Art Shows We’d Hate to Clean Up After


Anish Kapoor‘s bigtime solo exhibition at the Royal Academy ends next Friday, and with its deadline looming The Guardian wonders: how in the h-e-double-hockeysticks are they going to clean up that mess? You may recall that one of the main attractions in Kapoor’s eponymous show involves a cannon firing globs of red wax into a wall. Another work in the classical galleries is a length of oily red paint with a hulking door-shaped wax monolith at one end. The Royal Academy curators aren’t giving up their Fairy Godmother sanitizing secrets, but we know they must have a few tricks up their collective sleeve. Which left us pondering which other art exhibition remnants should be left to the pros of Sunshine Cleaning...

Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy of Arts, 2009. “There is red wax everywhere – splattered on the walls and smudged on the wooden floor, splayed across the ornate plaster mouldings. It clings to the handsome wooden doorframe in great red clots. The speckles of red wax leave oily stains on the white-painted walls.” Peep TimeOut London‘s video preview of the exhibition for more wax.

Richard Wilson 20:50 at Saatchi Gallery, 1987. In the artist’s own words: “the gallery is filled to waist height with recycled engine oil, from which the piece takes its name. A walkway leads from a single entrance, leading the viewer into the space until they are surrounded by oil on all sides. The seemingly impenetrable surface of the oil mirrors the architecture of the room exactly, placing the viewer at the mid-point of a symmetrical visual plane.”

Joseph Beuys, Coyote: I Like America and America Likes Me (1974). The artist spent three days caged in René Block’s New York gallery with a wild coyote that urinated all over the felt and newspapers lining the space. We can only imagine what coyote pee smells like (Geococcyx californianus?); not to mention, someone had to collect the creature and take it elsewhere.

Hermann Nitsch, Six Day Play in Prinzendorf (1998). The provocative Austrian artist’s 100th ‘Aktion’ performance re-enacted the story of creation, complete with Nitsch-ian guts, gored animals, and slaughterhouse references. Difficult to watch, even worse to scrub clean. Or erase from memory.

Dash Snow and Dan Colen, Hamster’s Nest. One of the late Dash Snow’s most infamous pieces (actions? installations? happy accidents?), a Hamster’s Nest involved “shred[ding] up 30 to 50 phone books, yank[ing] around all the blankets and drapes, turn[ing] on the taps, tak[ing] off their clothes, and do[ing] drugs—mushrooms, coke, ecstasy—until they feel like hamsters.” The downtown Baudelaire and his partner-in-crime Colen recreated one such nest for Deitch Projects in 2007. Also note Snow’s predilection for ejaculating on newsprint.