Ephemeral art appears to be well-loved by many conceptual artists who view the idea of the piece as separate from its form or other visual characteristics. Unlike works of traditional art that require meticulous preservation, ephemeral works of art are not meant to last. Temporariness becomes a tool to convey ideas about the passage of time and how it influences the world around us. Artists who choose ephemeral mediums purposefully use materials that are prone to decay. Let us look at three famous artworks that encapsulate the ideas integral to ephemeral art.
Temporary Beauty: Three Examples of Conceptual Ephemeral Art
“Apple” by Yoko Ono
The name of this exhibit is self-explanatory: it is a real apple stationed on a piece of plexiglass with a sign saying “APPLE” on it. Those who saw it in person were astounded by its simultaneous simplicity and conceptual fullness. Unsurprisingly, unusual mediums provoke the audience to interact with the piece in an equally unusual way. For example, the musician John Lennon took a bite of the displayed apple right in the middle of the exhibition. The famous apple was later covered in bronze and became part of Yoko Ono’s series titled “Bronze Age.”
“A Thousand Years” by Damien Hirst
A more disturbing piece of ephemeral art, “Thousand Years,” consisted of a cow head slowly being eaten by maggots and flies inside a glass cube. Many of Hirst’s works are focused on the passing of the cycle of life. This particular piece had a strong impression on the expressionist painter Francis Bacon who told the artist that he could not tear his eyes away from the piece. A terrifying display reflected the true meaning of art according to Hirst, “Art is about the fear of death.”
“Comedian” by Maurizio Cattelan
This work of art is a more recent one, but it arguably caused the most commotion. A banana taped to a wall was all the rage the year it was sold during the 2019 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach for $120,000. However, what was purchased was actually a certificate with instructions about the installation of the fruit, including how often the banana should be replaced. “Comedian” was a conceptual piece that attracted a lot of media attention, not only because of its absurd and ironic nature but also because it was a magnet for art-related mischief. The last case happened in Seoul this March — the student, who took the display off the wall and ate it, said he was “hungry.”
There are a lot of conflicting opinions on conceptual ephemeral art. One can be said for sure — they never fail to evoke a reaction from the world.