Did Loris Gréaud Punk Us All with Sexist Emails?

The artist claims he was the grand puppet master behind a viral sensation.

Loris Gréaud, portrait, 2016. © Minsk Studio.

Was French artist Loris Gréaud’s recent public flameout a stunt? He claims it was.

Gréaud got in hot water over arguably misogynistic and indisputably nasty emails he sent to Dallas writer Lauren Smart in response to a negative review of his show “The Unplayed Notes Museum” at Dallas Contemporary. He urged the critic to get a boyfriend who’s on steroids and to learn more about art history. “You’ll be amaze,” he tells her (see Loris Gréaud Tells Critic She’s Undersexed and Ignorant). Smart is the Dallas Observer’s arts and culture editor and an arts journalism professor at Southern Methodist University.

According to documents obtained by artnet News, Gréaud planned all along to respond provocatively to the first negative review in hopes of the story going viral. This was really all about the destruction of the artist’s image, apparently.

artnet News wrote to the artist Monday to request date-stamped emails or other evidence that the plan was hatched before January 27. Though he answered emails, he has not provided any such documentation.

For the show, Gréaud created large sculptures and hired several people to destroy them during the opening, as if vandalizing the show. The museum and the artist staged the event, later revealing that Gréaud intended the work to be about destruction and ruins. (For artnet News critic Ben Davis’s take on the show, see Loris Gréaud Smashes the Mold for Museum Shows.) It’s of course not the first time artists have destroyed their work or subjected it to very rough treatment. The artistic heritage of this tactic would include Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle, just for starters. And just like the staged demolition of the works on the night of the opening, Gréaud was the puppet master of the email dustup all along, you see!

(Funny enough, Dallas Contemporary’s New York press rep, Adam Abdalla, joked in a Facebook comment on January 27, the day of artnet News’ story, that the whole scene was orchestrated: “He’s just extending the notion of destroying the exhibition to social media/Gawker-style art press. It all makes sense.”)

Artists Who Fooled Their Audiences

It wouldn’t be the first time an artist has punked people, either. There’s an illustrious history of artists fooling their audiences, from R. Mutt to Vern Blosum and beyond.

“I can see that being very viable,” Smart told artnet News in a phone conversation. She said that neither the artist nor the museum had informed her of any such scheme, but that others had predicted that Gréaud would make such a claim.

“I don’t think anything is off the table when it comes to the Internet,” she added. When she mentioned her boyfriend, artnet News asked if he was on steroids, as Gréaud prescribed. “No comment.”

So was this episode more Andy Kaufman or Joaquin Phoenix? A defining move for an artist or a stunt that left everyone shaking their heads and a little embarrassed? Do we believe that Gréaud planned it in advance, or is the supposed orchestration an after-the-fact attempt to recuperate the artist’s reputation? If the whole thing was planned, will it work?

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