariousness of the art market and ‘Pinched’ can be seen as a kind of sequel. Its central enquiry is what happens to ideas of value once artwork has been stolen, as this makes it impossible to ascribe it a monetary value.
Since the Mona Lisa incident, there were thousands of heists throughout the 20th century, as works of both major and minor art were stolen from museums, galleries and private collections. ‘Pinched’ examines some of the most notable crimes and the resulting absence of these works within art history and cultural identity.
The show consists of 20 mixed medium artworks and screen prints, new works by Smith that highlight the absurdity and intrigue left in the wake of famous art heists. Using graded colour chips made by himself, these pieces have a pixel like quality that creates a three-tier experience for the viewer.
Marrying digital design with fine art, this exhibition explores the relationship between audience, image and text in an exciting new way, both in terms of form and subject matter.
‘Pinched’ is at Rhodes Contemporary Art, 42 New Compton Street, London WC2H 8DA from 3 May 2019 – 1 Jun 2019.