Quite a while back we visited the Chapman brothers’ “If Hitler Had Been a Hippy How Happy Would We Be” exhibition at the White Cube Gallery near Piccadilly. It was a very interesting exhibition in three distinct part.
Upstairs was “One Day You Will No Longer Be Loved”, a room of altered paintings. Each picture was an old portrait of the kind you would expect to see in any stately home. All of the painting had been changed to make the faces look like those of decomposing bodies, with nose bones exposed, sunken eyes and skull-like grimaces. Really horrible but equally fascinating and in some cases amusing.
Downstairs, in the main room was “Fucking Hell”, a remake of the brothers’ 2000 work “Hell” which was destroyed in the art warehouse fire in 2004.
Nine large glass display cases arrange in a swastika shape. Each case contains a diorama crammed with figures, vehicles and landscape. Most of the figures were skeletal Nazi soldiers, with varying amounts of flesh still on their bones. There were hundreds, if not thousands, in each case, crushed together following paths, being tortured or torturing others. Some of the figures were of Hitler, including one of him painting a picture of the scenes.
Despite the horrific imagery there was actually a lot of humour involved, there’s a McDonald’s logo in there, a Stephen Hawking character on an island and all kinds of amazing little details.
The sheer scale of the work is staggering, the amount of work that the brothers and their team have put in to creating such a huge work is astounding. The horror of it is relentless but fascinating.
The final part of the exhibition gives the show its title, “If Hitler Had Been a Hippy How Happy Would We Be”. The brothers bought 20 authenticated water-colour paintings by Adolf Hitler for Â£115,000 and “improved them” by adding rainbows, flowers and other “pretty” items. They then put the collection on the market for Â£685,000.
An interesting show, with lots to look at. Some people will be horrified by the “bad taste” and twisted creations, but I really liked them. Great imagination and a wicked sense of humour were exhibited in all the works, and I’d recommend people see the works if they get a chance when they’re next exhibited.
(The exhibition closed on 12th July 2008, I really should have written this sooner)