Auntie Doris’s Great Works of Art #5: Piero Manzoni – Merda D’Artista 1961


Ruddy Norah! When I first heard about this I thought “I’ve heard it all now!” That Manzoni was ruddy crackers. “Merda D’Artista” was the name he gave to each of the 90 cans he had made that he said were full of his own shite, and he said that they were worth their weight in gold, and managed to sell them to collectors at the same price as if they were ruddy gold an’all. Actually, he wasn’t crackers at all was he? He was effectively producing gold out of his arse, “like that goose in Jack and the Beanstalk,” only I don’t think that the goose’s eggs came out of its arse.
Apparently he had just offloaded a load of balloons that he had blown up himself and called “Fiato D’Artista” (or artist’s breath in English) and he wanted to see if he could stretch the idea a bit further, and before that he had invited visitors to a gallery to consume his art by eating boiled eggs with his thumbprint on them.
What I never ruddy understand is how on earth you manage to become an artist by messing about like that. If I had ever tried any of the stunts that he did, no one would have forked out any money for them.
Maybe he just had plenty of money and connections in the art world. He certainly had at least one connection that helped him along. His father owned a canning factory. He must have had quite a unique relationship with him to be able to get him to can ninety pieces of shite in 30g portions though.
That’s 2,700 grammes of shite, nearly 6lbs! Did he save it in a bucket or something until he had enough? Or did he keep tripping down to his fathers factory every now and again? Were the cans full of shite, spread evenly like a thick soup? Or were they in some sort of juice, like a tin of peaches? How much does an average visit to the toilets worth weigh any road? A damn sight less than six pounds I’ll bet! I would have been tempted to water it down, or mix it with a bit of angel delight or something,
And what did the poor workers in his dad’s canning factory make of the strange job the boss and his son had sorted out for them? It’s a wonder they didn’t down toolds and go on strike. Or was it an after hours job, with just the artist and his father manning the machines after the home time whistle? They would have had a job on getting rid of the smell before the morning though.
He would never get away with it these days. The health and safety people would see to that. You have to write stuff like “May contain traces of nuts” on anything these days, if there is even the slightest chance of some nuts getting into whatever it is you are putting in the can.
I wonder if Manzoni thought of writing “può contenere tracce di mais” (may contain traces of sweetcorn) on the cans.
Any road, them cans are still around, and the last time one went up for sale at Sotheby’s it went for nearly £100,000. An expensive piece of business indeed.

5 thoughts on “Auntie Doris’s Great Works of Art #5: Piero Manzoni – Merda D’Artista 1961

  1. Ha, the post may have been about a load of crap but it is side-splittingly funny. I’m afraid my humour is very lavatorial as it often is with folk in South Yorkshire/North Derbyshire. I have to be suppressed from plumbing the depths on many occasion. Don’t even get me started on bottling farts, dear lady!

  2. Does this remind anyone of the emperor’s new clothes? I mean, far be it from me to question what people like and I would usually just agree to disagree on most matters but… I reaaly think that some of these artists just seem to act like conmen.

  3. What a conversation piece, or door stop, a tin of some whack jobs shice, goes to show money can be made of anything and even the likes of me would fall for such a conman, and give it as a gift to my boss.

  4. Where do you suppose the buyer displayed it? In their pantry? I can see why he chose those small cans over big ones – he was going for quality over quantity, because he’s an artist.
    I will be sure not to ever educate my young boys about this particular art form; knowing their fascination with all things poo I just know they’d take this idea and run with it.
    Whether it’s really art or not it certainly inspired a great blog post!

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