Print Edition - 2019-04-20 | On Saturday
- Illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme has imagined how great painters would have fared on social media—and the trolling their work might have received
Apr 20, 2019-
Let’s revisit history for a minute and pretend that Jean Genet, Frida Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh and their ilk had been #blessed with the ability to share #dailyinspo with their presumably voracious online fans. Would Claude Monet have uploaded #wanderlust shots of the landscapes he was busy abstracting with his dappled brushstrokes? Would users have binged on #foodporn from 1890s Aix-en-Provence, by way of Paul Cézanne’s still-life feed? And would macho surrealist ringmaster André Breton have indulged his followers in a torrent of bare-chested #thirsttraps? Luckily for us, Jean-Philippe Delhomme has imagined the answers to such questions with the cartoon book Artists’ Instagrams: The Never Seen Instagrams of the Greatest Artists.
It’s full of tender parodies of artistic A-listers. There’s the geometrically inclined Piet Mondrian flaunting his Ikea kitchen collab. Jackson Pollock eager to reveal a canvas he’s barely poured or dripped anything on to. Andy Warhol thrilled to promote his soon-to-go-viral Mark Zuckerberg portrait series. And notorious chauvinist Gauguin sharing problematic #AboutLastNight snaps of young Polynesian lovers.
“I selected artists who were famous to the point of creating mythologies around themselves,” Delhomme tells me during an interview at his atelier in Paris’s Montparnasse district, once a hub of intellectual and artistic effervescence. “That’s what was fun about it. They’re the gods of art. It’s like doing the Instagram of Mount Olympus.”
Delhomme’s black-and-white sketches and sharp-witted captions make the case that the behemoths of art were as self-indulgent and attention-starved as the rest of us. He also posits that they would have gleefully adopted our addiction to the platform, with its recurrent dopamine jolts and massive moneymaking potential. Quite simply because, as Delhomme argues, they would have had no other choice.
“If you value your privacy too much nowadays, everyone will think you’re dead,” he says. “That’s the reality of the new world. Artists want to be seen – even the most serious ones. Why wouldn’t they show off like everyone else? That element was always there, but with these social platforms, it’s just irresistible.”
The man has a point. As an increasing number of collectors turn to Instagram to purchase artworks, the platform is rewriting the time-honoured rules for appreciating, collecting and even curating art. A number of museums court selfie-starved crowds with the promise of candy-coloured “immersive” exhibitions. Many artists now receive commissions, exhibition invites, and sales inquiries through direct messaging. And a December Vulture piece even wondered: “Can You Make It As an Artist in 2018 Without Constantly Plugging Yourself on Instagram?”
“How people behave on Instagram is very strange and unnatural for us as Europeans,” reflects Delhomme. “You’re supposed to always just like other people’s posts and talk about how great you are.” Artists’ Instagrams comments on a culture that increasingly rewards the most sycophantic spammers and self-obsessed of compliment droppers. “If Instagram had existed a century ago, there would be no art criticism today,” he continues. “Only thumbs-ups and emojis.”
Delhomme’s art has been recognised by institutions such as Madrid’s Museo ABC, which recently included him in #Finaestampa, a group show celebrating the “contemporary masters of fashion illustration”. And as an art world observer, Delhomme is known for rendering pop culture quirks in the form of caustically captioned drawings. His best-known project to English speakers is probably his satirical blog The Unknown Hipster Diaries, launched in 2009 to reveal the fictional adventures of a bearded, globe-trotting gatecrasher. “I’ve always enjoyed responding to things I find ridiculous in the cultural sphere by making my friends laugh,” he explains. “The same applies to Instagram: I felt the need to take some distance from it through humour, to not let it enslave me.”
Along with his parody illustrations, Delhomme also conjures up a stream of comments left under the artists’ fictional posts to hint at the fraught friendships and galvanising rivalries within this group: Leon Trotsky and Frida Kahlo, Monet and Maupassant, Braque and Picasso.
Multiple pages in the book are devoted to the sensuous Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti and his fragile self-confidence. “The more he did, the more he was depressed and convinced that everything he had done was wrong. He’s the complete opposite of the typical contemporary artist who’s so excited about his success and bragging about buying real estate. His melancholy is quite appealing to me.”
Giacometti, as well as Hemingway, Rainer Maria Rilke, Man Ray, and Patti Smith all had workshops or residences near Delhomme’s atelier – sited in a 100-studio structure built with the remains of the 1889 Paris world’s fair. “Can you imagine this place at the turn of the century, packed with artists?” wonders Delhomme. “It was made for people to work and have models come in, probably fight and drink too much. It must have been fantastic.” He has always been obsessed with the great painters, writers and poets who worked in Paris: “As much as I make fun of these mythological figures, I also love them.”
— © 2019 The Guardian
Published: 20-04-2019 10:16